Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › Stello DAC comparison: Stello DA100 vs DA220 vs DA220MKII
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Stello DAC comparison: Stello DA100 vs DA220 vs DA220MKII

post #1 of 85
Thread Starter 
As per request of NeoVibe, a description of my A/B testing of Stello DACs.

Today I was at the dutch importer, Hifi4You (www.hifi4you.nl) to compare the Stello DACs to make a final purchasing descision. Given the time I had available (I took about 3/4-1 hour to work with each device) this will only be a mini-review, and mainly concentrated on the differences between the units. But I think it'll be interresting for many as the Stello DACs seem to attract a lot of attention lately.

The setup
Power: Xindac powercables for transport/DAC, standard cord for amp
Transport: Stello CDT200
Digital cable: Xindac coax cable
Interconnects tested: my own standard Itech (+ Xindac Gold series)
Headphone amp: my own Rudistor RPX-33 (+ short time with Stello HP100)
Headphone: my own AKG 701

Short description
Stello DA100: a small black aluminium DAC, excellent construction and finish, very well equiped with in/outs for it's price range, "unique" feature: USB.
Stello DA220: a standard sized silver (or black: per special order!!) aluminium DAC, excellent construction and finish, "unique" feature: balanced.
Stello DA220MKII: like the DA220, but now with both balanced & USB.

Music heard
Andrea Bocelli, Romanza (parts of the album)
J.J. Cale, After midnight
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, All the road running (parts of the album)

Settings
All DACs were tested using coax from the transport, and at 192Khz upsampling. I worked my way up from DA100 to DA220 to MKII. The DA100 & DA220 were well burned-in demo samples, the DA220MKII was almost fresh out of the box (less than 1 day of use).

DA100 results
The things that stroke me as surprising are the amount of bass & the weight of it, but also the lack of detail over the whole line. Compared to my (very revealing) speaker setup at home, some details no longer stood out. Don't get me wrong, the DA100 is an excellent DAC, really worth it's price. It'll be an upgrade for most people. But it simply can't touch the rest of the line-up.

DA220 results
When moving up to the 220, I immediately heard differences: the very strong bass of the DA100 was gone. Detail was back, and even better than I was used to. Despite the "lack" of bass I think this really was a BIG improvement over the DA100. Given the reduced pricing of the DA220, there really is no doubt what is a better value when compared to a DA100: the DA220 was already considered a bargain by many, now I'd say it's underpriced.

DA220MKII results
The move to the MKII led to questions: was this really a fresh unit? Wasn't the DA220 the new unit? But no mistakes were made: the MKII was almost fresh out of the box a much better DAC than the original DA220. Bass was back again, and with much better detail & control The MKII really gets your foot tappin', and if it doesn't there's something wrong with your ears or setup.

Conclusion
It isn't hard to guess what the model is that came home with me. A DA220MKII (the second unit sold in this country) found it's way to my audio rack.

Notes & thanks
Thanks to Arian of Hifi4You for letting me play all morning with these great DACs, and not to mention the Xindac cables & CDT200, and the effort to build up the system with every change.

Hifi4You is pretty much a one-person business, and Arian doesn't speak English very well. So reaction speed can vary, and please only contact him when your ready to buy a unit & have questions remaining. It really takes him hours to answer all mails, don't flood his mailbox if you don't have to.
Arian told me he's prepared to send units to every region, provided there isn't an official Stello representative & shipment costs are covered. He's however NOT capable of sending out "test samples" with a "no questions asked" return policy, simply because he can't cover all expenses related to selling what he considers second hand units afterwards. Instead of a liberal return policy, he'll give you the best price he can make.

P.S. he'll start selling other products soon
post #2 of 85
I wonder how good this dac compares to the highly praised apogee mini dac.

The reviews of the first da220 were very positive, the new model will even be better.
post #3 of 85
Thanks for that

Its a bit of a shame I could find no DA220 secondhand anywhere! I figured I didnt need the Balanced section right now, so SE would be a good idea, which led me to the DA100. Im impressed with it coming from Zhaolu, but the MKII will be fresh in my mind when I consider a balanced amp. Im loving the Stello sound so much, and any improvements will be icing on the cake.
post #4 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonvB
Conclusion
It isn't hard to guess what the model is that came home with me. A DA220MKII (the second unit sold in this country) found it's way to my audio rack.

Thanks for your impressions. Now that you have DA220 MkII, perhaps you can let us know how the USB input sounds vs. spdif.
post #5 of 85
So essentially the DA220 MKII combines the best of the DA100 and DA220...
post #6 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon L
Thanks for your impressions. Now that you have DA220 MkII, perhaps you can let us know how the USB input sounds vs. spdif.
It's been incredibly hard for me to heard differences between optical and USB on the DA100. Coax I havent been able to get going on the Juli@ at the moment.

In any case its very minor and to my mind there is neglible difference. I make no claims about the MKII though.
post #7 of 85
Interesting. Thanks for posting.
post #8 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
So essentially the DA220 MKII combines the best of the DA100 and DA220...
My thoughts exactly almost as soon as I turned on the MKII. The differences are so big, you can hear them in the first seconds of a song (provided the recording has enough detail & goes low enough). As most people claim the DA100 and DA220 share most if not all of their design, this was a big surprise for me.

Quote:
let us know how the USB input sounds vs. spdif
I'll be able to test that soon. I'll connect my CE595 as a transport as soon as I have a decent optical cable. Right now I stream everything from my HDD over USB. The DAC only has a USB cable in the box along with the powercord.

Quote:
Its a bit of a shame I could find no DA220 secondhand anywhere
I wouldn't worry about it: with the MKII being so big a step forward, it's inevitable people are going to upgrade.
post #9 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonvB
As most people claim the DA100 and DA220 share most if not all of their design, this was a big surprise for me.
This is not claim. Info is direct from manufacturer. DA220MK2 has also additional filtering. Also power supply section between models is different.
post #10 of 85
You wonder if the balanced circuitry is somehow combined for single ended operation on the DA220 I and II? Perhaps the arrangement of power supplies etc changes the sound.
post #11 of 85
Thanks for the comparison. Big brothers of DA100 start to sound very tempting.

About the sound, my own experiences doesn't quite match with yours.
post #12 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by alex_cs
Perhaps the arrangement of power supplies etc changes the sound.
They are the same. Changes are removing the heatsinks, adding usb connectivity. No changes to the ps, analog section or digital filter.

I'd be more inclined to the think the MKII was the burned in one since the DA220 was so far off the house sound. They all share the same dac, filter and analog stage they should share a house sound.

Stranger things have happened though.
post #13 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
About the sound, my own experiences doesn't quite match with yours.
That's what I call a teaser... now I want to know what your impressions are about the different DACs
Also please note I directly compared the three against eachother, not to a fourth DAC. I have my system at home to compare with of course, but that was a bit too bulky for me to take along.

But to explain a bit more:
In "Con te Partiro" the sound of the tuba got "smeared" with the DA100, almost to the point I couldn't recognize the instrument anymore. In the DA220 the tuba was very much recognizable, but it lacked the deep bass it had with the DA220MKII.
In "After midnight" you can hear Cale wetting his lips with both the DA220's, with the DA100 this was reduced to unidentifiable background noise.
But you'll have to search for a good mastered CD to retrieve this sort of details in this song. I have a different album with "After midnight" on it, and can't nearly retrieve as much detail of it as on the one I took along.
post #14 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I'd be more inclined to the think the MKII was the burned in one since the DA220 was so far off the house sound
I thought that too, but I now have a MKII new out of the box, it was sealed in AprilMusic plastic & box was stapled when I got it. That one has the better bass too, and it's even improving
Also, do note Stello says the bass is improved with the MKII on their site. Most of the time you have to take claims like that with a grain of salt. Just seems this time it's a real, genuine improvement. Also, Arian said the first buyer he had (the day before) observed the very same differences. He seems to find that troublesome, because he still has some original DA220's left
post #15 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonvB
That's what I call a teaser... now I want to know what your impressions are about the different DACs
Also please note I directly compared the three against eachother, not to a fourth DAC. I have my system at home to compare with of course, but that was a bit too bulky for me to take along.
You got me wrong LeonvB.

I have only heard DA100 and I don't think that it's as bassy as described. There's more speed and punch than amount in the bass (if you know what I mean). It keeps HD650 bass in control very well. It's hard to say about the details because I don't know what DA220's can do. But there's all the details I've used to hear with DA100 also. HD650 is not very revealing headphone though.

I love the spaciousness and airiness of DA100. It really opens up the soundstage.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Dedicated Source Components
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › Stello DAC comparison: Stello DA100 vs DA220 vs DA220MKII