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Stello DA100 (show-off/impressions thread)

post #1 of 496
Thread Starter 
Well then, we all know how strong the grip of this site is, but I finally broke down and grabbed something to serve as a strong source instead of lurking on the lowbie side of e-mus and micro dac (budget dedicated computer sources).

Now I have on my desk a spectacular device known as Stello DA100, upsampling DAC. Here I intend on gathering some impressions using units I previously owned comparing to this guy, and some other toys I got to try during the quiet hours at the meet =].

Well this device is very straightforward, which is partly the reason is is cheaper than its competition. Unlike DAC1 and DA10, the Stello has only single-ended output (dual RCA), and does not have an integrated headphone amplifier. While I certainly would technically love to have a balanced output as an option for the future, it is not something most users of my perspective will have any immediate use for (out of budget to go balanced). Another feature missing is a dedicated headphone amp, but that is one feature I see absolutely unnecessary, as on top of everything integrated amps are usually not that great and we end up using our own monstrosities.
The inputs on this guy are plentiful - 1 USB, Coax, and 2x Optical. The knob on the front allows to quickly switch between them. I am using USB as thats the only way I can do it, and frankly getting USB transport and using optical with it is self-defeating.
The digital data received by the DAC can either undergo and resampling process (to 192), or it can be bypassed. This function is also controlled by a neat switch in the front. It is then fed into AKM chip (AK4395VF as clarified by Andrew_WOT). The amplification stage (bog down, all DACs have them, they are just meant for buffering the signal) is Class A and gets fairly warm, but as we all know Class A is the best way to not compromise the SQ.
Included in the package was a power supply cable and a USB cable. There is also a manual, and a small allen wrench in case you are really eager to look inside. (Does that mean I will look inside? As soon as I can steal my roommate's good camera to show some pics).

First thing that came to mind as I got to it in the box - whoa, this thing is MUCH bigger than I imagined. It has good 80% more on the Benchmark DAC1, and lets not compare it to the Micro DAC I used before this guy. Luckily I have plenty of desk space to give it a dedicated spot with plenty of air.
This thing is very neat in its looks, the aluminum chassis is textured, and the front panel is brushed. The 2 leds on the front are nicely visible when on but not distracting from the look. All corners are rounded, and there are small rubber feet to avoid damaging your furniture. There is nothing extra anywhere, which is a + in my book as I am a fan of neat minimalistic designs.
If someone's looking for a source to match the looks of one of the Darkvoices, this is it.

Perfect. Plugged in and we got music, what else is there to say?

This part will take a bit of time, as besides everything I am still getting used to it. Two things I'll say right away: (1) it got plenty of detail and fairly pleasant sound-stage, (2) conforming with what Iron-Dreamer stated in his comparisons, the DA100 has a bit of emphasis in the low end, which can be very beneficial to some headphones (I am thinking w5000, sa5000, k701).
As more points come along, here is for reference my setup:
Stello DA100=>Guerilla Pure Copper ICs=>mb3k's Millet Hybrid=>AKG K240M

- Low end, deep, sweet deep bass =] From my experiments with various sources, in its price range Stello delivers the strongest bottom end.
- There is no sense of treble harshness, although this is part of this entire setup, I never experienced treble problems with it.
- Sound tends to have alot of presence, and the vocals seem to have an up-front stance like that of Audio-Technicas.
- Everything sounds more integrated, more specifically the different instrument parts. Example: Pink Floyd - Hey You. I got used to the
bass opening really standing out from the guitar riff, but this time it came in very fluently without putting the guitar arpeggio into the back.
- There is certain effortlessness to the sound of DA100, especially on crowded parts in orchestral or metal songs, where even highly distorted tones cut through neatly and accurately. And don't forget the bass-drums ;-)
- Vocals tend to be very neat and engaging without jumping too much forward. This comes back to everything being really integrated.

After fair amount of listening and attempting to doubt the quality of this purchase, I am absolutely certain that the Stello DA100 is a keeper, especially for the price of $695. Its sound closely approaches that of much higher end sources, as long as you are feeding it well recorded music. It does not make poorly recorded stuff sound bad, but quality production is stellar to listen to. Highly recommended to all those looking for quality sound without breaking the budget.

There are additional impressions from Kaushama, and some pictures added by himself and Iron_Dreamer on the second page. Granted that, I think I will abstain from adding my own images as theirs do full justice to this unit =].
post #2 of 496
Awesome, I was just about to make a thread asking for more DA100 impressions.

I'm heavily considering picking one of these up for use with my SA5000s as I'd love more oomph in the bass department. Have you found any sonic faults with it yet, or anything that you would have preferred to be different (Is the soundstage not as expansive as you wanted?)? Where do you feel it leans in terms of warmth, neutrality, and brightness? How are you finding the upsampling SQ? Does it heat up so much that you advise against stacking an amp on top of it (M^3)?

Definitely post pictures as soon as you can! This DAC is very photogenic!
post #3 of 496
Thread Starter 
Does 'bad recordings sound bad' count as a sonic deficit?
I think it really does just fine, soundstage is full, expansive (to the limited extent k240m can do that). I would probably need another high end source to compare back to back to in order to locate any faults, I find the listening very pleasant and complete. Sounds very sturdy if that makes sense.

I would definitely suggest against putting anything on top of it, its a heat equivalent of a tube amplifier.

Sound-signature-wise I think it lays as Iron_Dreamer stated, stronger lower mids and bass, but at the moment I don't sense any problems with treble or upper mids either. It is not bright though, so it should not produce any shrill on its own (as opposed to Benchmark DAC1). Apart from a boost in the lower region it behaves a more neutral rather than warm source.

At this given moment I have trouble telling upsampling and bypass apart. -_- (If you did blind A-B with me, I wouldn't be able to identify any difference).
post #4 of 496
Very Nice write up MaloS.

You know i have the DA 220 and i tend to agree with what your listening imprsssions.I find it does infact relieve the harshness up top that others tend to leave in like a certain other dac i onced owned.
post #5 of 496
Thank you for your impressions MaloS.

I must say that the size and weight of DA100 (and HP100) surprised me also. Much more than I expected. I can also confirm that DA100 gets very hot and should not be put under any other components.

What first stroke me in the sound was the three-dimensionality, spaciousness & airiness and dynamics. It just opened the sound to every direction and made it so much easier to hear different instruments from the songs. I came from Corda Aria and in comparison, it sounded dull and flat. The sound just was there and played but it wasn't exciting in any way. With DA100 I got the feeling of getting into the music and it made it possible to really enjoy music.
post #6 of 496
I was just thinking to start this kind of thread. I have got my DA100 few days back and still burning it in. I am very impressed with it. It corrects many sonic deficiencies of the DAC I earlier had. MD10.
post #7 of 496
Sonic deficiencies? You mean that it's not particularly neutral and way too fun sounding....and a touch bright (although not particularly harsh) and way too dependent on the can being used with it? If so, that's interesting.
Hopefully the stello is a little less warm and much clearer/cleaner/less muddy than MD-10 which is already ok.

$700 for PSU and $700 for DAC better be a maaasssive step up.
TBh I would've got the oritek zhaolu if it had had USB.

Anyway Kaushama...you'll probably ditch the stello once the micro ultra stack appears.....

p.s. I haven't listened to the MD-10 long enough to work out whether it is too tiring.
post #8 of 496
Thread Starter 
What are you talking about, $700 psu? >.<
post #9 of 496
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
Two things I'll say right away: (1) it got plenty of detail and fairly pleasant sound-stage, (2) conforming with what Iron-Dreamer stated in his comparisons, the DA100 has a bit of emphasis in the low end, which can be very beneficial to some headphones (I am thinking w5000, sa5000, k701).
You are right on that, W5000 with DA100 is a sound bliss.
But throw in HD650 and synergy is just shocking. Where is that infamous veil and bloated bass?
Undoubtedly, Stello DA100 is the best thing that happened to my audio setup, extremely versatile, works well for everything.
And as my main source is computer, excellent USB implementation really pays. With ASIO4ALL it's stable like a rock.
post #10 of 496
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
It is then fed into AKM chip (I am working on figure out which model, I think its a few #s up from the one used by e-mu 0404 usb).
That should be AK4395VF.
You can see it here http://www.hifi500.com/product/da100.htm, just click on more images link.
post #11 of 496
Originally Posted by MaloS View Post
What are you talking about, $700 psu? >.<
Maybe he thinks that S100 is a PSU.

Originally Posted by Andrew_WOT View Post
But throw in HD650 and synergy is just shocking.
Confirmed. These two have extremely good synergy.
post #12 of 496
right, power amp or whatever. It supplies power to components so 'power supply'. S100. I did not mean PSU as in a computer PSU just using a generic TLA.

S100 --> DA100 --> GS1
$745 --> $695 --> $750
Better be a lot better than:
MD10 --> GS1
$300 --> $750.
post #13 of 496
Thread Starter 
Chris. It is a power amp not a psu. As in setup would be as follows:

Stello DA100 -> Preamp (hp100 is good pairing) -> Stello S100 -> Speakers.

^.^ Stello is a 700 dollar DAC, and it works without any externals, nor does it have any use for them.

So you guys say 650 is a match eh? Whenever my friend is back from home with his pair we will see =]
I plan on bringing the w5000 back to make it part of the system again, the strengths of the Stello
should compliment the air and treble of w5000 perfectly.
post #14 of 496
Originally Posted by chris_ah1 View Post
right, power amp or whatever. It supplies power to components so 'power supply'. S100. I did not mean PSU as in a computer PSU just using a generic TLA.

S100 --> DA100 --> GS1
$745 --> $695 --> $750
Better be a lot better than:
MD10 --> GS1
$300 --> $750.
S100 is power amplifier, why would you need one for headphones.
Are planning on running speakers out of headamp?
post #15 of 496
Oh ok - thought it was like the gilmore lite power supply. bad assumption. Well it supplies power to something at least!!!!

TBH I used to think it was just source --> amp --> headphones....until I started hearing dedicated power supply, pre-amp, power amp, ADC, DAC, solid state, tube, discrete, balanced, XLR, THD, SNR, slew, opamp, bipolar, jfet, class A, output bypassed, offset voltage, bias current, rail-to-rail.

p.s. the setup is not mine.
I just assumed that it was S100 which could power HP and DA100 without seperate wall warts like a gilmore lite power supply, rather than a power amp like my rotel which drives speakers in the ceilings. I dunno why kaushama got the S100 other than he must use it for speakers when he doesn't listen to headphones

Still, MD-10 is $300 so going from that to $695 better be a big step up!
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