What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Fri, 16 Jul 2010, 10:00am

Stello DA100 Signature

Tested at £750
80100
4

This Stello DAC is a capable unit that sets a fine standard at this price level

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For

  • Pleasingly crisp and clear sound
  • nice tonal balance
  • unexaggerated presentation
  • connectivity

Against

  • Sound lacks a little excitement and drive

Stand-alone digital-to-analogue converters are becoming big business. We've got a plentiful supply at budget price levels, yet venture past the £500 mark and the pickings become slim. Stello's DA100 Signature aims to fix that.

This is a well turned-out box that feels solid and nicely finished. There's a good range of inputs: alongside standard issue connections such as electrical and optical the Stello also packs USB, AES/EBU and the rarely seen I2S. Analogue outputs come in both RCA and XLR flavours.

Inside you'll find a 24bit/192kHz heart and a Class A analogue output stage. It all looks promising – and that's an impression that doesn't fade once the listening starts.

Charges along with enthusiasm
This is an informative and even-handed-sounding product. Fed with a 320kbps version of You Got The Love by Florence and the Machine it charges along with enthusiasm.

Change to an uncompressed WAV version of the same track and the DAC's inherent transparency shows the gains in detail, dynamics and subtlety with ease.

There's an upsample button on the front panel that offers the option to go up to 24bit/192kHz. It's worth doing for the extra subtlety, space and refinement it brings. Switching to a CD transport impresses thanks to the Stello's detail and stability.

A little more rhythm and punch please

It's not flawless though. We'd like more rhythmic drive with dance music such as Basement Jaxx's Remedy. A little more punch and leading edge definition on transients would be nice too.

Overall this is a fine buy. If you're looking for a step up from the likes of Cambridge's DAC Magic, but can't stretch to the likes of Cyrus's DAC X+ the Signature deserves consideration.

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