September 13, 2009

A Third Perspective: Stello CDT100 and DA100 Signature

Regular followers of the Desirable Audio Boutique blog would have known Ken (maggielurva calls him Master Ken), one of our close friends. He has generously agreed to write up on the Stello CDT100 cd transport and DA100 DAC after he listened to them in his system. Enjoy! Here is his story:
I have to confess. I actually asked OdioSleuth to loan me the Stello cd player combo for a trial to hear how it fare in my system. In my 10 years of audiophilia, I have never had any Asian made cd player in my system. So I was thinking to myself, why not listen to one to see how good they are, especially one that is being sold at a more affordable price.

Since readers have seen the pictures of the Stello innards and also the fact that Big E has covered the technical aspects of the player, I will just cover the performance of the player in my system. Connecting the Stello combo to my system was easy. I used I2S connection first with upsample after reading Big E’s preference for this combo.

The first thing that struck me when listening to the Stello was the portrayal of imaging and soundstage. It was very clearly laid out. The imaging of the vocalist was very solid and 3 dimensional. It was also slightly more forward in front of the soundstage compared to my Meridian 508.24. The rest of the band was slightly behind the vocalist. This helps create a very “live” feel to the music and makes depth perception to be easily discernible. This was most apparent in the Koji Tamaki Red Wine (MUCD-1064). Track 8 in the Legendary James Wong CD (Perfect Music HZHCD029) also easily demonstrates the depth perception.

On the issue of the sound, I would say that the Stello also did quite well. Anyone who has and will listen to this Stello combo would first notice the liquid midrange. This liquidity plus a slightly forward midrange makes listening to vocalist a great experience. This is especially true when I listened to Julie London. I keep digging up cd after cd that favour vocals like Cry Me a River (Best of Julie London, Rhino R2 70737 S2 18810). Koji Tamaki cd also easily demonstrates the strength of Stello’s midrange. Even though the midrange is more forward than I am use to. I never experienced listener fatigue even after listening to more than a few hours.

I can say that the bass produced by the Stello cd player has balls! I don’t think anybody would ever complain about not getting enough bass with this cd player. Mind you, the bass though ample does not overpower the music. Kevin Axt’s bass in the initial part of the first track of Shelby Lynne’s latest CD, Just a Little Lovin’ (Lost Highway B0009789-02) is well controlled. My only complain is that it is slightly less defined than what I heard from my Meridian 508.24. The latter's bass is also more tactile.

I have always been quite particular about the high frequency of the sound when I listened to any system. I would say that the high frequency extension of the Stello combo is good. I was listening to the Harry Belafonte on Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (Classic Compact LSOCD 6006). After most songs, you can hear the crowd clapping enthusiastically. In lesser cd players, I always noticed that the sound that comes out sounds like heavy rain pelting down on a tin roof. But with the Stello player, I never heard this. In fact the clapping sounds extremely lifelike. I would say that the overall sound of the Stello verge on the slightly warm side of neutral. I think most audiophile would prefer this type of presentation rather than the clinical or analytical sound. This would be good if you want to listen to those pop music cds that I like to listen to which are not that “well” recorded. Examples are the Pussycat Dolls, Maroon 5 and Usher.

Is there anything that I don’t like about the Stello player? Seriously that would be a NO! But if I have to nitpick, I would say that the noise floor is not as low as my Meridian player. I would say that the high frequency is also slightly blunted, i.e. it does not extend as much. This makes the sound to be less airy than I had hoped for. The Stello combi is just a snitch less transparent than what I used to with my Meridian player. I would say that this did not distract from the fact that this is an extremely good player that is being sold at such an affordable price.

So if you are looking at the cd player at an affordable audiophile price, this Stello cd player should be at the top of your audition list. It really let your enjoy the musiclike a good component should.

1 comment:

Big E said...


It would seem like all three of us shared very similar opinion about the Stello pair, but used some what diferent decription of hifi attributes to word the experiences.

At the end of the day, we are all probably looking for the same thing but using diferent ways to achieve? All roads lead to Rome?


By the way, you're very gifted hifi writer too.