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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Aura Note Completer; Raysonic Audio CD-168
Preamp/Integrated: Pass Labs INT-150 [on review]

Speakers: ASI Tango R
Cables: ASI Live Line & Crystal Cable Ultra cords
Stands: 2 x Ikea Molger, Ikea butcher-block platforms with metal footers
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option for 120V gear
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: CDT 100 $795; DA 100 Signature $895

Hyundai. Kia. Samsung. LG Group. South Korea has a solid presence in the global market place with cars, screens, computers, cameras and cell phones. With Emillé Labs and Allnic Audio Labs, there are serious entries into upscale valve hifi. With April Music, there's a South Korean combatant in the field fought over by brands like Arcam and Rotel. We reviewed their all-in-one AuraNote Completer. This 50-watt top-loading CD/receiver with USB input and Kenneth Grange styling was a very serious and mature performer indeed, its $2,500 tag at the time fully justified by appearance, build, functionality and sound. At CES 2009, AuraNote announced its first separates. And so the wheel continues to turn...

Today's half-width stackable duo combines a top-loading transport of comprehensive socketry plus I²S with a 5-input DAC and two user-selectable upsampling schemes including none (confirmed with a red or green LED for 96 and 192kHz respectively). A nice remote control and 5-pin DIN digital link for the favored I-squared-S connection are included. The latter is active on 4 pins only and omits deemphasis. The USB input shakes hands with all USB standards but not the ASIO driver. A dark Acrylic transport lid with chromed handle that beneath is cloned into the usual spindle puck omits the common

read-in trigger. This means that a/ you can play a CD without the Acrylic cover in place and b/ that you must press the 'disc' button above the stand-by button whenever loading a new CD. Else the player won't overwrite the previous disc's TOC. The dimmable and extinguishable big red display seems to be borrowed from the Completer. That's good since few displays are as legible from a distance as this one.

Perhaps because this gear was envisioned to sell through April Music web portal, international AC voltage is switchable via internal sliders. "Have hifi, will travel" is in the cards with an easy removal of the top covers (hex key included). Believers in balanced cables are accounted for too. In short, this nicely built Stello pair has all the socketry and features one could wish - except for the steep sticker nobody likes in the first place. Let's check the published specs to complete the picture:

The CDT 100 uses isolation pulse transformers for its three S/PDIF interfaces to isolate the circuit ground from CD decoding. The four pins of the I²S sockets are assigned as word clock (1), bit clock (2), audio data (3) and master clock (4). The latter runs at a 256 x sample rate. Dimensions are 212 x 55 x 290mm WxHxD and weight is 3.5kg.
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The DA 100 Signature DAC runs a true 24/192kHz upsampling circuit into a steep 6th-order reconstruction filter, then a fully balanced class A current-based output stage for a claimed 120dB dynamic range. The power supply uses a 25VA toroidal transformer and the voltage regulator a 20 milliohm (10kHz) output impedance. "Voltage conversion takes place in the final stages of the circuit." The DA 100 Signature's input receiver can lock to 96kHz incoming PCM streams from a DVD player and input sensitivity on all S/PDIF sockets is 200mV. Dimensions are identical to the CDT 100 and weight is 3.5kg. To complete Stello's 100 Series mini stack, there are also the HP 100 headphone amplifier/preampifier and the S 100 stereo power amp for a $3,030 combo price.
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Stello's 100 Series concept obviously combines lifestyle size and hi-end ambitions to serve as bridge between traditional audiophiles and the PC music nation. The accompanying owner's manuals are excellent and show hook-up options, remote control features and such in simple, non-intimidating but comprehensive fashion. A 1-meter USB cable with molded ferrite clamps is included as are power cords and the aforementioned I²S link.

Smart, fashionable and friendly all are descriptors that come to mind. With the AuraNote Completer precedent still vividly in mind, I also expected rather smart performance. How would expectations translate?