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During track skips, the transport practices the lazy man's guide to enlightenment. After the command prompt, the current track will blink for up to 5 seconds before the chosen one cues up. Patience is a virtue. Jawohl!

Otherwise, I have nothing unusual or untoward to report on the functionality front. As its class A output stage would predict, the DAC gets noticeable warm to the touch but never more than that. Hot spells 'not' so no concerns there. The upsampling options affect primarily the treble and how you'll respond will depend on what you're coming from. I instructed myself to quickly forget my, ahem, $30,000 reference with its 20 paralleled AKM 32-bit chips per channel and for comparison used Yamamoto's no-feedback no-op-amp YDA-01 as converter. My Raysonic CD-168 was the alternate top-loading transport. Those two personal components became the scales against which the Stello units were weighed individually.

As a CD player in two parts, the April Music falls on the accurate rather than flow-oriented side of the fence. Incision, focus, rhythm, snap and dynamics are high, noise is very low particularly at the higher upsampling rates and the uppermost treble is somewhat soft to suggest a skoch of sweetness. The player sorts very well and soundstaging is surprisingly capacious but for those familiar with non-oversampling designs or those using passive I/V conversion, the sound is somewhat mechanical in character. It's very impressive in hifi terms but a bit Teutonic on law & order.

The Japanese converter is more potent in low bass and overall colors, its tones riper fruit by comparison. It's simultaneously softer on the attack yet more robust. To appreciate the distinction begs familiarity with time-coherent speakers whose treble doesn't lead. Their upper harmonics don't precede the lower overtones and fundamentals on the leading edge. The more lined up the attacks, the more powerful they hit for that live vibe. Yet their crispness disappears , having been artificial all along. When treble components lead, crispness creeps in and with it, dryness. The Yamamoto is rather more fluid and suave then. To get fruity once more, it's juicier and more organic. My Raysonic CD-168 with Mullard glass falls between the two. It's not as defined and detailed as the April Music to be subjectively less resolved. Nor is it as powerful and richly hued as the Yamamoto. If the latter is an early fall component with the vitality of summer but the deeper color palette of a rainy autumn day, then the April Music is a brisk and bright spring component.

Reality check. The Yamamoto is $2,450 in the US and can't do USB. That latter part is huge for modern digital shoppers. Don't misread the commentary thus far as dissing the Aprils. It simply established context. In a mature, mostly neutral context as my current system, the Yamamoto is better as it should be. But were I to listen to an affordable mid-power tube amp for example -- say your ubiquitous KT88 40-watter -- I'd want the highly detailed accuracy of the April combo over the somewhat slower thicker Raysonic any day of the week. At this level, it's all about mixing and matching.

Once banished from the big rig into my office where the real work is done and where desk-top tunes and the occasional CNN news cast are the diet, neither the Yamamoto nor the Raysonic are practical. The DA 100 Signature meanwhile allows disc spinning on the PC if so inclined, music streaming from the Internet or, with the CDT 100, disc spinning not on but right next to the PC all in a tidy package. That spinning discs on a PC would be inferior to the CDT 100 shouldn't come as a surprise. Preferable is to go to hard-drive first with a good ripper like CDex, dbPoweramp Ripper, EAC or iTunes with error correction enabled. Comparing magnetic streaming to laser extraction -- i.e. USB from hard drive vs. S/PDIF from spinner -- becomes pretty much mute then. The differences with ancillaries that are reasonable in this context are mostly imaginary.

Now price enters the equation. For what the Koreans are charging; and what they deliver on performance, build and functionality; this duo becomes a very serious proposition. Via its RCA output, the CDT 100 is a virtual stand-in for the Sony transport in the Raysonic player. That's a $2,400 machine. Comparing RCA to I-squared-S between CDT 100 and DA 100 Signature, I²S is the preferred path, meaning the April Music transport then pulls ahead of the Chinese/Canadian top loader. And because the necessary cable is included, you needn't spend a penny extra to take advantage of this exotic connection.

The final words: As a two-some, the CDT 100/DA 100 Sig clearly go up against $2,500 machines. In terms of functionality and connectivity options, they trounce most of 'em. If you come from the 47 labs camp of digital conversion, you'll be used to something softer, less rhythmic and less propulsive. If you come from tube-buffered players with premium glass -- inferior tubes can actually introduce glare -- you'll likely be used to something a bit slower and cuddlier. If you come from an older player that didn't cost a fortune, you'll be surprised by the data retrieval and precision of the April Music contenders. If your present system is somewhat sluggish and indistinct, these 100s could be the perfect wake-up call while doing double duty on your USB sources. If you're a headphone listener on valves, the Stello pieces are nearly ideal. At the lower levels mandatory for can jams, maximal resolving power that digs deeply into the pits is equally mandatory. I had splendid results with my Yamamoto HA-02 and audio technica ATH-W1000s and considered the setup the perfect bedside rig.

The more important of the two is obviously the DA 100 Signature. You're reading this to have a computer. So you don't need a CD player/transport. If you're one of the many to have adopted a laptop become Music Central, you do need a superior converter to upgrade the inferior sound card. Voilà, the DA 100 Signature. It's a thoroughly modern full-featured machine whose clever treble contour at the very top counters the usual trends to make high resolution a whole lot more palatable. That's probably also why April Music went separates. You're not punished with paying for a laser pickup and associated mechanics and circuitry if you don't need those. Many will bypass the CDT 100 not because it isn't a superior value -- it is -- but because CD spinners can be quite passé. If that's you, the class A DA 100 Signature is the opposite: very much with the times. Even if you have an aging CD player with a digital out and haven't gone USB yet, you could still be in the market. Upgrade your spinner and keep your listening room PC-free. There too the Stello machine has you covered. Incidentally, Christine Han of April Music informs us that for 2009, prices had to be raised to $895 and $995 for the transport and DAC respectively.

Quality of packing: Very stout.
Reusability of packing: Multiple times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy.
Condition of component received: Perfect.
Completeness of delivery: Power cords, owner's manuals, remote control, I²S cable, hex key, USB cable.
Quality of owner's manual: Very good.
Website comments: Very informative, exceptionally complete on specifications and images.
Human interactions: Prompt and forthcoming on all info requested.
Pricing: Due to direct pricing, highly competitive.
Final comments & suggestions: Unless the lazy track skip times were peculiar to my review loaner, faster reflexes for the next/back and direct track access commands while another track is playing would be - more modern...
April Music website