This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

There are two sets of XLR i/o ports, 3 RCA ins and 2 RCA outs. This anticipates most all reasonable scenarios. The VFD display allows input naming, HT Bypass input selection and several display dimming options. There are DC trigger ports (1 in, 2 out) and the remote offers balance in up to 15 steps per side, absolute polarity inversion (the fully dual-differential circuit is non-inverting), mute, volume, dim and input switching. Accessing the software menu presses both up/down buttons while powering up from standby by pushing on the optical encoder. A combination of up, down, mute and encoder presses then intuitively navigates and selects. For final specs, output impedance is 78 ohms at or above 64 on the volume display, 113 ohms at or below 63. Input impedance is 60.4K and max output voltage 9V RMS.

Prior to even the first note playing and taking, most in the know will agree: the STP packs a very serious volume control implementation with an overbuilt power supply, full functionality and an unusual take on the passive/active equation - all for an unheard-of low price. Many competitors at four times the sticker still rely on attenuator chips or motor-driven pots. Esoteric's superb C-03 preamp offers switchable gain from 0 to 12 to 24dB with comprehensive input level trim options, looks a lot better and is mechanically far more massive. But it also costs $10,000. The SMc Audio VRE-1 is another related passive/active concept, lacks funtionality by comparison and costs even more. Hegel's P10 is €6,000. Conceptually and where it's positioned, EJ Sarmento's STP seems like a take-no-prisoner attempt. Does it set a new price/performance world record in a private Olympics of one? True, the Bel Canto-like black crinkle paint isn't matched by a Bel Canto-cool massive face plate. No, the remote isn't a lethal weapon but plastic. The brand name isn't upper crust to make snob appeal mostly zero gain. But none of that seems part of the game. On paper, the STP goes for maximum dynamic range with ultra-low noise performance (an extreme volume control in a dual-differential circuit); ultimate transparency (the passive concept); real-world drive (a massive power supply coupled to an impedance-stabilizing FET buffer); and comprehensive remote convenience. Plus it's all American built for once, not a cheap-labor offshore affair. Now why the heck did I sign up to pen yet another review on yet another overpriced me-too piece of audio candy?

Not this time it seemed. As listening progressed, an entirely different suspicion arose in fact...