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

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, PureMusic 1.89g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192; Audirvana 1.4.6 in Integer mode 1, Metrum Hex, AURALic Vega, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2, RWA-modified Astell & Kern AK100, Apple iPod 160GB Classic with Pure i20 and Cambridge Audio iD100 digital docks
Preamp/Integrated: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, Crayon Audio CFA-1.2, Bakoon AMP-12R, Gato Audio DIA-250 [on loan]
: First Watt SIT1, SIT2, F5 & M2, Goldmund/Job 225, AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Speakers: soundkaos Wave 40, Boenicke B10, German Physiks HRS-120, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Zu Submission
Headphone amps: April Music Eximus DP1, Burson Audio Conductor, Bakoon AMP-12R
Headphones: ALO-recabled Audeze LCD-2 & LCD-3, Sennheiser HD800, beyerdynamic T1 and T5p, AKH K702; HifiMan HE500 & HE6; Aëdle VK-1
Desktop speakers: Gallo Strada II with TR-3D subwoofer, Amphion Ion+ [on loan], EBTB Luna II [on review], Boenicke Audio W5 [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event,
KingRex uCraft USB cable, Zu split USB cable, Van den Hul AES/EBU cable, Tombo Trøn S/PDIF cable, AudioQuest Diamond Toslink
Artesania Audio Exotyeric for front end, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF2
and PC3 SE Evo
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
eview component retails: $1.300 HP100MkII, $1.200 S100MkII ($1.400 for the forthcoming DA100MkII)

Not having attended CES in years
—Switzerland and Cyprus were too far away—I perused various on-line reports in the show's wake this year. This had me cross paths with The Abso!ute Sound's Jonathan Valin who walked the very expensive speaker beat.

"On 35 [the 35th floor in the Venetian hotel - Ed] those pesky fellows from April Music (who proved me an idiot at RMAF) were back with the $80k Marten Coltrane multi-way floorstanders and once again their little class D amp sounded fabulous - so clear, so neutral, so natural that for a second time I did an aural double-take. These things were simply superb on my Blue Tofu cut (with exceptional bass). Indeed they were superb on everything I played. I don’t know what April Music is doing right but they sure have a lock on class D amplification. And they also earn my twelfth nomination for Best of Show."

Before the show started, I'd emailed Simon Lee. He shared that "this winter in Seoul was the coldest ever over the last 40 years. The world is changing and unfortunately for the worse. I believe that music can fix this global problem by changing peoples' minds and thinking in these greedy times.

"For CES 2013 we were supposed to have the Stello D700 ready—a DSD-native DAC as playmate for our Stello Ai700 integrated and to celebrate our 15th anniversary—but we hit a delay and  put off the launch. Instead we will show the Stello 100MkII series with the new HP100, S100 and DA100 models. Pricing will be around $1.200~$1.500 each. Over the last six months everyone here has complained about lowered sales. I think that reflects the global crisis. We have to overcome it by making even more affordable products of better quality."
After the show, Simon quipped that "CES 2013 was quite good even though overall traffic seemed to be getting lower than last year. By request from our distributors, we will slightly modify the front panel design of the HP100MkII as shown above." From someone with an already established track record for high value, the earlier statement about more value was quite heady. Within Simon's portfolio the HP100MkII recalls the twice+ priced Eximus DP1 at right by combining DAC/preamp/headfi functionality in one chassis.

Stello HP100/S100 Mk2

The 100 simply omits all digital inputs except for USB which gets downgraded to basic 16/48 because of the full-featured DA100 model in this range. In trade it ups analog inputs to three. RCA and XLR outputs remain. So do the 6.3mm headphone socket—1.5 watts into 30 ohms*—and associated selectable analog bass EQ we knew from the Eximus.
What's new over the Eximus is the small red display which in the final production version flows around the two push buttons the early CES model still had outside it. This arrangement does away with the DP1's multiple LEDs for input and sample-rate confirmation to add a standard volume readout instead. And there's remote control which the Eximus sadly lacks. Chassis cosmetics are once again from Alex Rasmussen of boutique metal shop Neal Feay in Northern Cali's Santa Barbara.

* 50Ω = 1.1w, 150Ω = 490mW, 300Ω = 245mW, 600Ω = 120mW

The HP's feature set would seem to primarily serve as line/headfi amp. Simon was outspoken about it being a very serious preamp running its output stage in class A push/pull whilst the input stage gets JFets, the headphone output bipolars. "The input impedance of 1MΩ accommodates all types of interconnect cables with very stable operation. Apart from the DC servo control in the headphone amp section the entire preamp board is designed with discrete circuitry for fine tuning and elevated sound quality." Because USB is the one and only digital port computer audio users need, it's been added. Now for many the DA100 ("to be released before CES 2014") becomes redundant and the HP100/S100 duo make for a complete yet compact Stello system. Add laptop with software player—JPlay or J.River for Windows, Audirvana, PureMusic or Amarra for Mac—and a pair of speakers like so: