A Stello upgrade?

To Doug Schneider,

I enjoyed reading the review of the Stello DA100 digital-to-analog converter. I currently use a Cambridge Audio DacMagic and I am looking to upgrade. My question is this: Will the DA100 be an upgrade, or should I just pull the trigger and get the DA220 Mk.II? One is half the cost of the other.

I use a Simaudio i-5-LE integrated amplifier with Totem Staff speakers. I like the signature of the sound now through my Squeezebox. I know, I know, not great hi-fi, but I am happy with the sound. I just feel that using a good DAC, which I have tried (a borrowed one), does, indeed, improve the sound.

Your words may well influence my decision since I cannot audition locally.

Jules Lefrançois

Your question is trickier than it seems, which I’ll explain in a bit. First, let me compare the Stello units. I have a Stello DA100 Signature here right now and I find it to be quite good, but the DA220 Mk.II is better -- it’s cleaner sounding and reveals more detail. I can still imagine some people liking the DA100, particularly because of the price, but the DA220 Mk.II is more refined.

The tricky part comes with the comparison to Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic. I’ve never reviewed this unit, but, from what I’ve heard, it’s supposed to be really good. In fact, I just got back from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas where a reviewer talked to me about it and praised its sound, feeling it’s one of the best DAC values on the market today because it can better DACs multiples of its price. Will the DA220 Mk.II be better than the DacMagic? That I can’t say. . . . Doug Schneider