Disclaimer: The Stoner Acoustics gear was sent to me for the purpose of this review. Stoner Acoustics has requested a “ship back” after the review. I do have to apologize for the delay in publishing this article.
It’s not the first time we feature the Malaysian Stoner Acoustics on HFN, I previously had a look at the UD100, UD120 and their Ruby. Stoner Acoustics up to know was known for their miniaturist gear but this time they’re back with a full sized desktop setup. Both the DAC and amp have all the good numbers but that doesn’t always mean it sounds good.
I’m a bit surprised that Stoner Acoustics named their latest DAC and AMP the “End Game” units, as that leaves very little or no margin for future updates and even better products. Does it?
For both the amplifier and the DAC, Stoner Acoustics really has tried making the best possible unit out there while keeping the costs as low as possible. At the moment their website says the price is to be confirmed but a while ago they were charging $750 for each of the units. Right now it seems you have to contact Stoner Acoustics or the E1 shop in Malaysia if you’re interested in buying one. Edit: In the meantime Stoner got back to me and confirmed they are out of stock for the moment and focusing on the new product (see below).
Do note that both of the units come without any accessories whatsoever: no interconnects, no feet, not even a power cable. Back to basics, just like the packaging. The feet issue was easily solved as I just used four large 3M removable stick on-feet under both units so they could easily and safely be stacked without scratching each other or the surface they’re resting on. The units are well built but they are very “basic”. The casing is nice but it isn’t the most attractive on the market. The whole “Look & Feel” of course is very personal and while I like a minimalist design, this stack does look kind of “simple” right next to my V281 & V850 setup. There are really only two things I don’t like: the plastic volume wheel and the fact that all the XLR terminations don’t come with a locking system, you just push it in and pull it out. While it doesn’t impact the sound directly, I would have liked to have seen better (locking Neutrik) connectors.
One thing I really do like is that the EGD DAC has small OLED display on the front that is nicely displaying the bit rate/sample rate and lets you easily navigate through the elaborate EGD menu. To me, each single DAC that was/ is made in this decennia should immediately show you in a nice way what the actual receiving sample and bitrate is. Then again, is it that important? Well, I like knowing that stuff.
End Game Amplifier – EGA
First thing you notice plugging in the amplifier is that it doesn’t have a power button. The amplifier is designed to be left on 24/7 and the unit itself is only draws less than 2 watts when idle. I can’t say I left it plugged in at all times though but I did let it warm up for at least 30 minutes before using it.
Our first criteria from a high performance amplifier is its Signal to Noise ratio (SNR). Disconnect your source, connect your low impedance, high sensitivity head devices and turn the volume knob all the way to the maximum; Is it dead silent? The EGA is engineered to provide you with an eerie dead silent background while you enjoy the full range of quality signal from your source. The high SNR, coupled with its astonishingly low distortion levels allows you to experience uncompromising minute details from your favourite source.
I have to say I tested this with several headphones and they all were dead silent. The EGA only has balanced outputs and you either have the choice between a 4-pin XLR and two 3-pin XLR outputs. This was a very specific choice made by Stoner Acoustics and to them the benefits of balanced over unbalanced are:
- Noise Immunity
- Cross Talk Reduction, i.e. leaking of left side signal to the right side signal or vice-versa.
- Higher Slew Rate
- Doubled Voltage Output Swing
- No DC Offset Effec
That being said, I did hear rumors coming from Stoner that they would be working on a non-balanced amplifier as well. To be continued. For more information about the how and why, check out the SA website.