Review: Stoner Acoustics EGD & EGA – Value

Sound

EGD + EGA as a combination

The three headphones used in this test are the Audeze LCD-2, the Hifiman HE-560 and the Hifiman HE-1000. Cables used are the PlusSound 8-wire Apollonian+ on the LCD-2, the X16 PlusSound on the HE-560 and the PlusSound Echo+ and Audioquest balanced Nighthawk cable on the HE-1000.

HE-560: Each time I use this headphone with a good amplifier I fall in love with it all over again. Stoner makes the HE-560 sound almost perfect with a good combination of speeds, musicality, detail and body. The HE-560 with this setup has very good layering and its depth is as good as it can be. The overall sound signature is musical but neutral. Bass is tight and punchy with a neutral feel to it, it’s not boosted in any way. This still is one of the cleanest and clearest, most open sounding orthodynamic headphone on the market. This combination is sublime.

The LCD-2 is a headphone I don’t tend to use a lot anymore (that honor lately goes to the HE-1000, the Edition X and the HD800). On this combo the LCD-2’s bass is really punchy and it has bigger body. Sound stage is good and so are the detail levels. The mids also have bigger body where the treble is the typical LCD-2 kind. The LCD-2 in fact is easier to drive than the HE-560 but I still prefer the Audeze in combination with a Violectric V200 or V281. That combination is just more magical while it here isn’t the most spectacular to my ears.

Stoner Acoustics Stack big

The HE-1000 compared to the HE-560 has a slightly warmer signature to me and it can be considered as less neutral. On this combo, the bass and mids have bigger body. The sound stage depth and especially the better layering in combination with the higher detail level make this a very good sounding combination. The HE-1000 simply is a great headphone but I can see people preferring the HE-560 because of the more neutral and lighter sound.

The EGD and EGA sound detailed together with a neutral sound signature. There is no back ground noise and you get a very clean and clear sound with great speed and tightness. Detail levels are very good but the overall layering and depth can still be better. I have a feeling the amplifier is holding the DAC back. The next test should clear this up for us.

DAC only with V281 Amp (HE-560 + HE-1000).

With the V281 in the mix you can clearly notice the EGD is clean, clear and detailed and not adding anything to the sound. This combination also has a very black background. The V281 – which of course is a lot more expensive – makes the EGD shine more though. Better layering, more spacious sound with better extension, separation and a more musical delivery. It doesn’t mean the full Stoner setup is bad, it just isn’t as good. It has more of a neutral and flatter sound compared to a full sound with great voices and perfect timbre. To put it in other words the EGA is a bit more boring and doesn’t perform like the V281 which makes you fall in love with music.

Stoner Acoustics EGD2

Amp only with V850 DAC

The emotion again is a bit lacking and the amplifier is to blame for that. For the original $750 price* (see below) it isn’t a bad amplifier but it isn’t great either and it limits the combo. The EGD is performing very well but I feel it’s being held a bit back by the amplifier which is a shame. This combination simply doesn’t sound as spectacular, musical or neutral. It’s a bit in between everything. It doesn’t give me goosebumps but that’s probably also because I’m used to the V281s sound signature. The EGD and V850 however are pretty close but the V850 is more spacious and deeper. The advantage the EGD has is that it does DSD files, something Violectric will never be doing. The full Vio setup does it all so effortless while the Stoner setup sounds a bit more forced and direct. That’s also noticeable with just the DAC but in a lesser degree.

End words

Stoner Acoustics have done it again for what their specialty is concerned: the End Game Dac performs very well for its original $750 and it can easily keep up with higher end DACs like the V850. The nice surprise is that the price temporary has been lowered to $450USD as they’re out of stock. For $450USD the EGD is a steal and if you need a good balanced only DAC, get it right now. Some people won’t like the fact that it is only for use with a balanced amp and that it only has a USB-input but if you can look past that and just focus on the sound, you’ll see this is a really good unit. For some people this might really be their end game DAC and I fully recommend, especially for the new temporary price. Unfortunately that isn’t something that I can say of the amplifier at $750. Sure it’s powerful and it doesn’t do anything wrong but it doesn’t really excel in anything either. To me the $750 price tag of the amp is harder to justify and I think the amp is clearly holding back the really fine sounding DAC. I do think the new temporary $450USD price reflects the value/quality of the EGA better.

Stoner Acoustics is also said to be working on a speaker amp but I secretly hope they first work on a better headphone amplifier. They however have already released a sneak preview of their new UD125 which is a portable DAC/Amp combo, so I do think they’re focusing on that unit first.  I really look forward to that one, especially the DAC part as that to me still is Stoner Acoustics’ specialty.

Stoner Acoustics Stack (1)

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

8 Comments

  • Reply May 25, 2016

    Barun C

    Nice article, Lieven couple of questions, could you elaborate on the part of

    “The HE-560 with this setup has very good layering” and “The overall sound signature is musical but neutral”.

    It says “sticok” in the beginning of the fourth line of the End Words segment, I believe it will be “stock”.

    Thanks

    • Reply May 25, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Hi Barun, in what way would you like me to elaborate on that?
      Thanks for pointing out the typo, weird my software didn’t notice that one.

      • Reply May 25, 2016

        Barun C

        Well I get confused when the word “layering” comes up, cause I don’t get the context e.g. when playing keyboard I can mix 4-5 layers of sound and when I’m playing, the number of layers coming out when sound is created depends upon how hard I hit the keys, I get what layering of the sound means there but for headphones is it instrument separation or layering of harmonic environment around which melody and rhythm of a song is crafted?

        And in case of the other “musical but neutral” , what does musical mean in comparison to neutral here, do you mean that it is neutral but it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying your music?

        Thanks

        • Reply May 26, 2016

          Headfonia_L.

          How to explain. Imagine bass: no layered bass would go BRRROOOOM and layered bass would go BbBrRrRrROoOoOoMmMmM. Same goes for voices, guitars, etc. Layering of the tone with specific detail and difference, not just one same tone. I hope I make sense to you. It’s not instrumental separation to me. The better the amp, the better the layering should be, like horizontal layers of sound/detail. Confusing? 😀

          There are several types of neutral (flat, not boosting any FREQ): boring, musical, analytic, …. Some amps just suck all the fun out of it, some are very analytic and other manage to keep it neutral (as in flat) but in a musical, enjoyable way. Those are the amps or DACs you want.

          Mental note, I should reply when I’m more awake and after coffee

          • Reply May 26, 2016

            Barun C

            Thanks Lieven. Neutral is very hard to define, and I sort of get what you mean here. Measurements and listening experience always don’t go hand in hand and in case of neutral it is also quite similar.

            So when I read your example I get, that by layering you mean attack, sustain and decay of sound. Cause that is what I can infer from you example.

            • Reply May 26, 2016

              Headfonia_L.

              I’ll see if I can find an example this weekend, would be easier to show. But then you would still need both a layered and non layered amp. I’m not talking about attack and decay :/

  • Reply March 2, 2017

    Patrick Murray

    Hey do You feel the EGA for 300$ is considered a good buy? The DAC has and is still out of stock which is really too bad, but was just wondering about the Amp for 300$ do you think there are other amps out there that are better options? like the jotunheim from Schiit

  • Reply August 2, 2019

    Mubin L

    Stoner audio is doing a clearance sale. EGA for RM450(125usd). Should I get?

    Though I don’t have a fully balanced DAC and pretty much only own mid end headphones. (HD6XX, MS2(nhoord redv2), modded T50rp mk3).

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