Experience that Maraschino Sound!
HEAR'S what they're saying...
I have to admit, I had great high expectations for the new Stereo Maraschino. And this is way back when the Kickstarter was announced in the fall of 2015. At that time I had been very excited still with my amazing Desktop Maraschino pair. Here was a pair of high current classD amplifiers that had taken my system by storm. So good in fact that I even went and upgraded my pre-amp to make sure I was getting everything these sophisticated amps could produce! And thats when Tommy announced the Stereo Maraschino, now known as STM. I was sure I wanted one long before final name, colors or price were decided.
Many months later, and finally my new integrated STM arrived. Unboxing this beauty was reassuring. The strong carton and custom fit packing was mindfully assembled to ensure that the amplifier and its included outboard power supply would arrive in good shape no matter what shipping adventures might come. I felt the level of care in packing was another glimpse into how Digital Amplifier Company puts great thought into each aspect of the products they bring to market. The STM amplifier itself was satisfying to hold. It had a little more weight to it than its size and classD distinction would suggest. Solid, and well made were appropriate descriptions of a first hands-on. The volume knob and switches are smooth and placed such that the amplifier looks balanced, but purposeful.
Connection and integration into my system was simple and satisfying. So focussed in its mission, this device needs no user manual. Simply plug the included power supply into the unit via its multi-pin DIN connector, and the heavy duty IEC cable into the wall. The STM is built and intended as a fully balanced device. That means its rear panel happliy accepts and encourages high quality XLR termintated interconnects. Also included are a pair of heavy and well machined XLR to RCA adapters for those whom still require single ended compatability. Speaker cables can be either banana, spade or bare wire terminations. Simple. Straightforward. I envisioned anyone from pure blooded audiophiles who would appreciate the solid and quality terminals employed herein, to the college student or desktop/bedroom system user who benefits from the well laid out connections that are as easy to access from top down and backwards as they are from fully rear facing the device. The STM is heavy enough to accept reasonable cabling without ever being threatened to lose its footing. Speaking of, the device ships with four extremely soft and grippy Sorbothane feet. This little amp will stay where you put it, and in some scenarios that will be important. Think desktop environments where realestate is always shuffling for elbow room.
I put the STM right into the bigboy system, where the fully dual mono Desktop Maraschinos (DTM's) had been. This driving the awesome Zu Audio Message speaker pair. Equipped with dual 10" full range drivers per side, plus a pro-audio sourced 3" diaphragm tweeter. Thats more square feet of driver than many systems ever employ. Happily the Zu speakers are highly resolving and very effiecient. Turns out the STM likes this match very much! A very close stand-in for the costlier pair of amplifiers, the STM integrated managed to integrate itself perfectly well. Of course, it's playmate and source component here is the soon to be released DAC DAC... But that's another story!
Resolution-wise the STM is right on par with the DTM's. And that's giving very high praise. Digital Amplifier Company is known for extremely high bandwidth and extremely low distortion circuits. Here the STM is living right up to its heritage. Super extended treble, that's maybe tuned just a touch smoother than its brothers. If one were splitting hairs, I would say that STM is tweaked to be system perfect for most modern speakers that are price range appropriate with it, and that ensures long term happiness and compatability with the types of equipment that real-world users in fully digital systems will have on hand today. My real world example of this, is that if you find that after running your system at higher volume for a while you eventually feel like its time to turn it down, then STM will be refreshing. Firstly you might just find that because of its extremely low self noise and unusually high resolution you wont need to turn it up as much to be fun and involving. The STM grabs you from low on the dial. But when you do accelerate to party level, the STM never gets out of composure. Its partly the resolution, partly the complete lack of distortion, and partly the super smooth volume control pot. Its a friendly focus. It means you'll be able to sit back and close your eyes and listen critically while finally hearing lyrics clearly that were only hinted at on other systems. It also means that when the music arrives clean and full like it should that you'll have more fun and be more involved. But it also comes true to find that listening all day while working, cooking, or writing this piece, that the STM deliver music in a compatable, background filling way when asked to that never gets tiring. You'll be adding more music back into your daily listening because it finally sounds good over your system. And then there's the bass!
ClassD has always been strong with bass. BUT! Not all classD is the same. Not by a long shot. Tommy has designed and delivered his best version yet. I believe STM shreds out a little better bass than its DTM brothers. Not just as perhaps a slightly higher level, but a little more elastic, somewhat more tuneful delivery. It sounds as though you can hear a few more low cycles in each bass note. That's just a treat to hear and feel. I go way out on a limb here and say that STM bass in my system is somehow more fun than any other classD system I've heard, and better than any other classification to date.
In trying out the STM in an alternate and more affordable setup, I chose a pair of Klipsh bookshelf speakers, recently available at big box retailers. They employ a smallish 6" woofer, and a largish horn tweeter that is about the same 6" dimension at its mouth. I've found these speakers to be a little droning, dry, and shouty most of the time. But the horn loaded tweeter does reveal quite a bit of what you feed it. Certainly it doesnt gloss over or polish up the delivery at all. As a sort of torture test the STM was set up with these Klipsh in a very large room 20' deep, 30' wide, and 21' high. For the source, an older iPod was connected via 1/8trs into the front panel of STM. I cued up a playlist of my more fun and energetic music. Pretty sure that this wouldnt work, I was ready to find the limits and let STM down easy. Ever feel one of those uh-oh moments set in?
6" woofers in a room this large cant possibly sound this good. How the? Track after track I was really having fun. The STM easily found the current to drive these mid efficiency bookshelf speakers to church filling levels. This building can actually hold 200 people and the STM drove the SPL to true entertainment levels and there was some travel remaining on the volume dial. No real heat buildup to speak of, and certainly zero listening fatigue. Color me impressed. The STM just gets down to boogie and doesnt smear, color, or infect the music it plays in any way. If anything it seems to have a freeing effect. As if it finds more space in the sound. It loosens up the track and then lets it positively rip like a guitar solo or a drum bombastic.
3 hours later, and the battery waning on my iPod I just realized that I'd had more fun for less money than I ever thought possible in this hobby. This rig I could live with on a desert island. Its a do it all, take up less space and energy doing it, blow your friends gear away while keeping your spouse smiling kind of fun! Hero! After years of buying and trying multi thousand dollar amps, preamps, cabling and sources many a'philes and music lovers alike eventually succumb to or settle on a system that covers their hot points at a more comfortable budget as life soaks up more and more of what was once disposable income. Here and Now Digital Amplifier Company has delivered a product that shuns that trend. No settling required! You dont have to give in and accept a lower level of performance. The STM delivers a world class performance for crazy low investment.
Buy this thing. NOW. You'll love it. ....Start finding homes for your old gear right away. You dont need it anymore.