Two days ago I received a package from Korea. Inside was April Music's new Eximus DP1 DAC. It maybe the best-looking DAC I've ever seen for under $3000.
Unlike most half-size rack width DACs the Stello Eximus DP1 isn't merely another aluminum box with a nice thick front faceplate. No, instead of the modified project-box most manufacturers use, April Music went to Neal Feay Design in Santa Barbara, CA for the chassis design. If you notice a more than passing similarity with chassis and cabinetry from Constellation Audio, Resolution Audio, and Ayre, that's because they are all past Feay Design clients.
Notice the ventilation holes on the sides of the cabinet. Look at how they are shaped to emphasize the curve where the front panel intersects with the side panel. That's graceful design. I especially like the front volume control, which is not only ergonomically elegant, in that unlike an ordinary knob, you can tell what your volume is by merely looking at its position. The control's shape also reminds me of an early Nagra tape recorder. And then you have the top, with its engraved three-leaf design...the DP1 is an attractive object, regardless of what it actually does.
Like other high-performance audio consumers, I've often lusted after the looks of price-no-object components, such as the new Constellation Audio gear that graces the cover of The Absolute Sound's latest issue. With resources such as independent design studios, there's no reason that more manufacturers can't infuse high style into high performance products. If Korea's April Music can do this, why not other manufacturers?
And how does the new April Music Eximus DP1 sound? It's still burning in, but even ice cold, it's a very clean and spatially articulate DAC. I'll also venture that given its feature set, which includes two analog inputs as well as a pair of S/PDIF, an AES/EBU, Toslink, and USB inputs, Balanced XLR and single-ended outputs, new XMOS 32-bit processor, front panel headphone output, and elegant good looks, the April Music Eximus DP1 may well redefine what a cost-conscious audiophile can expect from a $3000 DAC/Preamp in terms of both sonics and style.