Written by 4:28 pm Digital

Why Not Beautiful?

I like beautiful looking things. Too bad that so much high-performance audio gear is so ugly. But occasionally a manufacturer decides to do something different that appeals as much to the eyes as the ears. April Music may be onto something…


AR-eximus1.jpgTwo 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.

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