At Munich HighEnd 2015, Simon pulled the same Aura V2 stunt as he had in Las Vegas earlier in the year. But he did more contrarious bling protesting. Not only did he show new Stello 700 components—DAC, preamp, 350wpc stereo amp—and announced upgrades for the Eximus DP1 to get remote control and 32/384+DSD compatibility...


.. he previewed this miniature desktop system of 2-inch paper-cone micro monitors, 6.5" self-powered bass extender box and integrated with headphone output which will retail for €1'200 combined. As I wrote in my show report, "Richard Vandersteen chatted me up on the ground floor before the gatekeepers let in that day's audience. Whilst happily selling large numbers of his top Model 7—incidentally a speaker Bel Canto's Michael McCormick had partnered with at a previous show to call it out as one of the best he's ever worked with—Richard dislikes what's happening to our industry at large. Calling himself a middle class guy who has built his small empire on affordable products, his sell figures show how hifi's upper middle class gets wealthier whilst the lower middle class moves down into what he called "comfortably poor". In essence, the middle has collapsed like a speaker setup spread too far apart. His accountant loves to see large Model 7 orders depart for the Far East. Richard's heart cries over watching orders for his Model 1 and 2 shrink compared to years past."



Richard's sentiments parallel Simon's. His reborn Stello 100 range—a 32/384 DAC with DSD called DA100 MkII is available in Korea already—is a 'heroic' personal effort. It injects updated tech and accumulated experience into his entry-level range. He wanted it even more attractive and reflecting his very best most current work. Higher performance, steeper value. For shoppers who pursue luxury gear like the next Munich show room with CH Precision, Stenheim and ZenSati cabling where just the speaker tag line was 4 towers, 1'200kg, 28 drivers, 10’000W RMS, 10-100'000Hz, April Music is entirely off the radar. In that context, Simon's efforts are anticlimactic at best. If I overstress the point, it's because in today's climate, being noticed for excess, overkill and trophy clickbait is far easier and far more common than earning credits for faithfully serving the middle class. With the proper tone now set loud and clear, what did I think of my new Stello desktop sandwich? First off, its new lower half made its long DHL trek from Seoul to Geneva via Leipzig in two short days for unexpectedly rapid delivery. Clearly Korea's transit infrastructure was very modern.



The first thing to do after delivery was to pop the hood for a closer look at Simon's chosen output devices. One simply removes the two top bolts from each end, slightly loosens the lower ones and presto, the top half of the clam shell comes right off. This is not your typical folded sheet metal affair. As such, it's quite the surprise in this sector.