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D/A converter
Eximus DP-1

Price (in Poland): 9900 zł

Manufacturer: April Music, Inc.

3F Bangbaehill Bldg., 882-3 Bangbae-Dong
Seocho-Gu, Seoul 137-840 | Korea
tel.: +82-2-3446-5561 | fax: +82-2-3446-5564


Manufacturer’s website: April Music

Country of origin: South Korea

The device delivered for test by: Soundclub

Text: Marek Dyba
Photos: April Music/Marek Dyba

Published: 1. January 2013, No. 104

The Polish Distributor took his time to introduce Eximus DP1 D/A converter to a Polish market. In case you wonder – it's a product of a already well know on our market, Korean Manufacturer, April Music. Polish customers already know and highly appreciate some other products from this company sold under Stello brand name. I could start naming them with commonly liked DA100 Signature DAC, really good USB-to-coax converter called U3, or the integrated and CD Player from 500 line. April Audio offers its devices under three different brands – Stello is one of them, Eximus is the other, and there is also Aura. DP1 belong obviously to an Eximus line. Many fans of Stello DAC was looking forward to Eximus coming to Polish market, assuming that it will be another reasonable priced product with great price/value ratio, bringing them closer to their own audio nirvana. Well, here it is – the DP1 D/A converter, so positively perceived by audiophiles around the world, presumed as a reference converter in its (still quite reasonable) price range by Srajan Ebaen from So let's check what it can do. Before we start I should clear out one thing – I called this device D/A converter as it is its main functionality, and it's easier to call it that. Rather than: D/A converter/preamplifier/headphone amplifier. It is easier for me to write this way but I guess it is also easier for you to read it – so lets accept this convention but keeping in mind that it is more than just a DAC.

Many people are already aware that the Koreans already cought up with Europe Japan and US on many fields, delivering at least as good products, and some even better. It looks like its time to start seriously noticing their participation in audio industry, maybe not at top-high-end level yet, but lets give them maybe 10 more years... . Just have a look at the picture of Eximus. It so happened that during this test the designers of Amare Musica (guys who put a lot of afford into their monoblocks and preamp presented during last Audioshow, to make them sound but also look as good as they do). They took a very close look of Eximus and simply commented that from their experience it would not be possible to outsource such a casing in our country, no matter how much someone would be ready to pay for it. There is simply no manufacturer who would be willing/capable to do something like that even if someone was to order large amount. If you want a confirmation of their words just ask Mr Roger Adamek of RCM about casing for his new reference phonostage THERIAA, about where did he order it. It cost A LOT and was made abroad. Coming back to April Music – they outsourced designing of this casing to Alex Rasmussen's company - A-Rex/Neal Feay, that was known for their earlier designs made for companies like Constellation Audio or Ayre. The word „April” in the name of the Korean company is (in English) the first month of a spring. What is one of the wonders of spring that we all wait for the whole winter? Fresh green leafs. I guess that might have been Mr Rasmussen's thinking and that's why leafs are the main theme of the Eximus casing. Not only the design is intriguing but also make and finish are really good. The side „mesh” walls surely serve their purpose to (which I guess is improvements in ventilation of the device) but they also match the whole design nicely. The buttons and knob on the front panel are of the same color as the whole casing. The top and bottom edges are nicely milled. The only thing that „bother” my sense of aesthetics was a on/off flip switch that on one hand seemed like it didn't belong there but on the other it was placed in leaf-like shaped recess and I guess no other kind of switch would fit in.


Recordings used during the test (a selection):

  • Arne Domnerus, Antiphone blues, Proprius, PRCD 7744, CD/FLAC.
  • Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert, ECM/Universal Music Japan, UCCE-9011, CD/FLAC.
  • Cassandra Wilson, New moon daughter, Blue Note; CDP 7243 8 37183 2 0, CD/FLAC.
  • Whitesnake, Starkers in Tokyo, EMI Music Distribution, B00000IGV9, CD/FLAC.
  • Arne Domnerus, Jazz at the Pawnshop, FIM XRCD 012-013, CD/FLAC.
  • Carlos Santana, Shaman, Arista, 74321959382, CD/FLAC.
  • Marek Dyjak, Publicznie, UBFC Cd0111, CD/FLAC.
  • Blade Runner, soundtrack, muz. Vangelis, Universal, UICY-1401/3, Special Edition 3 x CD (1982/1991/2007).
  • Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington. The Complete Session, Deluxe Edition, Roulette Jazz 7243 5 24547 2 2 (i 3), CD/FLAC.
  • Patricia Barber, Companion, Blue Note/Premonition, 7243 5 22963 2 3, CD/FLAC.
  • Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones, Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981, Eagle Rock Entertainment, B0085KGHI6, DVD/CD/FLAC.
  • Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard, Gladiator, soundtrack, Decca U.S., B00004STPT, CD/FLAC.

As I already mentioned DP-1 is 3-in-1 kind of a device. It is probably save though, to assume that its primary function is a D/A conversion. There are six digital inputs: 2xS/PDIF coaxial, TOSLINK, AES/EBU, I2S, and asynchronous USB input. All inputs accept signal up to 192kHz. This DAC allows user to upsample each signal, regardless the input it is delivered through – using a push button on the front you can either bypass upsampling or set one of two upsampling options: 88/96kHz, or 176/192kHz (this device uses two separate precise oscillators for 44,1 and 48 kHz, and upsamples the signal respectively). DP-1 sports also a headphone amplifier section, totally independent from DAC or preamplifier stage. According to the manufacturer this amp can handle most headphones with an impedance between 8 and 600Ω. The third functionality of that device is a preamplifier stage, that sports an analogue volume control (but there is no remote control).
On the back panel there is one pair of RCA analogue inputs, but on the front you will find one more analogue input – that's a mini-jack (3,5mm), that might be use to connect some portable device. The manufacturer strongly recommends using DP1 to drive power amps directly and I must admit that it handled my Modwright KWA100SE pretty well, without falling too much behind the performance of LS100 tube preamplifier. If you consider just the price of 10.000 PLN without checking exactly what this device has to offer, you might find it pretty high. But considering that this is a 3-in-1 device and that combined just with a computer as a source and headphones and/or amplifier + speakers it offers a high performance audio system, 10 grands doesn't seem so much anymore.

At the beginning of my listening sessions I used DP-1 as a D/A converter only with my PC (WIN8 64 bit, Jriver and JPlay) plugged in with USB cable, and my disc spinner with a very good AudioMica Flint Consequence coaxial cable. There were no problems with driver installation in Windows (which is quite unusual as I had many problems in Win 8 64-bit with other drivers). The result, quite like recently with Bricasti M1, were quite similar regardless of which input I used. That wasn't much of a surprise as the Stello U3 offers a very good performance so why shouldn't other April Music's product perform the same. I started listening to Eximus right after I finished the review of Bricasti which „forced” me to compare these two devices regardless of significant price difference. As you might have already read in M1 review, the first impressions of it were: transparency, clarity of the sound and quite large, especially front to back soundstage When it came to DP-1 the first impressions I wrote down were: smooth, coherent, rich sound and great communication of emotions. To some extend the Korean converter reminded me the outstanding Reimyo DAC, as it focused less on details and more on the essence of music, on how all elements come together, combine to create a great musical experience. Just a short notice for those who didn't read the review of Bricasti – I don't think that M1 is too analytical, or uninvolving. But the music is presented in a bit different way – there is more focus on quite a distinct presentation of even small details, making it much easier to follow any of them. When it comes to Eximus (and Reimyo that we compared directly to Bricasti) there is plenty of details but they are relayed in a bit... softer, less distinct way. So the DP-1 is not such a great tool to analyze the sound but it's a great tool to listen to the music and to enjoy it. Of course it is not the level of Reimyo performance, but there are some similarities in the sound. Music flows to listener's ears in an unforced, relaxed way, surrounding him, creating pretty convincing illusion of him taking part is a beautiful musical spectacle. On Arne Domnerus Antiphone blues I could clearly hear him inhaling the air and than blowing it into his saxophone – details like these are there, in the presentation, but they don't attract attention, they are a part of a very natural saxophone sound. Comparing with Bricasti I couldn't hear much difference in the deep, powerful presentation of organs, but the saxophone sounded bit darker with Eximus, which also made it more similar to Reimyo rather than to American DAC.

To confirm these observations I listened to the same recordings of Patricia Barber and Cassandra Wilson as I had before, when testing Bricasti. Deep, low voices of both ladies sounded rich, with proper texture, and slightly darker than with M1, which made them sound even more real in my opinion of course, or at least more as I was used to hear them with my own system (like with my own TeddyDac, or from my turntable). The presentation was also focus rather around emotions, voices timbre, on relaying the close, intimate even relationship between artist and listener, and less on details. I'm not going to judge which way of presentation is better as each and every one of us has his own preferences, ways he likes his music served. My heart speaks for Eximus/Reimyo presentation, or Lampizator for example, but the mind says that Bricasti is more of high-fidelity type, delivering what is there in the recording without trying to make it sound better/nicer. It plays the music without interpreting it, if you know what I mean, which by audiophile standards makes it a better device. And it surely is a better D/A converter than DP-1 and those who seek highly revealing, detailed, transparent sound without any colorations will chose it over DP-1 for sure.

But DP-1 has something in it, something that makes you want to listen to all your favorite recordings, even those you know already by heart – well, in fact it's not just listening, not just enjoying them, but also, most of all experiencing them. What is most interesting is that this presentation doesn't have to be perfect for you to enjoy it fully. I already mentioned that couple of time – when we attend a live concert, unless sound engineers or musicians screw things totally up, we like what we hear much more than even the best recording played by a top-high-end system, because live music will always sound more natural. To some extent that what also DP-1 does – it's not perfect – Bricasti did show in the same recordings more taut bass, or even more vibrant, more transparent treble. But for me it was easier to forget that what I listened to was only a reproduction and not live music, when I used Eximus.

Is there really anything I could held against Korean device? Bass is powerful, nicely extended, well differentiated, maybe not so taut as with M1, but as dynamic and energetic. Midrange – there is so no such a neutral tonality, but it's still smooth, colorful, and rich which seems to be achieved via slight warm up – but from my point of view it's more of a pro than con... . Treble – open, airy, detailed, nicely extended, rich. OK, Bricasti can deliver bit more – for example when a bell is hit you can feel the vibrating air, and the decay is longer, but these are not some fundamental, although noticeable, differences between those converters.

I found Eximus extremely capable in all sorts of live music. Examples? Here we go. The already mentioned Arne Domnerus Antiphone blues. The space of a huge church was beautifully relayed, it was easy to identify organs playing from up high and a saxophone placed bit lower and closer to the listener. Jazz at the Pawnshop again with Mr Domnerus – that's one of the best live jazz recordings, taken in a small club with all its ambiance, vibes coming from people not only enjoying the music, but also their meals and talks... which didn't stop musicians from having a great time, which is simply obvious when you listen to it. Totally different kind of, still live, music - Live by AC/DC – guitar craziness, volcanic eruptions of energy and dynamics and a major crowd clearly enjoying it like hell. I played this one with DP-1 on a lousy day and it was irresistible, it was like a shot of pure energy, the huge crowd around me was going crazy enjoying this simple but involving music and before I knew it I was having a great time too. Again something totally different – a beautiful, acoustic session of Whitesnake on Starkers in Tokyo simply sucked me in, the amazing voice of David Coverdale hypnotized me, and the sound of the guitar was very realistic too. Also the recently (finally officially!) released concert of Muddy Waters with The Rolling Stones, that I've been playing ever since from all mediums (CD, files, vinyl and DVD) sounded very convincingly. Fantastic blues band with THE Master, Muddy Waters, and than firstly bit shy Mick Jagger, who gained his confidence by the minute and later also Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on guitars – all those fantastic performers proved that all it takes to play the blues is to feel it. And I was just sitting in that crowded place, sipping my Bud, and enjoying one of the best blues concerts of all times. There was damn good feeling of pace&rhythm, there was drive, power, feeling – it was all there together creating amazing musical experience. As I mentioned before – it did not really matter what kind of live music I played, whether it was acoustic or electric session, whether played in a small club or on a stadium – the involving, joyful, somehow very positive way of DP-1's presentation allowed me to enjoy each recording, to have an almost take-part-experience. /p>

Also when it came to famous Koeln Concert by Keith Jarret, Eximus proved to be very capable of delivering performance of even such a “difficult” instrument as piano. One might think that it doesn't get easier than reproducing a single instrument but in fact not that many DACs can really play piano well, and even fewer of them can do it very, very well on a level comparable with what good turntable setup can offer from ECM vinyl. Eximus got quite close to being classified in the latter group, really, really close. It covered the scale of the sound, both in volume and tonality, timbre, ambiance. What some D/A converter can do better are attack and decay phase – especially the latter was seemed sometimes to be cut bit short. But the illusion of a grand piano, of exclusive participation in an amazing musical performance, feeling of the chemistry between musician and listener – it was all there, beautifully relayed.

Yes, I did play a lot of live recordings during this test, because there was something special abut the way Eximus presented them, and it simply did it better than most DACs I'm familiar with. But it doesn't mean that it can't play studio recordings. Of course it can. DP-1 dealt nicely with each good recording trying to focus on an essence of a music. It was real fun to listen to all those multicultural influences on Tri Continental recording – it was pretty clear, that members of that trio actually come from 3 different continents. I also enjoyed a lot my favorite soundtracks. Like Gladiator, where during The battle I could feel the immense tension and great dynamics of the events. Like the fabulous Blade Runner with its dense, beautiful ambiance, or the very dark and powerful OST from the last Batman, just to name a few. Each of them was played in a very emotional, involving way that brought scenes from the movies in front of my eyes.
When it came to „loudness war” victims, like some recent recordings of Carlos Santana for example, or to flat, lifeless recordings of my still favorite band U2, Eximus proved that it couldn't work any magic – as they say sh.t in sh.t out – nothing to be done here. So it's definitely better to feed DP-1 with high quality recordings as it will reward you with beautiful, involving, non-fatiguing sound.

The short test of DP-1 driving my KWA100SE power amp did not reveal any problems, although, the same as with Bricasti, I like my system with LS100 preamplifier in, better. But still Korean device performed really well, lacking probably mostly two things – a delicate but important „touch” of tubes and a remote control – both delivered by LS100.
I did not really have a chance to test Eximus as a headphone amplifier as the only cans at my disposal were Audeze LCD3, that simply required high quality, stand-alone amp to show their full capability. DP-1 dealt with them pretty well though – the sound was lively, involving, colorful, and the most obvious limitations were audible in both extremes. That's what happens usually if the headphone amplifier doesn't have enough juice to drive planar magnetic cans. So as I said, I couldn't really assess Eximus head amp, but it looks like it has a potential that might be explored with easier to drive, dynamic headphones.


While few years back we had a huge vinyl related boom on the market, now so called PC Audio is on top of many audiophile’s list. To use a computer or files player as a source in most cases requires also a stand-alone D/A converter, preferably with USB input (if not an additional USB/coax converter is a must) and as an answer to such huge demand there is a huge supply of DACs of all sorts from around the world. In theory the bigger supply the bigger choice customers have and the better for them. But is it really better? Well, yes, but is it easier? Surely not. Today it is really difficult to make a right choice – most guys can't spend weeks auditioning dozens of devices to chose the best one for their particular needs. What's more, if you listen to many such devices you might find out that many of them sound alike. Many manufacturers have also already realized that if they want their products to be bought by often confused customers, these products have to stand out somehow among others. April Music came up with few elements that make Eximus DP-1 stand out, easy to remember by. It starts with impressive and original external design – I can't imagine anybody who would not be at least impressed if not delighted. The second advantage is surely multifunctionality – D/A converter being the main one for sure, but this device can also act as preamplifier driving successfully a power amplifier, and it will suffice to drive many headphones too. That means that your system might be really simple – computer+Eximus+headphones, or computer+Eximus+power amp+speakers – that might be all you need to get high performance system. And last but not least DP-1 offers also damn good sound. Surely not all will be thrilled – if what you seek is most of all clarity, transparency, perfectly neutral tonal balance than most likely you'll prefer the sound of Bricasti, or dCs. But many audiophiles I know, including myself, look for devices that offer involving, unfatiguing presentation, that lets them forget about system, and just experience music in a very pleasant, touching way – that's what Eximus can get you. Just sit comfortably in you chair and let DP-1 take you to a concert or to a studio. And while some other devices can do some things even better, you want miss them at all, because Eximus, while not perfect, offers you a great musical experience that makes you forget, or not even notice any imperfections of the presentation. All you care about is music, right here, right now.


Eximus DP-1 is a device by already well know on Polish market Korean company, April Music. In fact that's a three-in-one device: preamplifier, headphone amplifier and digital-to-analogue converter. It sports a very attractive aluminum casing perfectly made and finished with its top cover using a leaf motive. Front panel sport and on/off flip switch, also placed inside a leaf-shaped recess, a button that allows you to circle around all digital input to chose the one you want to use, and a row of LED that show you which input is actually chosen. Than there is a „filter” button that allows to turn on a „low frequency boost” for headphone listening, and right below it there is a headphone socket (6,3mm – when plugged in the XLR and RCA outputs are cut off). There is also button that allows you to chose an upsampling rate - 88/96 kHz, or 176/192 kHz, or to bypass upsampling, and next to it there is a LED that with its color signals which option was chosen. Front sports also a small jack analogue input that allows to plug in some mobile device, and there is a volume control knob – is it me, or it is a leaf-shape again?
Let's go to the rear panel – analogue outputs, both balanced and unbalanced (XLR and RCA). Since DP-1 is a balanced device manufacturer recommends using balanced outputs if only possible. There is also a pair of analogue RCA inputs allowing to connect one external device if you use Eximus as a preamplifier. There is of course also a huge lot of digital inputs: 1x AES/EBU, 2xcoax RCA, 1x optical TOSLINK, 1x I2S, and 1xUSB (asynchronous). Plus a power inlet, of course.
I couldn’t really take a look inside – after unscrewing bottom panel I could only see a bottom side of main PCB and a transformer – there is surely a way to take this device apart but I wasn't persistent enough and let it go. The manufacturer doesn't share too many information about the design . According to information I found Eximus sports a PCM 1974A D/A converter chip, and the solution for USB input is taken from Stello U3, which means that he used a 32-bit XS1-L1 processor from XMOS. The fully balanced, discrete output mode works in class A.