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Integrated amplifier

Stein Music

Manufacturer: STEIN MUSIC Ltd.

Price (when reviewed): 11 300 zł

Contact: Steinmusic Ltd.
Hingbergstr. 103a 45468
Mülheim | Germany


Product supplied for test by: AUDIO SYSTEM

hen a manufacturer once known of his “sound-improving” accessories that many considered “voo-doo” (or worse, decides to offer regular audio components there must a reason for that. In fact Stein Music introduced first products already some time ago but still today a CD Player or an amplifier with their logo is sort of a surprise. So why would they offer electronic components? There is only but one reason – they believe that can offer something different from all other components on the market. Also they probably assume that only by proposing their own elements they can realize their idea of a good sound.

The Amp 2 Stateline actually is different. There are some markers that came from DIY segment in amp's DNA, plus some proprietary ideas about how each section of the device and different elements contribute to the final sound quality. The external design is hardly extravagant. It sport „mainstream” proportions with 460mm in width and 85mm in height, and its weight (6,5kg) isn't also very special. It sports a black, acrylic front panel with brushed steel knobs – another classic solution. Presence of digital inputs also places this device among other mainstream products.

One has to peak under the hood to realize what Stein did in their own way – power supply, output stage and DAC: 1. Instead of linear power supply, widely considered a “better” choice, Stein used an integrated switching mode one by IBM. They added a lot of filtering capacitors and 5 voltage regulators.
2. Instead of transistors, widely recognized as optimum solution, Stein used NXP TDA1552Q circuit. It is well known and liked among DIY aficionados. It works in Class B, and in bridged mode it delivers just 2 x 22W (8Ω) output.
3. DAC is build around an old, by highly valued chip, TDA1543 by Philips. It's a 16bit non-oversampling chip, so any signal from USB and RCA inputs has to be initially down-sampled (if necessary). One can forget about playing hi-res files.

The idea behind this product could be broken down to: optimization, tuning, lesser evil. And such an approach is not that uncommon among audio manufacturers. To combine elements together so that they together create a high quality sound take a lot of time and effort. Which is possible actually only in small companies, whose budgets, profit/loss accounts are treated differently than in large corporations. As other examples I could name Clones Audio, with their 25i amplifier based on LM3875 chip, Dubiel Accoustic, that in their CD Player Nirvana used Philips TDA1541 DAC chip, or SPEC, who uses wood as material for chassis for their devices and for their feet, plus refined capacitors – like they do in Amp 2 Stateline (more HERE).

There are two version of this amplifier, a „standard” (8600 PLN) and „Signature” (11 300 PLN) one, the latter using better, higher quality elements. Signature also sports a better USB receiver which allows it to accept PCM signal up to 24/192, as opposed to 24/96 for standard version. All the rest is identical in both versions and so are measurements for both units.

STEIN MUSIC in „High Fidelity”
TEST: Stein Music HARMONIZER SYSTEM H2 BLUE SUN | BLUE DIAMONDS – sound improvement devices, see HERE

Recording used for this test (a selection):

  • Charlie Haden, The Private Collection, Naim Label naimcd108, 2 x CD (2007).
  • Chet Baker, Big Band, Pacific Jazz Records/Toshiba-EMI Limited TOCJ-9442, "Super Bit Jazz Classics", CD (1957/2002).
  • Count Basie, Count Basie Live at the Sands (before Frank), Warner Bros. Records/Mobile Fidelity MOFI UDSACD 2113, “Special Limited Edition No. 197” SACD/CD (1998/2013).
  • Dominic Miller & Neil Stacey, New Dawn, Naim naimcd066, CD (2002).
  • Ed Sheeran, X, Warner Music UK/Warner Music Japan WPCR-15730, CD (2014);
  • George Michael, Patience, Aegean/Sony Music UK 515402 2, CD (2004).
  • Michael Jackson, Xscape, Epic 3053662, CD (2014).
  • Sting, All This Time, A&M Records 212354-2, SP CD (1991).
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet, The Sheriff, Atlantic Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-25129, “Atlantic 60th”, CD (1964/2006).
  • Yes, The Yes Album, Atlantic Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-15903, “7 inch mini LP”, SACD/CD (1971/2014)
Japanese issues available at

If I was to point out a single reason for many music fans and audiophiles to disagree with the direction today's audio industries seems to be taking it would be a tonality. Fighting for the lowest possible distortion level large Japanese manufacturers in 1970ties and 1980ties forgot that not all distortions degraded music and that what people could hear was even more important than what they could measure. As a result of such approach many of their products offered mediocre sound, with a flat, lifeless tonality. It is very unfortunate that many designers still think like that today.

Stein company won't be able to change that – they are simply too small. But what they can do is to propose their own concept of sound and to try to get at least some people interested in it. I mean those people who won't accept a mediocre sound offered by others. A tonality as presented by the amplifier under review is its key feature. It offers a truly refined performance in this aspect – sound is dense, rich, with excellent treble. This excellence is based on how vibrant it is, how unrestrained, and how well differentiated. I haven't heard anything like that even from tube amplifiers, at least not from similarly priced ones and it is tube amps that are recognized as the best in rendering percussion cymbals, acoustic surrounding of instruments and so on.

But even such an excellent treble is only an extension of midrange. I enjoyed listening not only very natural sounding vocals recorded in 1950ties, but also some mainstream albums where compression, distortions or digital clipping are nothing unusual – like, for example, George Michael's Patience or Michael Jackson's Xscape. Michael's voice was presented up close, in a warm, intimate way – just as it was supposed to be. Unfortunately in the recording voice is a bit harsh, with some sibilants, which becomes very obvious in those fragments with a long reverb. Stein was able to smooth it out a bit, but there was no roll-off. I like this album and this time I was able to truly enjoy it. There is one more reason for me to enjoy this album – its cover was designed by a Pole, Grzegorz Jakóbek (Greg Jakobek).

Many years before that, in 1964, another album with a cover created by our another fellow-countryman Stanisław Zagórski (who designed also many other, mostly jazz albums' covers) was released. I'm talking about The Modern Jazz Quartet's The Sheriff. Stein did a great job with a rhythm, offered a dense sound, a lot of music “behind” main sounds with created a large volume of these. This recording also revealed something that w potential buyer of this amplifier would have to face: the way that low range is presented.

I am pretty sure that this would be exactly the same choice Stein designers faced while developing this product and I bet they made a conscious choice, a choice of lesser evil. I experienced the same choices before taken by creators of wonderful, Italian amplifier - Lym Audio LYM 1.0T Phono. Namely there is no perfect control of bass. At least in comparison to some powerful solid-state amplifier like one by Naim for example, or Cambridge Audio, Marantz, Denon and many other renown manufacturers. I remember that similar performance was delivered by some tube amplifiers like Leben CS-660P and, to a lesser extent, Audio Research Galileo GS150 (Polish).

Stein delivers a very nice tonality of bass. Low range supports midrange of treble seamlessly and it never takes over, never dominates presentation. It's a true support, base for all the upper part of the range. But it can hardly deliver an exemplary performance of a bass guitar or double bass, or a fast leading edge. It's like it plays legato, keeping sounds together rather than separate them. Fortunately it doesn't mean that we get a slow performance.

This amplifier offers a great dynamics and a rhythm belongs to its strong qualities too. It might seem that with less than perfect definition and differentiation of the bass keeping the rhythm could be problematic but actually it isn't. One wouldn't really notice that with some peaceful music, small bands and so on, but when listening to Michael's Amazing, Ed Sheeran's Bloodline from X, or even to Rush Hour from New Dawn by Dominic Miller & Neil Stacey, if amplifier didn't perform well in bass area the whole performance would have been a disaster. Amp 2 Stateline, Signature version is a different type of beast though – it played these tracks with passion, with fire, without compression, without problems with overblown bass. In fact I liked this performance better than many others delivered by much more powerful amps that has problems with harmonics and with coherence of the presentation.

Sure – a large room, speakers that are a difficult load for amp, too big distance between listener and speakers – such situations will cause this amp to run out of juice and than one will get a flat, lifeless performance. So one has to build a system in a reasonable way and upon doing so will be awarded with a performance build upon described positive features of the sound and avoiding potential troubles that I mentioned.

Digital input

Using a TDA1543 chip with no oversampling, determines a sonic characteristic of delivered performance. Sound is rather warm, with not that much treble nor details. But is also very coherent and natural, or at least that how one perceives it. Bass is hardly well extended but not even once I missed that extension – both Portishead from Third, and Charlie Haden from his 50th birthday's concert sounded really good and performance in both cases was really involving.

I shall recommend to treat these digital inputs as a sort of invitation to enjoy the music. Sound won't be particularly resolving nor selective, and acoustic surrounding of the instruments won't be well differentiated. But at the same time these input will give us a chance to change the sound of our CD Player in a very special way – only the very expensive Players offer such a beautiful coherence and fluidity of the sound as Stein does. If you buy a nice CD Transport, like for example Cambridge Audio CXC, you'll be rewarded also with a nice drive and focus of the presentation.


Small amplifiers with a very short signal's path using high quality components have a few things in common: a beautiful timbre, fast sound and no brightness. Most of us call such performance: natural. This German amplifier delivers just that, avoiding potential issues of many DIY projects that often are just clones of some commercial products. The tonality of the presentation is not manipulated in any way. There is no compression and no emphasis in bass range.

Amp 2 Stateline Signature Version will be a perfect partner for a refined system with, say, Harbeth, Spendor, Castle, Sonus faber, Xavian loudspeakers and a nice quality CD Transport. It delivers a classic performance, it communicates music in a very convincing, beautiful way. The one thing that some might find to be an issue is bass – very nice one, but not particularly well defined, nor controlled. Make is really good – the device’s looks tells us that it comes from professionals. It is one of the least expensive amplifiers I know that I can recommend to pair with even twice as expensive speakers. You might want to compare it with a powerful amps your friend have – most of them will be impressed.

Many small audio manufacturers can't find their way around a single issue – they are not able to produce a nice looking chassis for their product, A solid, functional one – sure, but not a really good looking one. It is one of the reasons why such specialized product don't attract too much attention when placed on Showroom's shelf next to a product that comes from one o major manufacturers.

Front and back

But this is not the case. The Amp 2 Stateline, although pretty small, looks really good, some might say it sport a “noble” look. Front panel is made of a thick, black acrylic. Steel input selector and volume control knobs nicely contrast with the black acrylic, and so does the on/off switch. Despite the fact that I don't like blue LEDs in this particular case the one that indicates that device is one looks very nice. Also the other one indicated a sync link between DAC and device delivering signal (a CD Transport or computer) did not bother me.

There are as much as six inputs – four analogue RCA ones and two digital ones – USB and S/PDIF (RCA). The latter in a Signature version are supposed to accept signal up to 24bits and 192kHz but since I haven't found any driver for Windows system I couldn't use that feature. Instead I used a signal of maximum resolution of 24/96. I found an interesting piece of information on one of Stein's distributor's webpage saying that digital signal is processed without oversampling. This means that manufacturer had to use one of the old, Philips DAC chips that accept signal up to 16bits and 44,1kHz.

On the rear panel, except for analogue and digital gold-plated inputs and speakers posts one shall find Stein owner's signature – it's a Signature version after all, isn't it?
Chassis is made of hick, steel plates and put on four wooden walnut feet – it tells us a story of a small, quality-oriented manufacturer who simply can afford such exotic solutions in the name of sonic quality.


The insight unveils even more such exotic solutions. First of all one finds out that manufacturer based his amplifier on a popular chip TDA1552Q. It is bolted to a large radiator. Inside there are four amplifiers, 11W each, that might be bridged, as they are here. It is an amplifier with negative feedback which allowed to achieve a low level of mostly even (so listener “friendly”) harmonics – they went down to 0,2%. Manufacturer justifies the choice of the particular circuit with w very short signal's path. Internal cabling delivering signal to speaker outputs is made of copper solid-core wires.

Input section sports only two transistors, one of them works in a correction circuit so outside signal's path. Before that signal from input goes to a selected Alps pot. There some quality elements here like Beyschlag 020 resistors and Siemens/Epcos MKP capacitors. The DAC section is build using SMD technique. Only the DAC chip itself, Philips TDA1543 sits in a socket. USB input uses CMedia CM6632a chip that accepts signal up to 24bits and 192kHz. Next to it there are three precise oscillator – a necessary element for any high quality DAC.

A power supply is very special. Small manufacturer usually praise linear PS with large power transformers. Stein obviously disagrees – they decided to use SMPS designed by IBM. As we can read in manufacturer's materials: „we found out it was a perfect partner for our device assuring much better performance than any classic PS with transformer. It also turned out to be different than any other SMPSs”.

There are five voltage regulators and large SMPT capacitors with total capacity of 36 000µF. Different capacitors were chosen for filtration, depending on their sonic signature. As much as 30 of them (6600µF) are highly valued OsCons. The all were mounted on a single PCB placed over power supply that is closed in a shielding housing. The other ones come from Panasonic (FC), Capxon and Jamicon.


The remote deliver with amplifier is a “learning” one. We can “teach” it also other components and not just this amp. It's a simple, elegant solution, although so many buttons take user longer time to learn. There is a stand for remote – it needs to be fixed to, wherever user want to placed it, and then it will be really useful.

It is a well taught-through, solid device.

Specifications (according to manufacturer:)

• Power: 2 x 20W
• THD: 0,2%
• Analogue inputs: 2 x RCA
• Digital inputs: 1 x USB + 1 x S/PDIF (RCA)
• Dimensions: 460 x 85 x 330mm (SxWxG)
• Weight: 6,5kg



- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Multiformat Player: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
System I
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
System II
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

System I
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: fuse – power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m) – wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
System II
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One