Read a comprehensive review of the Orchard Audio Starkrimson Stereo Ultra 2.0 (DMC Version) and discover its features, performance, and overall value.
The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 ($3999) is a high-performance stereo amplifier that features several first-class features and a sleek, minimalist design. Built by Orchard Audio, a high-end boutique audio company based in New Jersey (where they have a new demo showroom, BTW), it promises to provide listeners with an amazingly organic musical experience that opens the door to an emotional connection with the performance.
The DMC 2.0 flavor I’m reviewing today is an upgraded version of their Starkrimson Stereo Ultra 2.0 amp, which itself is an upgrade over the original Ultra 1.0 amp. The Ultra 2.0 takes Orchard Audio’s 500W Class D amplifier modules (with gallium nitride (GaN) transistors) and pairs them with a more potent power supply. The new power supply is said to be less noisy and has more grunt to drive demanding speakers.
The DMC Ultra 2.0 version then adds dual mono construction with dual power supplies (one per channel) and upgraded power rail capacitance for less distortion at higher power levels.
I recently reviewed their streamer, the PecanPi+, and found it transcendent from an audio standpoint. Will I enjoy the amp just as much? Read on to find out!
Starkrimson Stereo Ultra 2.0 Review: Design
The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 has a sleek, minimalist design that is primarily functional. The amplifier is housed in a solid aluminum chassis built to last. The front panel features a simple layout with only an illuminated power button, making it easy to use.
It’s not the most gorgeous amp out there, but most power amps are just black or silver boxes. On the other hand, the Starkrimson amp does have some fashionable touches, like a nice silver power button with blue illumination and a thick brushed aluminum front panel, which gives it a timeless quality.
You can also customize the look of the amp to some extent by swapping out the standard black front panel with a silver brushed aluminum one and/or ordering a unit without the logo on the front.
On the rear panel, the amp comes standard with Left/Right XLR inputs and a set of basic five-way binding posts. You can also add custom touches in the rear, like upgraded binding posts and a 12V trigger for remote power on. You can also purchase an XLR to RCA converter for $250.
The sides of the unit incorporate heat sinks for thermal regulation, and the top has a little venting to serve the same purpose. Over the time I used the Starkrimson amp, I didn’t notice it getting too hot. Still, if it does, the instructions say there is an amplifier protection unit that automatically shuts the amp off until it becomes cool enough to operate again.
Starkrimson Stereo Ultra 2.0 Review: Features
The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 is a dual mono hi-fi stereo amplifier with dual power supplies and upgraded power rail capacitance. It is designed to deliver the highest possible sound quality, with features that include:
- Fully balanced from input to output: This ensures that the signal is preserved as accurately as possible, resulting in less distortion and a more immersive listening experience.
- Differential (XLR) or (optional) single-ended (RCA) inputs: This gives you the flexibility to connect your source devices using the type of input that you prefer.
- Extremely low noise and distortion: The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 produces a very clean and transparent sound with very little noise or distortion.
- Power output 250/500W into 8/4Ω: This gives you the power to drive even the most demanding speakers.
- 2-ohm capable: This makes the amplifier compatible with a wide range of speakers, including those with low impedance.
- Dual power supplies: This gives the amplifier ample power and headroom, resulting in a more dynamic and powerful sound.
- Upgraded power rail capacitance: This improves the amplifier’s transient response and distortion at power levels above 50W.
- Very low idle power: When the amplifier is off, the power consumption is less than 0.2W.
As you can see, this amp is pretty well specced for the price point. I wish the 12v trigger and RCA inputs were standard for added flexibility, but one has to consider the quality of the standard internals when talking about the cost of the inclusions or lack thereof.
Starkrimson Stereo Ultra 2.0 Review: Sound Quality
For testing purposes, I connected the Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 to the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 Streamer/Digital Preamp ($999) via the XLR outputs. Then I connected the Q Acoustics 3000 standmounts ($4999 w/stands) to the amps’ speaker outputs. Music was provided by my Roon Core streaming Tidal through the CXN V2.
I’ve listened to some good Class D amps, and I’ve heard some bad ones. That said, I feel like the days of lifeless and sterile Class D performance is pretty much over. I recently listened to a beautiful-sounding mini amplifier with a Class D chip that sells for only $249, and it provided gobs of power and depth for chump change. There’s no excuse to put up with a bad-sounding amp nowadays.
Conversely, the Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 is a high-end Class-D stereo amp that sells for substantially more than that itty bitty $249 amp, and of course, it’s in a whole other stratosphere when it comes to performance.
First of all, this amp has a very low noise floor and low distortion, which results in a remarkably clean, transparent sound that is apparent from the first moment music is audible through the speakers. As a result, the speakers disappear, leaving a realistic facsimile of the performance filling the air in front of you. It’s a beautiful thing.
This amplifier’s bass dynamics are also very impressive. The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 can deliver deep, insightful bass through just about any speaker. Some amps may have pure thump, but I like the absolute control this one has down low. It sounds more natural to me. The amplifier’s midrange is also very clear and detailed, and the highs are extended and airy without being edgy.
Here are some quick notes regarding the Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0’s sound quality:
- The amplifier’s ability to reproduce bass is awe-inspiring. The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 can deliver deep, powerful bass without distortion. This makes it an excellent choice for listening to music genres such as hip-hop, electronic music, and classical music.
- The amplifier’s midrange is also very clear and detailed. This makes it easy to hear the nuances of vocals and instruments. The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 is an excellent choice for listening to music genres such as jazz, acoustic music, and chamber music.
- The amplifier’s highs are extended and airy. This gives the music a sense of spaciousness and realism. The Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0 is an excellent choice for listening to music genres such as orchestral music, choral music, and live recordings.
Listening to “So What” from Miles Davis’ masterpiece “Kind of Blue,” my jaw dropped when Miles’s horn came in because it was so pure. The beautiful tone just jumped out from the ultra-black background, making the horn sound like it was in the room. The quiet background also facilitated some remarkable separation between the drum and piano parts, and the whole presentation was just so sweet and organic.
Moving on to “Break My Soul” (The Queen’s Remix) by Beyonce, this song did a great job of not only demonstrating the clean and quiet background of the Ultra DMC amp but also showed how this amp is capable of maintaining control over some relatively difficult to drive speakers like the large Concept 300 standmounts.
While a lesser amp can get these speakers up to volume, it takes an amp with some grunt to open them up, and the Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC was more than up to the task. Listening to Beyonce’s song, which has a lot of overlapping elements, the Orchard Audio amp was able to project her voice and the rest of the mix across the room in a very clean manner while also providing tight, controlled bass to punctuate the rhythm.
If I had anything bad to say about the Concept 300/Starkrimson Ultra pairing, it would be that it was maybe a little too refined and polite in certain instances. While there was plenty of force and emotion, like in the case of Miles’ horn on “So What,” I didn’t quite get the full warm and fuzzy feeling I get from a good tube amp.
That said, the Orchard Audio amp had a neutral transparency that I haven’t heard from too many products at this price point. It just got out of the way and let the composition shine, which was very special. Again, with Miles Davis, the instruments came across with such a purity that genuinely reminds you what high-fidelity music reproduction is all about.
The Wrap Up
I have to say I’m so impressed at how far Class D amps have come in the last four or five years. Again, I feel like the days when they were considered a compromise are coming to an end, and they are now a quality option to reflect upon based on your budget and needs.
In the case of the Starkrimson Stereo Ultra DMC 2.0, the marketing materials promise a realistic and emotional musical experience, and it delivers that in spades. When I put it on, it kept me glued to my seat, and I think if I had some even better-matched components on hand, it could’ve taken my listening experience to even greater heights.
While I wish some options like RCA outputs and 12V trigger were part of the standard package, this amp is well built and reminds us of the virtues of simply made high-end boutique gear with well-selected components from end to end. Highly Recommended!
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.