Atoll Electronique from Brecey, France, has gained a foothold in Holland and Belgium in recent years. Not least because of importer Viertron who, without exception, makes available every device in their catalog. This time we even received two devices. But we mainly focused on the Atoll ST300 streamer – 3000 Euro – because in addition to being a streamer, the ST300 is also a dac, preamplifier and so much more. A lot of things that had to be covered and at Alpha Audio we prefer to do our work thoroughly or not at all. Of course we briefly placed the Atoll AM300 – 2600 Euro – in the test system but we lacked the time to listen to it critically. Unfortenately, the gear had to be returned to our colleagues. That’s how it is with popular stuff.
By now, everyone knows what Atoll devices look like. Sober, sleek and without frills. Timeless as well without being too conspicuous or distracting in the rack. This time they came in black which makes them a perfect fit for the excellent Rega Saturn MKIII CD player we still have here. All our own units are in silver but a black set has its charms too. On the front we see the same oled color screen as on the ST200 Signature we tested a few years ago. When you stream via Roon or the Atoll app you get to see the album cover and time lapse. You can dim the screen or even turn it off but we think that’s only necessary if you don’t get to see the cover art. To the left of the screen we see five cross-shaped buttons to control the menu and to the right of the screen another three buttons (previous, next and power button). Only the latter will be used once in a while because all the other buttons seem superfluous to us. Everyone will use either the Atoll app or Roon to play music. You can also use third-party apps or work through a Nas. This time we only used Roon.
At the back, it’s pretty crowded. There are both single-ended and balanced outputs, two analog rca inputs, five digital inputs (2x optical, 2x coax, 1x usb), two digital outputs (1x optical, 1x coax) and the Ethernet connection. It is also possible to stream via wifi, a nice extra, but we usually prefer cable. Other than that, the device is very solidly built. Inside we see a nice Burr Brown dac (PCM1792) which, unlike the ST200 Signature, is in dual mono now. And yes, that makes a difference. PCM files go up to 192 kHz and you can play DSD 64 and DSD128. The ST300 also has dual analog volume controls and a fully symmetrical output stage. One for the analog and one for the digital part. Actually, Atoll has doubled everything in the ST200 Signature, except the price.
What else can you do with this unit? You can bypass the analog preamp (Class A) so that the streamer is used purely as a source. You can connect the built-in dac to a CD player or CD transport. You can connect a phono stage to it to bring a record player into play. You can play music through a Nas, through a computer or through a Usb stick. There is also a headphone jack (6.35mm) and Bluetooth. The headphone amp sounds excellent on the Hifiman Sundara. Sufficiently potent, to drive most normal headphones smoothly. Perhaps we are forgetting a few more features but we leave those for you to discover. Oh well, just a few more then. There’s Tidal Connect, Spotify connect, UPNP, DLNA, Audirvana, MQA,…. And before we forget. The remote is big, full of buttons and made of plastic but controlling the volume works just fine. We mostly used the volume bar in Roon but it’s nice to have a choice.