This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, PureMusic 1.89g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192; Audirvana 1.4.6 in Integer mode 1, Metrum Hex, AURALic Vega, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2, RWA-modified Astell & Kern AK100, Apple iPod 160GB Classic with Pure i20 and Cambridge Audio iD100 digital docks
Preamp/Integrated: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, Crayon Audio CFA-1.2, Bakoon AMP-12R, Gato Audio DIA-250 [on loan], April Music Stello HP100MkII [on review]
: First Watt SIT1, SIT2, F5 & M2, Goldmund/Job 225, AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Speakers: soundkaos Wave 40, Boenicke B10, German Physiks HRS-120, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Zu Submission
Headphone amps: April Music Eximus DP1, Burson Audio Conductor, Bakoon AMP-12R
Headphones: ALO-recabled Audeze LCD-2 & LCD-3, Sennheiser HD800, beyerdynamic T1 and T5p, AKH K702; HifiMan HE500 & HE6; Aëdle VK-1
Desktop speakers: Gallo Strada II with TR-3D subwoofer, Amphion Ion+ [on loan], EBTB Luna II [on review], Boenicke Audio W5 [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event,
KingRex uCraft USB cable, Zu split USB cable, Van den Hul AES/EBU cable, Tombo Trøn S/PDIF cable, AudioQuest Diamond Toslink
Artesania Audio Exotyeric for front end, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF2
and PC3 SE Evo
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
eview component retail: $399
What does an annual $ turnover buy you? If you're ASUS, the resources to do pretty much anything you please. But when your business is computers, don't confuse massive scale of operation and good reputation with any working hifi infrastructure. Once this Taiwanese giant decided to encase their upscale soundcards in external boxes—the previously reviewed Xonar Essence One awarded here and elsewhere—they had a very good 24/192 asynchronous DAC/preamp/headfi deck on their corporate hands yet no traditional audio dealer network to sell it through. Having proven their audio design chops with a dedicated engineering division who clearly knew their stuff, I expect that the universal review acclaim for their One did not translate into commensurate sales. Far from it in fact. Can you envision a punter at his local MediaMart check out ASUS laptops, then reach for an $899 external soundcard aka DAC costing as much as the computer whilst auditioning it with an Audeze LCD-X streaming hi-resolution tunes from what exactly? Wrong movie.

Build it and they'll come. Ha! In the wake of my Essence One review I had multiple reader emails ask me accusingly where and how to buy one. Their local Computers R Us emporium didn't even know such a model existed. These readers berated me with great annoyance for reviewing vaporware. Now flip that page. It's a bright new day. The STU costs $399. That makes it an easier entry to carry by the ASUS core distribution chain. Being able to stand upright with the included slot stand even looks like NuForce. That won't be coincidence. NuForce already is in the European mass-market electronics chains ASUS still pursues.

The problem is plain. Traditional hifi dealers are dying. Remaining are shops which sell all manner of electronic appliances from refrigerators to printers to flat-screen tellies. That's not where one used to go to pursue high-performance hifi. But one might have to going forward. The only makers poised to do well in such environments are those capable to supply big chains in the first place whilst dealing with their payment schedules and margin requirements. That's not your typical hifi boutique marque. That's for the likes of Apple, Samsung, Sony & Co. VoilĂ , the ASUS Xonar Essence STU.

So what's a STU besides an uncle long lost in Tijuana?