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- Installation and Initial Impressions
- Sound quality
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The STU was tested as a DAC/headphone amp and as a standalone DAC connected to a separate headphone amp. I used the following headphones to test the DAC – Sennheiser HD650, Yamaha YH-100 modded, RHA Audio MA450i (review sample from RHA Audio). There was also an EHHA headphone amp used for the pure DAC testing. The STU was compared to my Music Streamer II (pure DAC) and an el cheapo Fiio E10 (DAC/AMP). Due to testing constraints I was unable to compare the STU’s USB input with either the coaxial or optical input.
First testing was when using the STU as a standalone DAC when connected to the EHHA headphone amp.
The STU has a very detailed sound and for once I felt it gave a real fight to the Music Streamer II which is a pure 2 channel DAC with just USB input. However it costs half as much as the STU but lacks a lot of features compared to the STU.
The treble and mids on the STU were very close to the Music Streamer. However the bass was the let down. The sub bass seemed to be cut off almost completely and the mid bass wasn’t that good either.
Soundstage was appreciably wide but the USP of the Music Streamer II is its 3D soundstage and the STU couldn’t beat it here.
Compared to the cheaper E10 it was a no contest. The E10 is a bit muddy and there isn’t a ton of detail so the STU was much better here. That said the E10 had better bass in impact and depth. However the E10 has a noticeably mid bass hump which makes the bass more muddy than defined. The E10 can compete somewhat against Creative solutions like the Recon 3D and ZX or even with the ASUS U7 but against the STU it is out of its league.
Using the inbuilt amp on the STU showed that the amp compensated for the deficient bass by boosting the sub bass which results in a much improved performance.
However my EHHA amp has noticeably better soundstage and slightly better detailing. Mids sounded about the same.
The built in amp was however very competent and could drive any of my headphones with gusto. There was no lack of power whatsoever.