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ASUS Xonar Essence STX & ST soundcards

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  • ASUS Xonar Essence STX & ST soundcards

    For those of you that like to use a computer as your source (like me), ASUS has two audiophile cards in their lineup. The two channel card, the Xonar Essence STX, has already been released. The eight channel card, the Xonar Essence ST, has not yet been released. Both cards have the following features:
    • Burr Brown 1792A DAC chips with 124 dB SNR
    • RCA output jacks
    • Independent power sources for line and headphone outputs keeping the signal clean and clear and eliminating any interference between output sections.
    • Swappable opamps (on all channels individually for the ST)
    • EMI shielding - the sensitive analog electronics are sealed and protected from harmful EMI/RFI behind a carefully designed shield.
    • New hyper grounding circuitry design allows sensitive analog paths to be isolated on the circuit board keeping them free from noise and interference.
    • Nichicon “Fine Gold” Professional audio capacitors offer rich bass and crystal clear high frequencies.
    • Built-in headphone amp - A high-quality TI TPA6120A2 headphone driver supports headphones up to 600ohms of impendence with lower than 0.001% distortion.

    The Xonar Essence STX is a PCI-E card and the ST is a PCI card. The ST adds an expansion card for the addition 6 channels.

    Here are some previews of each card:

    ASUS Xonar Essence STX

    ASUS Xonar Essence ST

  • #2
    Thanks Mojave for posting this. I've been looking at the STX for a bit now, but would need a new computer to use it. All ours are older and don't have PCI-Express slots. This problem will be solved with the new ST card(s).

    A big dilemma is whether to go internal, such as the above cards, or external a la DACMan, etc. Many that argue for external claim that there is too much electrical noise inside the computer and that the power busses are too noisy. Yet with external there often seem to be various issues with interfaces.

    What I have yet to find are some good comparisons (AB/ABX) between good canditates with the two approaches. Only seem to find vague comments like "I replaced x soundcard with y DAC and there was tremendous improvement". Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.



    • #3
      I'm thinking a DACMan would perform better due to all the noise inside the computer. Analog video out from computers are never as nice as outputing a digital singal to a monitor. It would take a rather nice power supply to surpass something like a DACMan. Though a KingRex with the stupidly over priced power supply may out do both. Maybe someone with more money than me can buy them all and to a little comparison.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Mep
        I'm thinking a DACMan would perform better due to all the noise inside the computer. Analog video out from computers are never as nice as outputing a digital singal to a monitor. It would take a rather nice power supply to surpass something like a DACMan. Though a KingRex with the stupidly over priced power supply may out do both. Maybe someone with more money than me can buy them all and to a little comparison.
        Thanks for the response MEP. Sure wish someone would do this!!! :no clue:

        I have read of people using internal cards with great success - one in particular at the Klipsch Forum with a pretty high end system.

        The bottom line to me at this point is there is a lot of guessing going on.


        PS I am referring to high quality soundcards that are designed with real high SQ in mind - not the el cheapos or cards that are designed primarily for gaming.


        • #5
          Happy pc soundcard user here :huge:


          • #6
            Originally posted by dweekie
            Happy pc soundcard user here :huge:
            Wanna tell us which one Dweekie?


            • #7
              I'm going to quote dweekie from a post of his at av123:

              Originally posted by dweekie
              I have a heavily modded X-Meridian. It sounds fantastic actually. There is a fairly large thread on AVSforum, but in short, people have said the mods push the soundcard past the Outlaw 990 Preamp. There is a large push by people claiming the noise within the PC well never allow the PC to sound good, but I believe it's mostly hearsay. When you consider the path of sound within a soundcard, it's basically a chip sending a signal to an opamp/filter to the output, all within a few inches. If you follow the path of a usb or optical dac, the signal goes through an additional meter or so of cable and atleast 2 chips (signal sender/receiver). I may attempt to replace caps on the motherboard and power supply, or just add an additional power source to the sound card in the future. I have a lot of backlogged projects and not enough time or cash at the present to see what I can squeeze out of my ideas. I just know that the parts on some cheap computer sound cards are better parts than some high end equipment, but they are implemented very poorly. When I get around to completing some of these projects, I wouldn't mind people testing them out for me. I don't own very expensive equipment of my own.


              • #8
                Sonidigo Inferno ($80). It's a Cmedia 8788 with AK4396 dacs, same as the X-Meridian and Blugears B-Inpirer. I modded the caps with Rubycon ZA/ZL caps and run the signal passive out directly from the AK4396 dac without any opamps in the signal path.

                Some of the benefits of a PC soundcard are very short signal path to the dac, removal of connectors/cables, and removal of sending/receiving chips. Also, high volume production and the lack of case and power supply drop costs. The cons are inflexibility of source and shared switchmode power supply. I think convenience is more of a factor between the two than pure sound quality, especially considering a silent computer is not an easy venture to get into the listening room. I probably missed a few things, but that's my general opinion.


                • #9
                  I still have the x-meridian still with opamps, but I replaced it after I tried a passive out on the sondigo.


                  • #10
                    Thanks Dweekie for detailing your cards. Have you had a opportunity to directly compare the SQ from your card to a high quality CD player? My understanding is that with many of today's DACs the SQ out of a PC can be as good or better than very high end players. If this can be done for a reasonable price, and have the convenience of PC based music, it would be wonderful. :huge:



                    • #11
                      Asus recently had a press release on the new Essence ST. Here is some of the info:

                      World’s First Precision Tuning Down to the Picosecond for Ultra-accurate Audio Details

                      Xonar Essence ST is the first soundcard in the world to focus on precise audio clock tuning. Using a technique that was once only seen on top-tier living room equipment, PC users can now experience 31% less audio jitter interference and enjoy ultimate sound quality that frees the audio signal from unsynchronized input streams and results in extensive music details and lively sound image for the ultimate listening experience. The improvement is most significant during general audio CD playback where the sample rate is 44.1kHz.

                      Industry-leading 124dB SNR for Pure Sound, Pure Music and Pure Listening Pleasure

                      Utilizing only the finest components and design, ASUS has delivered a soundcard that is able to reproduce truly pure sounds at an industry-leading 124dB SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio). This is 64 times clearer the most onboard audio solutions (85–88 SNR). It also features the ASUS exclusive Hyper-grounding circuitry design that utilizes a PCB design to separate signal and noise—ensuring that only the cleanest signals are passed on to ultra-sensitive components for decoding.

                      The Finest Component Selection to Deliver Crisp, Clear Audio

                      With a top-of-the-line Burr-Brown PCM 1792A Digital-to-Analog Convertor (DAC) to convert audio signals at 127dB SNR, users will be able to enjoy minimum loss from the process of converting digital signals to analog sound. Additionally, Nichicon “Fine Gold” capacitors deliver rich bass and crystal-clear high frequencies (like the sounds from a piano or violin), allowing the Xonar Essence ST to achieve an amazing <10 Hz–90 kHz frequency response and 124dB dynamic range. Furthermore, The Xonar Essence ST’s EMI shield protects all analog outputs perfectly from any exterior electronic magnetic interference—resulting in the cleanest sound generation and delivery for the user's enjoyment.


                      • #12
                        The Essence ST is finally available in the US. I received mine last week. The H6 multichannel expansion board is not yet available.

                        On Sunday I put the ST into my HTPC along side my Creative X-Fi Elite (which has LM4562 opamps). I switched back and forth several times while listening for about an hour. Last night I listened exclusively to the ST for two hours. Initially, the ST seemed harsh or bright. I ended up with an OPA2277 opamp in the buffer and two AD8620BR opamps in the I/V section. This really helped smooth things out and the card was very pleasant to listen to for two hours.

                        I listened on my X-Omni speakers with an Outlaw Audio 7100 amp. The Essence is better than the X-Fi Elite in almost every way. It has incredible clarity and detail with a better separation of instruments and voices. The soundstage opens up more with a greater sense of a live presentation in front of you. There is much more presence in the upper end and the bass sounds better. The only benefit of the X-Fi Elite regarding sound is that it is able to better smooth out poorly mixed albums.

                        When the H6 card arrives I'll get it and then I should be set for another 4 years.