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X-Fi Forte 7.1 VS Asus Xonar Essence STX

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
I'm new to the audiophile world and I don't really have the funds to properly enter it - but I suppose we all have to start somewhere. I recently acquired some Grado SR225i headphones and with the lack of a good source (All I have is PC Onboard Sound and a Creative Zen, 320kbps MP3s) I've been lightly disappointed with what I've experienced so far. PC Onboard sounds thin and my Creative Zen lacks clarity with playback. I decided that what I should get is one of these sound cards. Some things about me...

- I own no headphone amplifier and I have no near-future plans to purchase one (aside from the ones built into these sound cards)
- I do a lot of PC Gaming
- I have $300 5.1 Speakers (Z-5500s) - so while the Xonar Essence lacks 5.1, it bolsters my headphone quality. But is it worth it?

I'm really leaning towards the Forte but I've heard many people who were disappointed with it for some reason. Any suggestions?
post #2 of 34
The forte is more of a quazi audiophile gamers card, where as the essence is more of a audiophile headphone card.

Both have replaceable opamps, but the forte does not have seperate power plug built in for cleaner power, or a faraday cage to limit electrical noise.

Forte has a built in headphone amp as does the essence, but the forte has a microphone amp too, essence does not.

Forte runs eax 5, where as essence, runs eax 2-3, and has compatability issues right now with some games

Forte has the ability to run more than 2 speakers without having to resort to digital output

The essence only has a left and a right output, a headphone output and a spdif/optical, so if you are looking to run more than 2 speakers you have to use the digital spdif/optical and it bypasses the processors, loosing a lot of the point of the card in the process.

Long and short, if you game get the forte, if you are more concerned about music quality through 2 speakers, or headphones get essence.
post #3 of 34
STX > Forte
post #4 of 34
They are really very different cards meant for different users groups. Sort of a apple to orange comparison.
post #5 of 34
i agree which is why i didnt just come out and say stx > Forte
IMO if you are a gamer, the STX kinda sucks
Although it's increased headphone quality compared to the forte makes me think about having both in my system, one for gaming, the other for everything else.
post #6 of 34
Unless you play older games that need EAX.. you dont need EAX, its a thing of the past.
post #7 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FatMom View Post
Unless you play older games that need EAX.. you dont need EAX, its a thing of the past.
I don't play too many newer games. I mostly play games ranging from 1998-2008. I don't care too much about EAX support because I've never noticed that much of a difference with it on or off.

Really, my question boils down to this:

Does the STX sound $90 better than the Forte for music? Even with its lack of features and lack of gaming support?

EDIT: And can someone explain to me briefly how digital works? If my 5.1 uses a digital connection, is it a bad thing if I use digital with these sound cards?
post #8 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by t1337Dude View Post
I don't play too many newer games. I mostly play games ranging from 1998-2008. I don't care too much about EAX support because I've never noticed that much of a difference with it on or off.

Really, my question boils down to this:

Does the STX sound $90 better than the Forte for music? Even with its lack of features and lack of gaming support?

EDIT: And can someone explain to me briefly how digital works? If my 5.1 uses a digital connection, is it a bad thing if I use digital with these sound cards?
Alot of ppl here will tell you yes, I mean just look at the huge STX thread...

I think you really need to know what you are looking (or rather.. earing) for. I'm not an audiophile AT ALL. 4months ago I bought some beyer DT150 with a claro halo and honestly, I can't tell the difference between my onboard sound. I listen to metal, all of it is in .flac so its not some ****ty 128kbps .mp3.

Just buy the forte and be happy to save 90$
post #9 of 34
I am in the same situation, with the same speakers, with integrated sound card which does not work the best. I had originally thought of the Xonar Essence until I saw this little gem:
Anitec.ca - Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 Deluxe HDMI 1.3 Audio/Video Enhancement with 7.1 Channel Analog Output
I watch blu-ray on my pc and this seems to solve all my problems.
post #10 of 34
digital connection, will be clean signal, but bypasses the soundcard and uses the speakers as the DAC if it has one. It pretty much means you are not really using your soundcard for anything other than a digital jack to output signal.

Using analog leaves your soundcard as the DAC, but the signal may not be as clean as it is not kept in digital all the way to the speakers.

Unless you have a really good external DAC i would think that a soundcards dac is going to be higher quality than one on a computer speaker set. Then again i may be wrong.
post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by FatMom View Post
Unless you play older games that need EAX.. you dont need EAX, its a thing of the past.
It is not just about EAX, OpenAL is also supported by many games so gamers usually require OpenAL support.
post #12 of 34
Another thing about digital as well which kind of goes without saying but i will, is digital bypasses all the bells and whistles that the soundcard may give you, like eax, or anything like that that gives you audio effect like reverb, echo, 3d sound, etc.

Most games now a days use those to great effect, turning them off will make most games sound very flat and boring. Things like being able to tell how far away someone is from you in a game, if they are in the same room as you or not, using sound occlusion etc.
post #13 of 34
..Not true, the Forte allows all the "bells and whistles" to be processed and sent over the digital connection.
post #14 of 34
Thread Starter 
I think I'll go with the Forte. I'm no audiophile myself, but the XtremeGamer I have in my other computer is like a night and day difference when I compare it to the onboard sound of this computer. And even though I'm not gaming much at the moment - I'm sure I'll be glad I got the Forte with games like Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 in the future.

I just hope the Forte is an improvement over the XtremeGamer though. As amazing as my SR225i sounds through it (I was certain I wasted $200 until I plugged it into my XtremeGamer) - I hope I'm not blowing my money. Two more questions though...

Will the Forte's amp serve my Grado SR225i well? Or is it a gimmick?

and

Should I use digital or analog with my Z-5500s and the Forte?
post #15 of 34
The amp on the forte will push up too 600 ohms of impedence. Enough for even top end high power hp's. Havnt tried it myself, but there is people that are on here that i have seen saying it pushes their sen hd650's just fine, which need high power amps.

I am going to be getting a set of K702's today that i will be running off the forte, we will see how it goes.

I still would reccomend the analog for z-5500's but thats just me.
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