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Asus Xonar STX/ST and headphones: A basic guide

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 
This is a very basic headphone config for stock Asus Xonar STX/ST. I decided to post this because I was very happy with this config and I was tired of repeating it in every STX-related post. I hope its helpful.

Driver version:
OS: Windows 7 64bit

After installing the driver you have two options, using the line out or the headphone out. The popular opinion used to be/still is that the line out is 'better' but although that's how it looks on the paper, the real life experience of many including myself differs. The built-in headphone amp of Xonar STX is especially well-suited for high impedance headphones.

Setting up the software for headphone listening:

Audio Channel: 2 Channels

Sample Rate: The default setting is 96khz, I don’t know the reason for that, it could be lack of auto sample rate but all my music is 44.1 and I set the sample rate at 44.1 to avoid any resampling. I have the windows sound option for Xonar also set to 24/44.1.

Analog out: I use the headphone out and I recommend the headphone out especially for high impedance headphones (64ohms and above). For reference read the xbitlab review and scroll down to the charts and commentary in regards to Xonar’s headphone amp chip (TPA6120A2): http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/multimedia/display/asus-xonar-essence-stx_3.html

The highest gain setting of 300-600ohms provides the best sound quality, and it’s a perfect match for example with HD580/HD600/HD650, all these headphones have an impedance range of 300ohms to 600ohms.

Use the headphone gain setting at your own risk and make sure you know what you’re doing. This is the most important setting and you must get it right.

DSP mode (bottom right): The only option enabled there should be HF (hi fi) this is very important. HF or hi fi disables all post processing of the signal, for example environment size in Effects option (look below). Environment size creates artificial sound staging and in the process distorts the sound. If you click on any of its options L M S the HF option will be disabled, so make sure HF option is always enabled for optimum fidelity.

Volume Control: Use the volume in Xonar, set the volume at your music player (foobar, winamp etc) at 100%.

Everything else in the driver should be left at default unless needed for some specific reason.

This is what I use for headphone listening. The biggest difference for me was setting the proper gain setting for my headphone and enabling HF.

Please don’t hesitate to share what are your Xonar STX/ST settings and why. But after playing around with this card for three months, this is what I have decided and its very simple and straight forward.
post #2 of 51
thanks for the tips!
post #3 of 51
What sort of Gain would you recommend for the Denon AH-D2000?
post #4 of 51
Hey thanks, simple but usefull guide

why do you recommend to put the volume at 100% ?
Even with low gain, this is way to high on low impedance headsets ... So what volume management do you use? your player's ?

For those who want to use the equalizer and do not find the interface convenient enough, settings can be edited manually for better precision:

Open C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Application Data\ASUS\Xonar D2 Audio Center\cmicnfp.ini

At the end of the file add these lines (number at the end of the string is the preset number, upto you ...):


0 gives zero gain, 1310720 gives +20dB, -1310720 for -20dB, then have fun under excel for your dream settings. Bands go from lowest to highest in frequency.

post #5 of 51
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by niCe99 View Post
What sort of Gain would you recommend for the Denon AH-D2000?
That headphone is 25ohms so the lowest setting, normal gain.
post #6 of 51
Thread Starter 
ManuLM: Thanks for pointing that out, actually i meant the music player i. e. foobar, winamp and such. correcting the volume with xonar software. i edited the post.

using equalizer is not recommended because it disables HF (hi fi) and that means environment size is enabled.
post #7 of 51
I believe completing the guide with players output configurations could be nice. What player are you using ?
If Foobar, I have been using the wasapi @ 24 bits quite successfully.

side aspect, I read from the sneak peak thread /robscix that latest beta drivers are supporting auto sample rate switch, that would be a simple but good enhancement, among other stuff including the possibility to change some DAC controls.
post #8 of 51
Thread Starter 
I use foobar and my settings are very simple and minimalist. my os is win7 64.

-replaygain is disabled

-no active DSPs

-buffer size 530

Auto sample rate would be a good idea for those playing different sample rate files in the same play list. as far as changing DAC settings, I can only wonder what they could be.

Btw, you have a K701. I got one today as well and it sounds absolutely amazing with STX headphone out. I use the 64-300ohms setting for K701.
post #9 of 51
vs the heed canamp that I also own, I am a bit dissapointed by the STX with the K701.
I find it quite agressive and not giving the bass impact the canamp does bring on the K701.
post #10 of 51
^^try the OPA2137p in I/V instead of the LME49720NA
post #11 of 51
Great guide man. We need something like that for the musiland monitor 02 now
post #12 of 51
alright so wali didn't have an answer for me, so i thought i'd try my luck following up on this post:

1. don't care too much about asio or bit-matching. for simplicity i will be using itunes. under quicktime preferences for "play audio using," windows audio session is grayed out (due to my OS = W7 64-bit, if i've read up correctly), which means i've got to choose "safe mode" or "direct sound." does it matter? why the hell is it grayed out in the first place?
2. am i correct to assume that QT sound out should match windows default format as well as xonar audio center settings? for me it would be 24-bit, 44.1kHz, stereo.
3. exclusive mode in windows? yes/no on one or both check boxes?
4. i understand that for low impedance headphones, the ST built-in amp ain't all that great. i have a CMOY portable amp coming in the mail. will the CMOY amp be of ANY benefit for my headphone out or for my line out to speakers for that matter? or will it just be redundant and make things worse? speakers are klipsch 2.1s and i've got a pair of grado rs1i's.

thanks in advance guys.
post #13 of 51
200 ohms is optimal impedance for STX/ST. Less - more distortions, more - less output power
Here some measurements on russian forum (Line & Phone): ASUS Xonar Essence STX – çâóêîâàÿ ïëàòà äëÿ ãóðìàíîâ çâóêà [95] - Êîíôåðåíöèÿ iXBT.com
post #14 of 51
You set them impedance based on the phones you are using.
post #15 of 51
To set the output impedance use a simple procedure. Start with the lowest impedance and see how high your output volume goes. If it is loud enough then you are golden, otherwise move to the next level. Simple as that.
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