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Another Xonar Essence STX VS X-FI Titanium HD Thread

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I've narrowed my choices to these 2 cards.  The card will be connected to an Onkyo 7.1 receiver.  I also have a  Sennheiser HD 650.  It sounds like the Essence is better for music, while the Titan is built more for gaming & movies (surround sound).  As I use my computer for all three activities, I'm leaning towards the Titanium HD. 

 

How much better is the Xonar at music quality?  Is it night and day?  Or are they fairly close?

 

and

 

Most of my gaming will be done via my Sennheiser HDs thru the receiver.  With this setup, would there be a big difference between the 2 cards?

 

Thanks in advance for any info/tips.


Edited by bassjason - 1/20/12 at 11:50pm
post #2 of 12

The only way you're getting surround (for multi-channel speakers) out of that receiver with either card is to send it a Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect signal over Toslink/optical S/PDIF, in which case you've effectively bypassed the sound card's analog stage. You'd be wasting money when the sound card is just a DSP with this setup and the receiver is the DAC/amp. The appeal of those cards lies in the better analog circuitry over lower-end models.

 

In that case, it makes more sense to get a cheaper sound card (X-Fi Titanium should work fine), unless you want to feed the receiver via HDMI, in which case you'll have to pay up the big bucks for an X-Fi HomeTheater HD or Xonar HDAV. Otherwise, you might as well take the receiver out of the equation and just use the sound card, where there will be more of a point in comparing the two to begin with.

 

While I can't comment on either of those cards or HDMI audio in general, I can say that at least X-Fi cards will pass through CMSS-3D Headphone processing over S/PDIF, whereas Xonar cards allegedly do not allow users to do the same with Dolby Headphone. In-game EAX effects, if used, should pass through both just fine.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your thoughts.. What if I connect the card through S/PDIF & analog, and switch back and forth depending on if I'm listening to music or watching a movie/playing a game?

post #4 of 12

Connect to the receiver via analog? I'm not sure I even see the point in that, because then it's going through extra analog output stages. More chances to color and distort the sound.

 

Connecting your headphones directly to the sound card, on the other hand...now that's more in line with buying such high-end cards in the first place.

 

In terms of sound quality, I don't know how much better, if any, the Essence STX actually is. For that, I'd need a card to review first. But one thing that seems to swing users in its favor is that it basically has a FiiO E9 built-in with regard to the headphone amplifier circuit. It's quite powerful and should be a good fit for your HD 650. (Then there's the usual distaste people have for Creative drivers, though I've heard my fair share of complaints about Xonar drivers too.)

 

On the flip side, the Titanium HD has a major edge in gaming thanks to the X-Fi DSP and Creative generally holding all sorts of gaming-related technologies with an iron grip, at least if you still play games that use either DirectSound3D or OpenAL. For games that have software-processed audio engines, EAX is a non-factor and CMSS-3D Headphone is dropped to Dolby Headphone's level of virtual 7.1, though. It also still sounds very good. As for the headphone amplifier circuit, I don't know how good or bad it is for more demanding dynamic/ortho headphones like the HD 650, but you could probably do worse.

 

May I ask what games you generally play most of the time? That'll help me tell how much benefit you'd get from the X-Fi cards overall.


Edited by NamelessPFG - 1/21/12 at 1:39pm
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

 

Great analogy with the FiiO E9, I actually currently own one but was planning to sell it to help pay for my new card.  I didn't realize my receiver would color and distort the sound via analog out, so I'm guessing I'd be better off using strictly S/PDIF.

 

If I didn't have my HD 650s, I probably would've ordered the Titanium HD by now.  I also have the FiiO E7 and have heard the Xonar Essence has a much better DAC, and would like to get the best sound possible for the price for my nice headphones.  I can't seem to find a comparison of the Xonar Essence DAC vs the Titanium HD DAC.  I think the Titan HD has a Burr-Brown PCM 1794A?   If it was similar, I'd probably just keep the E9 and use that to help drive my phones.

 

I use my computer for about 40% music, 40% gaming, & 20% movies.  I listen to a wide range of music and play a wide range of games, however mostly FPS.

Perhaps I'd be better off going with the Titanium HD, and if I'm not satisfied with the headphone output, save up for a V-Dac MKII or something?

 

Thanks alot for your expertise, I'm new to the audiophile scene and really appreciate the help!


Edited by bassjason - 1/21/12 at 10:10pm
post #6 of 12

I'm a Xonar fan.

The Titanium HD is the better gaming card and I believe the Titanium HD can process gaming audio and then send it down the S/PDIF.

Also process gaming audio through the RCA outputs.

Feel free to double check on that, as I do not use the Titanium HD

 

When watching movies, the sound card should be bypassed and the S/PDIF will send the digital audio to the receiver for processing.

 

Which Onkyo receiver do you have?

post #7 of 12

Yeah, I definitely think the Titanium HD's a safer bet if you're into lots of gaming (particularly FPS gaming from the 1990s and most of the 2000s) and getting an external headphone amp if desired, and as you stated, you already have a FiiO E9. If you feel the need for a better DAC, there's always S/PDIF output. (Too bad the FiiO E7 doesn't have S/PDIF input, though the upcoming E17 will, while remaining dockable with the E9.)

post #8 of 12

I just realized something, Onkyo receivers only output stereo (2.0 channel) sound through the headphone jack, not (5.1 channel) surround sound.

So even if you send a 5.1 digital signal (S/PDIF) from the computer to the receiver, you will only get 2.0 channel from the headphone jack on the Onkyo.

I sold my Onkyo TX-SR706B and ordered a Yamaha RX-V667 because Yamahas come with surround sound for headphones, it's called Silent Cinema.

(I got lucky, they ended up sending me the Yamaha RX-V671, for the price of the RX-V667).

 

The Titanium HD does not come with a dedicated headphone amplifier, but it does a good job at powering headphones.

So the HD650s might(?) work off the Titanium HDs headphone jack.

 

Now you can always hook up the E9 to the RCA outputs on the Titanium HD.

post #9 of 12

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

I just realized something, Onkyo receivers only output stereo (2.0 channel) sound through the headphone jack, not (5.1 channel) surround sound.

So even if you send a 5.1 digital signal (S/PDIF) from the computer to the receiver, you will only get 2.0 channel from the headphone jack on the Onkyo.

I sold my Onkyo TX-SR706B and ordered a Yamaha RX-V667 because Yamahas come with surround sound for headphones, it's called Silent Cinema.

(I got lucky, they ended up sending me the Yamaha RX-V671, for the price of the RX-V667).


I thought about that with my little S/PDIF suggestion, and it's a simple matter of turning Dolby Digital Live off and turning CMSS-3D Headphone on afterward. That way, the signal's pre-processed before it even hits the receiver. Works out better that way with games that use DirectSound3D or OpenAL anyway.

 

That said, more A/V receivers need Dolby Headphone or an equivalent thereof, for those times when you don't want to wake everyone else. So far, I've only seen Harmon/Kardon and Denon do so, while Yamaha has that "Silent Cinema" feature you mentioned that I have yet to test.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

My stereo is the Onkyo HT-S5400 7.1.   Is the following a fair assessment?

 

Music through S/PDIF to my stereo:  tie

Music through headphones:  Xonar

 

Movies through S/PDIF to my stereo:  tie

 

Gaming through S/PDIF or headphones:  Titanium HD

 

Xonar Essence DAC > Titanium HD DAC > Fiio E7 DAC

 

 

Also, if I end up getting another DAC down the road, I would need a toslink splitter to switch between my stereo & headphones.  Would this degrade the sound quality in any way?

 

I'm really having a tough time deciding between the 2 cards..  At some point I think I'm just going to have to close my eyes and pick one confused_face_2.gif

 

Thanks guys!

 


Edited by bassjason - 1/22/12 at 7:14am
post #11 of 12

Music wise, the Titanium HD should (guess) be able to do music just as good as the Essence STX.

They both use the same op-amps for headphone output (JRC2114).

I believe the headphone jack on the Titanium HD is rated up to 330-Ohms.

 

Asus is coming out with a new sound card, the Xonar Phoebus, which will be sold by Asus as more of a "gaming" card.

With the new Asus "gaming" sound card and slow retail sales for the next 3 months, there might be some good prices on the Titanium HD.

post #12 of 12

I know it's an older thread, but I wanted to point out a few things regarding the X-fi Titanium HD.

 

First off, it's great for gaming because many modern games can produce 5.1 surround sound, and because of the X-fi DSP and onboard audio encoding... all sounds can be processed on chip, converted by either Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect to a nice digital signal that can be sent to your receiver via Toslink optical or across your computers system bus to many modern Graphics Cards to be output via HDMI or DisplayPort. My new graphics card (GTX 680) can even output DTS-HD Master and Dolby True-HD.

 

Also, this ability to encode to DTS 5.1 or Dolby Digital 5.1 works with music, online streaming video, or any other audio source. And the sound quality of these converted and encoded audio streams is fantastic.

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