or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › ASUS Launches Essence III USB DAC/Preamp/Headamp
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

ASUS Launches Essence III USB DAC/Preamp/Headamp - Page 6

post #76 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by matthewpl View Post
 

On one of Polish website about pc hardware appeared review of Essence III: http://pclab.pl/art55483.html

If someone is interested in I can translate some bits (but personally I don't consider this website as 100% reliable also they likes to use very "smart" words which tells absolutely nothing about product).

 

EDIT:

I found another (Polish) review: http://www.highfidelity.pl/@main-1869&

 

The reviewer seems very impressed with the unit. 

Looking forward to seeing some more reviews from both users and audiophile sites. 

post #77 of 128
I asked customer support and apparently Asus North America has no plans to bring the Essence III to the US. Call them to let them know this is the wrong decision: 1-877-339-2787
Or on Twitter @ASUSUSA
post #78 of 128

Xonar Essence III First Impressions

 

I bought an Essence III. I’ve listened for a few hours over both speakers and headphones with it, and so far I’m impressed. Going directly from an Essence One Muses Edition to the Essence III there’s an immediate and obvious increase in quality across the board.

 

First off the build quality is on another level. Sure, the knobs are still plastic, but now they’re backlit by subtle white light. It looks better in real life than it does in pictures. The choice of color and design makes it feel like a sci-fi prop from the 70s or something. I love the way it looks.

 

Functionally the stepped attenuator volume controls don’t click when going between volume levels, so the knobs are completely smooth unlike the Essence One. This makes it feel strange when you turn the knob and it jumps between volume levels in sudden steps. Something you’ll have to get used to. Both the master volume and headphone output use stepped attenuators and have perfect volume balance at all volume levels. If you change volume with the remote you hear a whirring motor turning the knob, just like it does on stereo amps. Smaller details during operation have been improved, such as when the dac switches between sample rates there’s no longer a stutter to the sound like the Essence One has. This was a slight annoyance with the Essence One, but it didn’t bother me too much since I wasn’t jumping between sample rates too often. But that they’ve fixed this with the Essence III is still appreciated. It adds to the overall feeling of quality and attention to detail.

 

So, finally on to the sound. Compared to the Muses Edition the Essence III is both more detailed and less harsh at the same time. I like how the Muses Edition sounds, as it has a thick bass that can make drums sound enormous, while the treble has a nice bite to it. During the entire time I’ve had the Essence One Muses Edition I’ve thought that the midrange seemed just a tiny bit recessed. The Essence III comes across as more neutral, though not excessively so. It has a somewhat smooth and “analog” character to the sound, but it’s not doing it at the expense of details.

 

This style of sound is perfect for the Sennheiser HD 800, which is the only headphone I’ve had time to use with the Essence III so far. The HD 800 is ruthless at digging out any artifacts in the treble and shoving them in your face. I once tried plugging mine directly to an iPod Touch and it sounded like someone was shoving nails into my ears. The Muses Edition has a peculiar character to the treble. Sometimes it can sound cold and harsh in a bad way, while at other times the style works brilliantly with the music. The Essence III has none of this cold harsh sound. Instead it’s smooth and incredibly clean. I’ve played some “worst case scenario” music for treble and somehow the music just works with the Essence III like how I imagine the artists intended, unlike the Muses Edition which rendered the music with a thin harsh quality to it.

 

I don’t know if it’s because of the increased emphasis on the midrange now compared to the Muses Edition, but details in songs are popping out at me which I hadn’t noticed before. Things like acoustics of the room the instruments were recorded in, and effects like reverb have more free space between the rest of the sounds in the music. This was immediately obvious over my speakers as well as the headphones. This is what makes the Essence III more detailed. The layers are laid bare with ease, and I’m able to peer into the mix and hear the subtleties that make every song unique in more detail. Bringing out the details and making every album “sound unique” is probably one of the most important things to me in high fidelity sound, and the Essence III is doing this better than the Essence One. Quickly jumping between all the studio albums of an artist now brings forward the unique character of each album. So I’m now hearing the music itself in better clarity, and the dac is leaving less of its own sound on the music.

 

To conclude the Essence III is about as good as I hoped it would be. I can’t say how it compares to other dacs in the $2000 range as I just haven’t heard them, but compared to everything else I’ve heard like the Violectric V800, Hegel HD10, Essence One Muses Edition & the HDVD 800 DAC it’s definitely better. So I can’t make any statements about if it’s “the best of its class” or anything like that. All I can say for sure is that I feel like I got what I paid for. It’s really good.

 

EDIT: Made a minor addition to make it more comprehensive.


Edited by TheManko - 12/17/13 at 11:19pm
post #79 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheManko View Post
 

I can’t say how it compares to other dacs in the $2000 range as I just haven’t heard them, but compared to everything else I’ve heard like the Violectric V800, Hegel HD10, Essence One Muses Edition & the HDVD 800 DAC it’s definitely better.

 

Thanks for review!

 

Which is interesting, because E3 is cheaper (in Poland) than HDVD 800. Ohhh well... I will feel sorry for my wallet again...

 

Also, from one of Polish review (which I linked earlier) balanced headphone output is smoother than non-balanced and has a little darker and deeper sounds.

post #80 of 128

Thanks for the impressions. How much did it end up running for?

post #81 of 128

Over here it's ~$10 cheaper than the HDVD 800, so just under $2000.

post #82 of 128

More impressions. Note that my first impressions post was done using the HDVD 800 as amp for the HD 800, so the Essence III was just acting as DAC. I have now compared the headphone amp on the Essence III and HDVD 800.

 

To me it sounds like the Essence III is using the exact same amp as the Essence One. When I compared the amps on the Muses Edition and HDVD 800 a while back the most noticeable difference was how the soundstage seemed to shrink when I went to the Essence One, and each time I switched to the HDVD 800 it expanded and seemed to stretch much further to the sides. With the Essence III the difference is bigger, but the characteristics are the same. The Essence III amp soundstage is noticeably smaller. The treble is slightly harder as well, though I chalk this up to the fact that the HDVD 800 has a high ohm output and adds some extra warmth to the sound of the HD 800, while I assume the Essence III has a low ohm output with a more linear response.

 

In other words, like the Essence One it’s the DAC section which is the real star of the show here, and the amp is merely good.  I kind of expected this since the Asus marketing material spends a large amount of time bragging about how good the DAC is, while the amp just gets a nod for now having balanced outputs. Note that while I have a balanced cable for my HD 800, it’s a 4 pin cable, so I was unable to use the balanced outputs on the Essence III. When I did my comparison it was using the stock unbalanced HD 800 cable with both amps.

post #83 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheManko View Post

 

 

Congrats on picking up the E3, looks like you're one of the first on Head Fi. Can't wait to hear more impression of other headphone from you. Keep it up

 

Cheers!

post #84 of 128

I already have Essence One Muses, so if I would like something better (for my HD800) I should buy HDVD 800 or Essence III (or maybe combine those)?

post #85 of 128

The biggest upgrade would come from the Essence III. Even though the amp in the Essence III doesn't quite bring out the full potential of the dac, the dac still makes enough of a difference that it sounds better than the Essence One Muses Edition + HDVD 800 amp combo with the HD 800. Since you already have a good dac I wouldn't recommend getting the HDVD 800. Get the HDVA 600 instead. It's the exact same amp as the HDVD 800, just without the dac. The reason I'd steer you away from the HDVD 800 is because the dac it comes with is about on the level of the Xonar STU or STX. I wrote a full review of the HDVD 800 here. The combination of Essence III and HDVD 800 amp is spectacular, but that doesn't prevent the Essence III by itself from still being impressive.

post #86 of 128

Great review!

 

Looking forward to seeing more reviews about the unit.

post #87 of 128

Hi TheManko,

 

I was wondering what you are feeding into the Essence III, CD player or PC -> USB/SPDIF Converter. If so, which converter and USB Cable? Thanks. 

post #88 of 128

I'm using it with a PC and PS3. With the PC I was using USB for a while, but now I'm using Coax via an Essence ST. I didn't notice any audible difference between USB and Coax, so I'm running it via the Essence ST for extra features like Dolby Headphone in games and movies. The PS3 is connected via Toslink.

post #89 of 128


I got my own Essence III (as an exchange for complaint with Essence One MUSES because of unbalanced output). And I must say it is amazing. All as TheManko said: smaller sound stage (on unbalanced headphones output), smoother, more details and less harsh. Speakers output sounds more natural (I am using KRK Rokit 6 G3).

post #90 of 128
Quote:
Originally Posted by matthewpl View Post
 

I got my own Essence III (as an exchange for complaint with Essence One MUSES because of unbalanced output). 

Congrats!

 

Did you pay any extra amount under exchange? 

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Dedicated Source Components
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › ASUS Launches Essence III USB DAC/Preamp/Headamp