After a happy two years of enjoying music playing through my Asus Xonar Essence STX PC sound card, I'm now experiencing some wacky compression from it. When playing music from foobar2000, the quieter parts of songs are amplified relative to the louder ones. Dynamics are completely lost--the beginning of a prog-rock track is loud and punchy for example, but as soon as things get hot and heavy, the level is attenuated. It's like a radio station. Makes me sick.
I checked foobar's output settings, the driver settings, I compared the sound from the unamplified front panel jack to the rear one (on the card itself), yet I still suffer the same problem
Switching to the on-board audio on my laptop, sound dynamics return to normal. As such, I've determined my Shure SRH440 headphones to be free from fault so far. Any further advice?
Then again, I've always been somewhat underwhelmed by this card's performance--the sound from the card was only slightly better than that from my Creative EMU 0204 I had before. I'm concerned that the EMU, the STX, and even the Realtek on my laptop's motherboard only sound decent when running at 24-bit 192khz. I generally listen to music encoded no higher than 16-bit 44khz (FLACs ripped from CD, typically). Is this oversampling/conversion nonsense just used to compensate for substandard analog components on budget equipment?
After intensive online research, I'm strongly considering a purchase of Schiit's Bifrost DAC and Magni amp. I'm pretty content with my SRH440's for now. Perhaps I'll look into a pair of Sennheiser HD650s and an Asgard 2 amp in the future.
Anyone dare to stop me from slipping further into this strange, expensive psychological condition of "audiophilia"?