ASUS Xonar Essence ST Headphone 7.1-Channel Audio Card for Audiophiles

General Information

ASUS' Xonar Essence ST audio card with world's first precision audio clock tuning offers a revolutionary listening experience. In its search for the purest essence of sound, ASUS have broken the boundaries with the soundcard on the market, the Xonar Essence ST. This PCI card is the world's first audio card to incorporate precision clock tuning to minimize audio jitter, bringing the user a clearer, crisper listening experience. The Xonar Essence ST is capable of achieving an industry-leading 124dB SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) in signal clarity and offers a built-in headphone amplifier to obtain the best performance out of any available pair of headphones. Thanks to ASUS' exclusive Hyper-grounding and EMI Shield design, even the most demanding audiophile will be satisfied with the unprecedented sound quality. Specifications - Device Type - Sound card Enclosure Type - Plug-in card Interface Type - PCI Signal Processor - ASUS AV100 Sound Output Mode - Stereo DAC Data Width - 24-bit Sample Rate - 44.1 kHz (min) - 192 kHz (max) Signal-To-Noise Ratio - 124 dB Response Bandwidth - 10 - 90000 Hz Features - Karaoke, built-in Dolby Pro Logic II decoder, Dolby Headphone technology, Dolby Virtual Speaker technology, Magic Voice, Smart Volume Normalizer, FlexBass, Xear 3D Virtual Speaker Shifter, VocalFX Compliant Standards - DirectSound, A3D 1.0, OpenAL, Dolby Digital Live, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone, DirectSound3D GX 2.5, Dolby Pro Logic II Audio Modes - Playback - 24-bit 192 kHz - 124 dB; Record - 24-bit 192 kHz - 118 dB Interfaces - 1 x audio - line-out - RCA x 2, 1 x headphones - output, 1 x audio - line-in/microphone, 1 x audio - line-in - 4 pin MPC, 1 x audio - SPDIF output - RCA Compatible Slots - 1 x PCI Operation System - Windows Vista/XP(32/64bit)/MCE2005

Latest reviews

Pros: Sound quality, Takes power direct from PSU, Swappable op-amps, Build quality
Cons: DRIVER, Headphone output sound quality
 So first of all, for people who are saying that they are hearing noise from outputs. The only noise I hear from the card is from HP out, when sample rate is set to 44.1 Khz. 
What can be the reason of the noise and how to prevent it: 
Don't use video cards. Use only integrated video.
2. Before buying a PSU read some reviews about ripple and noise tests, voltage regulator circuit ... (I even use ferrite filter on the molex end).
3. Don't use many fans in the case. The fan motor generates noise. Or if you want to use many fans then you should buy fan filters (I'm using only 4 fans: CPU, PSU, intake and outtake)
4. Try to avoid using many HDDs, instead try SSD or HDD filters.
If you do these simple steps, than you'll have a black background, like in graveyard.
SQ is very good for its price, it's worthy of buying. After using the card for a certain period of time I changed op-amps in the I/V section and I put LME49990 instead of JRC2114 which added some bass extension and added some smoothness in highs, plus I didn't lose the energetic stream of music that JRC2114 had. The RCA output quality is much better than the HP output. I'm using iFi's iCAN micro amp, which is my favorite HP amp at the moment. The iCAN runs Class A, so you get a nice sense of its sonic flavor. The RCA out is also using the third op-amp, which is called buffer op-amp. I didn't change it, because the LM4562 has great tonal balance, air and 
soundstage which are similar to MUSES01. This was actually a great choice for the final buffer stage. 2xLME9990+LM4562=LOVE :)
The official driver is crap, I'm using the UNi Xonar driver. After using the UNi driver I'm never gonna use the official driver. never. ever.
ASIO is working well, but it starts glitching (pops and clicks) when you use PC.
Solution: use Fidelizer
Fidelizer not only solves the problem, but it also improves the SQ. However, if you don't wanna use Fidelizer use this
There is no way out if you wanna use ASIO. Otherwise you must open task manager and set the ASIO host's priority to real-time every time you change the song.
P.S. don't forget to use good quality unbalanced cable with card and amp.
 ✔Asus xonar essence ST may be the best internal sound card in the market! 
Bonus stuff from me!
I got bored from the Asus stock xonar ST center skin and I decided to make some custom/mix skins. Don't judge too harsh, I'm not a professional at this:)
Who it’s work?
You just need to find the folder where the Skin folder is.
Go to C:\Program Files\UNi Xonar Audio\Customapp or C:\Program Files\ASUS Xonar Essence ST Audio\CustomApp\Program
 it depends what driver you are using
Then you will see the Skin folder. Delete it and then move downloaded the Skin folder  there.
Before deleting make a copy of old Skin folder! So you can change it back to original skin.
Download link:
That’s all folks!.
UPDATE: Windows 7 is the only windows that makes this card shine SQ wise!!! (I have tried win 10 and win 8.1).
1. Don't use video cards. Use only integrated video.
Sometimes you can just put another big card between your video card and the soundcard to reduce the interference. I know there are some overpriced dedicated interference reducing cards out there.
This is one of the few PCI audio cards out there that (1) can function, and function well, adjacent to some models of video cards (as I can attest from experience with Vendor's CM1630-06 packing, among other upgrades, both a XONAR STX and an EAH6850 DirectCU in adjacent slots); and (2) are fully supported by the Advanced LinUX Sound Architecture Project with their own driver (in this case, snd-virtuoso, re-written from snd-oxygen to control the on-board output relays).  I have the ST short-listed as new hardware for my Hot Rod gPC upon dist-upgrade to Ubuntu 15.12a1.
Pros: Brilliant design and sound quality. Possibly the best consumer sound card there is.
Cons: Too awesome?
I owned the HT Omega Claro Halo card a week before this, mostly for the headphone amp. I RMA'd it for this one and WOW am I glad I did. Even though they use the same hardware, the headphone amp on this one is at least twice as loud. It powers my cans almost as loud as I would want them too, it does a amazing job.

This is a extremely good choice for headphones and replaces the need for more expensive equipment!
Pros: Marked improvement even with my limited speakers
Cons: Heinous drivers. Now the majority of my music is recorded at far too low of a bit rate and sounds awful
First and foremost, I'm relatively new to this whole audiophile thing. I use Klipsch iFi speakers (which as I understand it are more "MidFi" than "HiFi") and a set of Grado SR80 cans. For the moment, all of this is perfectly adequate for my inexperienced ears, but it's a good bet I'll outgrow them.
After installation, which I might ad was actually relatively painless being as I just dropped the card in my system, installed an OS, and downloaded and installed the drivers off the ASUS site, and a bit of rigamarole plugging in the speakers (I didn't know I was supposed to use the RCA to 1/8" adapter) I was off and running.
I was hearing nuances and details that I'd never heard from my speakers. It was like having a completely new rig!
All in all, I heartily recommend this soundcard for anyone that wants a richer, more detailed audio experience. 


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