ASUS Xonar Essence STX

Average User Rating:
4.67857/5,
  1. beepover
    4.5/5,
    "Excellent sound"
    Pros - Excellent Sound...no noise in quiet parts of songs, no cracks of music,
    Cons - Wish had more extension out of box, but thats what opamps are for
    Wish I had something to compare to. Had an audigy 2 for years and thought extension was better in treble. But Audigy 2 does not have a headphone amp and cannot push the HD650 properly. Not even sure it can push the AKG Q701. The HD600 with the audigy 2 are fantastic since HD600 does not need a headphone amp. I am a pretend to be audiophile since I have a limited budget.
     
    Althought I do have tons of headphones: I ripped all music to wav file using EAC. I feel at times I need a headphone tube amp to improve sound. When I tested my STX against a Sony 400 disc CDplayer to receiver, both sounded exactly the same. So I stuck with the STX and ripped the CD collection to WAV.
  2. comfortablejon
    5.0/5,
    "The Missing Piece"
    Pros - Makes good headphones even better, great sound quality, more than doubles my volume.
    Cons - initial driver problems, installation tricky.
    Bought Sony MDR XB1000s almost a year ago and they've been great. A mate of mine bought a soundcard and reckons it made a big difference and convinced me to buy one. I read into reviews, and they said that this was a good card for headphones, and they are bang on. It always felt like there was something missing when i first listened to my MDRs, and i kinda felt ripped off after upgrading from MDR XB700s but this card truly justifies the upgrade. I have a modern motherboard ( MSI GD65 8D) and the audio quality increase this card gives over my mobo soundcard is staggering. Max volume increase this card gives is just crazy. HQ audio is completely flawless; no signs of clipping even at max volumes. First impressions were amazing, and it still continues to amaze me.

    Installation for me was a hassle; power supply really has to be jammed in there for it to work and when it eventually did, the drivers gave me the ****s (I am running windows 8, maybe compatibility issues) and telling me to make sure the card is properly installed etc etc. but after trying a few downloaded versions from asus website, it finally worked.

    However, the better the audio equipment you have, the more difference you will notice. I use my Astro A40s for teamspeak/skype and my Sonys for me-time, and the difference I find is MUCH greater on the Sonys than it is on the A40s

    To sum this up, best $170 I have spent on this computer. 100% reccommend it for people who truly appreciate music and have a good pair of headphones.
  3. leksasd
    5.0/5,
    "Wonderful card"
    Pros - Dac, ease of installation, connections, overall build quality, accessories, price, software
    Cons - headphone amplifiers performance on lower impedance headphones
    I don't really have anything to compare this to, since this is my first non-board soundcard (some might say I took quite a leap) To be honest, I wasn't even expecting that much of a difference on the price, since I'm used to seeing components paying way more, but the quality of the STX really blows me away! The headphone amp is something that could be better, my only other amp is a measly Pro-Ject headbox S, which performs pretty close to the xonar, although being slightly warmer and not as detailed, also I don't really like how it sounds on your general every day 32 ohm gaming headsets, or my 55 ohm akg k121's. The Xonar is a great sound processor though, in fact it's so detailed that it made me realize that I need a better speaker amplifier to keep up with it :p
     
    TL;DR Great (value) DAC, decent head amp for 250ohm or above headphones
  4. bcschmerker4
    4.5/5,
    "Much happier under LinUX than Windows"
    Pros - Excellent shielding, upgradeable op amps
    Cons - Drivers brickwalled by MS-Windows 6+ audio stack up to now
    I originally purchased this audio card for an Asus® CM1630-06 previously upgraded with the same vendor's EAH6850DC/2DIS/1GD5 PCI-Express x16 video card plus an Antec® TruePower™ 750 Blue for sufficient video performance for podcasts and similar live over-the-Web activities at UStream® Television. Even with the bone-stock JRC2114D dual operational amplifiers in the I-V and National Semiconductor®/Texas Instruments® LM4562N in the line-level buffer position, this card is plenty accurate and has room for further tuning. I found that the Essence™ has one of the lowest noise floors of any card on the market, almost certainly due to its conservative, radio-grade shielding approach; the EAH6850DC in the next slot (literally) added negligible noise. The main outputs are two RCA jacks (2 Speakers) and one 1/4" (6.3mm) jack (Headphone); the internal headphone amplifier, a Texas Instruments® TPA6120A2 dual power amp, has three gain settings for different headphone impedances and sensitivities. The on-board digital-audio output, which can handle RCA coaxial and 3.5mm optical, can transmit PCM or Dolby® Digital Live to an external DAC, receiver, &c. The Unified XONAR® Software by Brainbit, Release 1.53 (C-Media CMI-8788 Driver 7.12.8.1795), runs stably on most Windows boxes.

    The one downside I encountered is apparently due to a core software issue inside Microsoft® Windows® 6.1 and 7.0 with Service Pack 1, viz., an issue with the resampling DLL in the audio stack that affects other audio chips besides the AV-100 and related C-Media® chipsets (see "Xonar Essense stx Random LOUD high pitched Ringing Noise?"); an updated set of Audio Drivers C:\Windows\Sys*\WDMAud.drv has been released as part of a hotfix for Windows® Se7en™ 7.0.8001 and Windows® Server 2008 Release 2 6.1.7601. (This was a fail for addressing the 6 kHz scream problem, see Thread cited.)

    Update: Due to the 6 kHz scream rearing its ugly head again, I transferred the STX to the Hot Rod gPC™, and it is happier than a hog in slop under ubuntu® 16.04.1-LTS. The Advanced LinUX Sound Architecture Project has an optimized driver in snd-virtuoso; ALSA Mixer can access not only gains for Mic/Line In and Aux In, but also Record Ons as well as Monitor Mutes for Mic/Line In, S/P-DIF In, and Aux In - a software counterpart of a full-on recording console. C-Media® CMI-8788 Driver 8.3.1.1825 (included in MaxedTech® UNi™ XONAR® Audio Software™ 1.81a Rev. 2), a long time coming to Microsoft® Windows® 10 Build 1607 10.0.14393.576 and later, is a fix committed for the 6 kHz scream that defied ASUSTeK's engineers for nigh onto a decade, but it has the same restrictions as earlier versions in terms of controls.
  5. IfIonlyknew
    5.0/5,
    "Sweet "
    Pros - The sounds produced are Excellent.
    Cons - Drivers that come in the package suck
    Once I got this running, It was like listing to my fat JVC receiver....Sounds are very clean.
  6. rroseperry
    4.5/5,
    "Good Source Upgrade"
    Pros - great neutral sound, easy installation
    Cons - not the cheapest, needs a good power source
    I wanted to upgrade my computer sound card in preparation for higher impedance phones and eventually a desktop amp. This more than does the trick and improved onboard sound more than I'd expected.
     
    The con about it needing a good power source isn't an argument against it. It turned out that my computer (Vostro 420, 2009) didn't have an extra power connection for the card so I ended up upgrading my power source as well.
     
    av15 likes this.
  7. jacrider
    5.0/5,
    "Asus Xonar Essence STX"
    Pros - Great sound!
    Cons - None ... a bit pricey
    Best sounding music on a computer ever.  Both headphones and speakers (I am using AudioEngine's) sound full and clear.
     
    Great upgrade and certainly one that will move to the next computer and likely the one after that!
     
    bazmo46 likes this.
  8. Joe007
    5.0/5,
    "Great card ever"
    Pros - good potential to mod
    Cons - none
    Mod it into Burson Opamp and Elena Cap. Sounds Great and huge improve!!!
  9. Marlene
    4.5/5,
    "Flawed Perfection"
    Pros - absolutely neutral, decent headphone amp, built quality, design
    Cons - crappy driver, line-in lags & applies compression
    I needed a lot of time to make the decision to purchase this card. During January 2010 I pondered if it actually would be an update simply because I already owned two interfaces: Creative X-FI ExtremeMusic and an E-MU 0202 USB. Furthermore, for my Sennheiser HD-600 I already had a headphone amp, a Corda Arietta, connected to the E-MU with the very good Audioquest King Cobra.
     
    But then I heard the X-Fi with my headphones for the first time and was so appalled that I ordered the ASUS Xonar Essence. When it arrived I marveled at the design and the built quality. It looks nice, it feels nice. I subsequently ran into some installation problems (having chosen the wrong slot on my motherboard) but after sorting them out I could enjoy this little beauty.
     
    What can I say? One word only: invisible. I don´t know how people come up with description like "it´s warm" or "it´s on the cold side" because in my opinion both are untrue. This card simply is invisible which is exactly what it´s supposed to be. Before I heard the Essence I was perfectly allright with using the combination of my E-MU and the Corda Arietta. I thought that they were neutral and dynamic. Well, I was wrong because the E-MU sounds a bit muddy with a slightly instable soundstage and the Corda Arietta steals away the lowest (below 50 Hz) and the highest frequencies (above 15 kHz - yes I can still hear them) and does some funny tiny erros in between.
     
    The ASUS Xonar Essence sounds different because it has no own sound. It just seems to pass the music along to the integrated headphone amp and on its way the music is neither coloured nor changed. Result: some recordings I formerly perceived as good sounding now sounded like crap while for example some muffled TELARC recordings now had sparkle and detail. The Xonar Essence will point out every error in the music, it for sure is not on the forgiving side. BUT: if a recording sounds warm & cozy the ASUS will sound the same, warm & cozy. Room, soundstage, dynamic - everything is flawless. It´s as if the card is stepping into the background only to reveal the true face of the music it plays.
     
    In comparison the combination of E-MU 0202 USB & Corda Arietta sounds awfully unbalanced and coloured. It smears away the differences between recordings, replacing them with its own sound signature - something the ASUS never does.
     
    But oh... here comes the problem with its driver. In short, it´s crap. ASIO doesn´t work properly and ASUS doesn´t seem to be capable to produce a functioning driver. It had to come up to an ASUS forum user to provide a functioning driver. Thank God, now it can even play 88.200 and 176.000 material without resampling.
     
    Another problem: the input applies some soft dynamic compression in order to prevent the A/D converter from clipping. Strange, isn´t the ASUS aimed at audiophiles? Because they would use a compressor after the recording process (only if they know how to operate something like that of course) and only if they choose so. But no, the ASUS has a built-in permanent compressor for the line-in which kicks in at -3dB (don´t try to lower the recording volume, the compressor sits on the hardware side).
     
    A third problem: the card is sometimes presented by ASUS as a music production tool when in fact it isn´t capable of that. Reason: the input (besides applying compression) lags for roughly one second. Connect a keyboard to the input and press a key, the sound will arrive one second later on the headphone or line-out of the card. It doesn´t matter if you use ASIO, DirectSound, Dolby Headphone etc., the lag is always there. However, the audio quality of the input mirrors the quality of the output - it´s perfect.
     
    Back to the sound... before I forget, I connected my Corda Arietta to the ASUS. Now the invisible sound was gone, the Corda amplifies with its own sound signature - and I don´t mean something like "more bass" or so. No, the Corda simply presents music differently with less resolution, less dynamic, less soundstage, less everything. I therefore conclude that the headphone amp inside the card is fairly good.
     
    So what do you get? You´ll get a soundcard that´ll sound perfect at its line-out and with headphones but you´ll also get an awfully bad driver and a lagging & compressing input. You have to choose if you can live with the obstacles. If you can, you will have a tool that beats everything at its price range, something that reaches sonically towards unexpected territory: Studio Quality High End.
    maxpain12 likes this.
  10. Dalamar
    3.5/5,
    "Disappointed"
    Pros - great specs, quality line in
    Cons - GARBAGE drivers, line in only handles 2 vrms, large
    I love this card, but since it's taking cmedia years to make properly functioning Windows 7 drivers, and and ASUS is failing at making proper asio drivers, I'm going to have to part with it.
     
    The card still picked up some noise from my gpu (less than onboard did) during gaming - all internals probably will - if you're not going Auzen x-fi, stick to external DACs.