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Need help finding good replacement with lower output impedance for Asus Essence STX sound card

  1. Jumbotron

    I currently own a modest (both in number and value) collection of headphones, most of which have low impedance (32 to 60 ohm). The source is an Asus Xonar Essence STX sound card and the OS is Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. I like gaming, listening to music and watching movies with headphones.

    I have no problems with the sound card, it works perfectly, other than its output impedance (10.31 ohm) is not ideal for most of my headphones. I tried connecting my Fiio E12 Mont Blanc portable headphone amp (which has an output impedance lower than 1 ohm) to the Essence STX via the two RCA jacks that the STX has. It seemed to work OK (music listened in direct HIFI mode sounded good), but as soon as I activated any of the DSP modes (games, movies or music) of Xonar Audio Center, got a lot of undesired reverberation. So that is not a solution.

    I have been having a look at the current sound cards for PC. The new sound blaster AE-7 or the more expensive AE-9 (both with an output impedance of just 1 ohm) might be a good replacement for the Essence STX. But they are so recent and Creative software support seems to not be the most reliable... I'm not sure of going that route. What other options do I have, if any?

  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    The STX can not send it's Dolby Headphone surround sound thru the line-output (RCA) jacks.
    You might consider buying the Massdrop/Sennheiser HD58X headphones, plug them into the STX's headphone jack.
    you can them use the features of the STX card.
    And use the FiiO E12 for your lower Ohm headphones, for music or any other stereo (2.0) audio.

    Buy nothing wrong with buy one of the newer Creative sound cards.
    Jumbotron likes this.
  3. Jumbotron

    Thank you, man. All in all, since I will be upgrading the core of my PC in the not so distant future, I think I will pick up the AE-7 or AE-9.

    I've gathered most of my cans during the last two or three months and do not feel like getting more right now. Besides, I live in Spain (EU) and I imagine that getting those cans from drop.com must be expensive, considering the shipping cost. However, I plan to keep growing my headphone collection over time and start buying models from higher tiers in the future. Just not at this moment.
  4. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Did not realize you lived in Spain (EU).

    Another option is to get a DAC with an optical input.
    The STX can send it's Dolby Headphone surround sound thru it's optical output port.
    STX > optical > DAC > 3.5mm analog > FiiO E12

    Did you disable the motherboard's on-board audio, in the BIOS, when you installed the STX?
    Have you tried the Unified Xonar Drivers?
    Jumbotron likes this.
  5. Jumbotron

    That DAC is interesting and certainly economical. I did not know that website either. Thank you.

    Please excuse my ignorance about this matter. But how the final output impedance would be calculated in the configuration proposed?

    STX > optical > DAC > 3.5mm analog > FiiO E12

    Does it only count the last element of the chain (FiiO E12)?

    Yes, on-board audio is disabled in BIOS since very long ago and the drivers for the onboard chip are not installed in Windows.

    Regarding your second question, no, I have not tried those drivers. Should I? Anyway, the unified drivers cannot affect the output impedance of the Essence STX, which is my only concern about the card. Can they?

    Thanks for your help. :beerchug:
  6. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Any device hooked up to the audio chain, before the FiiO E12, would not effect the output impedance of the E12's headphone jack.
    I believe the person that does the Unified xonar Driver has more liberty at adding the latest updates (like C-Media) and doing other tweaks to the drivers.
    I like using the Unified Xonar Drivers, when I've used Asus sound cards, in the past.
    Jumbotron likes this.
  7. Jumbotron
    Thank you, man. You have been very helpful. I am going to try the unified drivers.

    By the way, if I have not misunderstood the data shown in the following pages, in both normal and high gain modes the output impedance of the Essence STX is practically 0 Ohm. It is not until extra high gain output is selected that the impedance goes up to 10.34 Ohm.

    Normal gain: https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/user-report-amp.php?id=972
    High gain: https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/user-report-amp.php?id=973
    Extra high gain: https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/user-report-amp.php?id=654
  8. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I'm not sure I would trust that graph for the low and medium output impedance, I still think it's 10-Ohm, no matter what the gain setting is.
    The STX's headphone jack would not have a 0.00 output impedance, no matter what gain setting.

    Lower Ohm (32-Ohm) headphones, plugged into the STX's headphone jack, might get a bloated (louder, less detailed) bass (damping issue).
    While the FiiO E12 should give lower Ohm headphones a more normal and sharper bass.

    Another something to think about, you could plug the Hifimediy optical DAC ($59 + tax/shipping) into the motherboard's on-board audio's optical port and just remove the STX.
    And enable the motherboard's on-board audio (in the BIOS).
    Sell off the STX.
    Jumbotron likes this.
  9. Jumbotron
    Yeah, you are right about the unreliability of those graphs, I think. Those pages I linked above are like summaries intended for people like me, without much technical knowledge. However, there are extended measures and graphs of the STX on that website aimed at techies and professionals; and in these more comprehensive data they have measured 11.9 ohm on average for the output impedance both in normal and high gain settings, whereas in extra high gain mode the impedance measured is 10.34 Ohm, which definitely makes more sense.

    Yes, I am going to buy that optical DAC, thank you. I will probably keep using the STX, at least until I finally upgrade my rig, which have an old I5-3570K CPU and Intel mobo as well. I like the DSP modes in Xonar Audio Center for gaming and movies.

    This is what the user manual of the motherboard says briefly about the audio system onboard.

    Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
  10. Chris Kaoss
    Keep an eye on the Fiio Taishan D03k, though.

    It's an reasonable invest.
    Use it for my TV -> Amp connection.

    Works flawless.
    Jumbotron likes this.
  11. Jumbotron
    @Chris Kaoss

    Thank you. It is definitely an interesting product and serves its purpose well. Besides, I could order one and get it really fast and with free shipping cost, since Amazon sells it in Spain. However, I wonder how its DAC compares to the PCM 1792A of the Essence STX or the Sabre ES9018K2M of the HifimeDIY.
  12. Chris Kaoss
    I don't really care bout that.
    It does, what a dac is meant to do.

    Convert a digital input straight to analog output. :wink:
    The differences in dacs in that formfactor aren't worth to take care of it.
    That's my opinion.

    You could have a look at ASR for measurement, if you want.
    Jumbotron likes this.
  13. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I bought the FiiO D03K a few years ago to try it, it's a good value for it's $20 USD price, but I believe it's a 24-bit/48K DAC chip, were as the Hifimediy with it's ES9018K2M is 32-bit/192K.
    Hifimediy has a shipping location in Belgium.
    Also check Amazon EU, see if Hifimediy sells thru Amazon EU and what shipping options are offered, but Hifimediy Belgium might be the best option.
    Jumbotron likes this.
  14. Chris Kaoss
    You're close to. :wink:
    The Fiio got 24bit/ 192kHz.

    But keep in mind that the STX fit this specs exactly.
    And 192kHz is the oversampling of 48kHz.

    Opt. spdif is limited to 24 bit, afaik.

    The 32-bit from the Hifimediy is meant for the dac-chip, but the optical protocol is just able to deliver max 24-bit.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
  15. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Oops, your right the D03K is 24-bit/192K.

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