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The Xonar Essence STX Q/A, tweaking, impressions thread

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by telix, Apr 28, 2009.
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  1. scruffy1
    why not the external version of the same card ?
  2. eXistencelies
    Well crap. Did not know they made this lol. Will def look into. Basically it is the same as the STX, but external? On second thought that thing is way over priced and out of my budget. 
  3. scruffy1
    there's a less expensive version, but compared to the stx or hdav, it's way more $
    but bear in mind you get an integrated power supply and knobs and switches, which a card won't need that add to the total cost
    maybe this might suit you instead ?
    still not cheap now that the oz $ is flat, but was cheap early last year...
  4. eXistencelies
    See if I was going to spend that much I was just going to go with the Schiit M/M Stack.
  5. cdelucia
    Status Update on My Op-amps Coming Out the Bottom of an STX II Modification
    Original mod can be found on page 349 of this thread (post #5233 http://www.head-fi.org/t/421890/the-xonar-essence-stx-q-a-tweaking-impressions-thread/5220#post_12113600 )
    As proud as I was to fit an STX II with Burson Audio's towering SS v5’s op-amps into a fully loaded computer tower, I found myself hearing what can only be described as "wind" (transient static, I guess) and some occasional popping when I would crank the volume all the way up on my Little Dot Mk III headphone amp (attached to the STX II's RCA jacks) - without playing any music/sound of course. This was a kind of litmus test to see how good the signal really was, though I’d never have the Little Dot amp cranked that loud when actually listening through it.
    A couple months after my modification some "wind" started to creep in whilst listening to music. There'd also be the occasional click or pop. Soon I was opening the side panel on my tower and nudging the op-amps to eliminate this; it'd work for an evening but I'd have to readjust them a couple days later. Of course you know how it goes – it started happening even more frequently. After a while it was a question of how loud the problem would get.
    It's obvious now that my horrible wiring job was just that – horrible:
    As you can clearly see
    Essentially wires from the bottom connector weren’t making satisfactory contact with the leads on the top connector, and/or I was getting cross-talk. I’d essentially just stuffed the leads from the top connector into the wire insulation – that’s it. Something had to be done and eventually I broke down and bought Burson Audio’s op-amp extensions and got to work.
    I started by cutting through the clear heat-shrink tubing, then de-soldering the leads of the top connector off.
    To make the connections in the right order (again you'll note I have the op-amps coming out the bottom of the card) I bent the wires to opposite sides.
    Now's the time to find the smallest heat shrink tubing available, cut to length, and slide them on.
    Now the wires are bent up.
    Next I used the top connector to measure how much wire I'd need to mate with the adjoining contact. After marking the length, I cut the wire and then carefully stripped (as best I could) the proper length with an X-acto knife.
    opAmpExtStep05.jpg opAmpExtStep06.jpg opAmpExtStep07.jpg
    I then put some flux on and tinned each of the top connector leads.
    opAmpExtStep08.jpg opAmpExtStep09.jpg
    Time to solder! I did all four contacts on one side, pushed the heat-shrink tubing up onto the newly soldered leads, then did the same with the other side. The vice grips and ceramic coaster were indispensable.
    opAmpExtStep10.jpg opAmpExtStep11.jpg
    Finally, I used a candle to activate the heat shrink tubing.
    Victory was mine – no more “wind” when listening to silence with the volume cranked all the way up.
    It was a fight to make the extensions as short as possible, but even then there was a tendency for them to slowly lean towards one side or the other thus pulling the bottom leads of one side slightly up out of the card's op-amp socket. Since I didn't want to be in the tower again after a couple of months (“Uggghhhh!”) I decided something had to be done about it now. Enter the brace:
    Using 1/8" x 1/8" strips of styrene and some calipers for measuring, I was able to make a brace, or pedestal if you will, for each op-amp. The styrene members are glued together with super-glue (Cyanoacrylate). They simply stand on the top side of the card snugly under the op-amp, fitting around its extension. It took a bit of sanding to bring each brace to the correct height as the extensions are of slightly differing lengths despite my best efforts. They may not be much to look at, but these things aren't going anywhere now.
    opAmpBrace2.jpg opAmpBrace3.jpg
    MUCH better!
    It's been a month and no wayward static nor accompanying nasties have come creeping back! Soldered and completely insulated wires/leads are infinitely better than the terrible loose strands of wires I had before (that should come as a surprise to no one).
    This is bad. This is very bad.
    Some pointers:
    -     - When finished and fully assembled, the extension's bottom connector should be completely flush with the top of the sound card's op-amp socket. You shouldn't be able to see the copper contacts when looking at the base - just black plastic up against black plastic.
          - For peace of mind use a multi-meter to confirm each contact on the bottom connector not only sends current to its corresponding contact on the top connector, but also isn't sending current to any of the other contacts.
    -     - I had to use a pair of sharp, angled tweezers to push the heat-shrink tubing up around the bend of each wire.
          - You'll note I've connected a spare op-amp socket to the extension's bottom connector in some photos. This is ensures you understand just how tall the whole assemblage is going to be. It also ensures the vice grips don't crunch the extension's bottom connector; basically it's a sacrificial lamb of sorts.
          - It goes without saying when maneuvering/shoving heat-shrink tubing around the bends of these tiny wires a disorderly row of wires will be the result. Do all the maneuvering/shoving first, then you can nudge the wires back into a neat row using a pair of needle-nose pliers. It's disconcerting at first, but take your time and it'll work out in the end.
    -     - Needless to say, it’s imperative to have a well-lit work area, and a decent soldering iron.
    I should take a moment to thank the Penguins (hockey team here in Pittsburgh) for giving me something entertaining to listen to over the 'ol radio while stripping and soldering tiny, cantankerous wires. Probably saved my sanity on more than a couple nights.
    And yes, I now realize I have the top connector’s alignment notch facing the opposite direction from the bottom connector’s notch on the extension in the photo - still works the same though. Just when you think you've got all your bases covered. . .
    Alright, everybody enjoy the weekend.
    Rainjam likes this.
  6. rvcjew
    Damn that's nice looking work right there Cdelucia. I only have the stock opamps at the moment and was thinking of going straight to the v5 bursons as I have the space to keep it on the front of the card. If I remove the EMI shield to do this on the front it's basically just based on user config of the case if interference is an issue? My case is a rectangle so the PSU is away from the sound card. I do own a dremel but would hate to cut up the stock shield.
  7. scruffy1
    just a heads up :
    burson produce extension leads for the task (4th item in the row)
  8. rvcjew
    I have the space to have the card just be like this and was just wondering if the card staying "naked" was okay or If I would need to plan to modify the shield to fit on it too.
    EDIT: seems others are already doing this with no issues.
  9. mike5555
    I have this card, is there a list where it shows witch op-amps I can use Or are there certain specs. I need to adhere to?
    And last of all are any of the Muses op-amps  compatible because I have several muses01, Muses02, Muses8820 and
    muses8920 I have a few of each and more.
    By the way I am new here as of tonight. I will have more questions later on different projects. This looks like a knowledgeable
    Thank you for your time and thank you!
    Mike Ward
  10. fredeb
    Excellent work there Cdelucia ! Amazing !
    What I did is download the datasheets for the original opamps ( LM4562 and JRC 2114D’s ) and compare to a bunch of opamps I have .
    I'm trying 2x OPA2111KP's in the I/V stage and 1x LM6172 in the buffer stage - sounds really good . Good sound stage , powerful bass , clear mids and highs .
    I had 3x LME49720  before these and did detect some HF distortion , and before had 2x OPA2228 with 1x LME49720 - didn't like the sound of that either .
  11. mike5555
    Thank you very much this helps, I was a bit Leary to start changing chips and screw something up!
  12. Unclewall
    If you know how to solder, I using OPA1662 soldered in a SOIC to dip8 adapter in I/V for headphone out and it outstanding. I think some of the newer op amps are a big improvement and plan or trying more soldering soic chips are much easier than I would have thought 
  13. fredeb
    I was looking at the OPA1662 , I sent a message to a guy in the States on Ebay asking if he'd be willing to send 2x OPA1662's on DIP8 adapters to South Africa . Slew-rate , THD+N , CMRR and PSRR all look fantastic .
  14. Unclewall
    I was quite surprised on how well it worked with my equipment STX ii and M-100 all the other op amps up till OPA1662 were good in some areas and some areas that were lacking. They are a lot better than stock op amps but kinda on the warm and to some on the dark side
    I might be able to help you get a set, pm me. The newer op amps are quite good but don't come in dip8 I'm going to try more in this series 
  15. mike5555
    Another question, I see that everyone is replacing the two headphone amps and using a separate type of amp in the other socket.
    Is there an advantage or can you use the same amps in all three sockets.
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