Thursday, November 13th 2008

ASUS Xonar Essence STX Sound Card with 124dB SNR Now Official

Aimed as the culmination of searching for the very essence of sound, the new ASUS Xonar Essence STX range of audio cards delivers the purest, cleanest audio to offer users the ultimate audio experience ever from a sound card. Equipped with carefully-selected components, and ASUS’ exclusive Hyper-grounding and EMI Shield design, the Xonar Essence STX is capable of achieving an industry-leading 124dB SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) in signal clarity. Furthermore, full-driving for any available headphone is provided through the built-in headphone amplifier—presenting unprecedented audio quality and under 0.001% of distortion to sate even the most demanding audiophile. Interestingly enough, the design for this audio card is based on a paradigm that is forty centuries old.


The Quest for True High-end Audio Starts Forty Centuries Ago
In China 4000 years ago, the ancient ancestors were also searching for instruments that were able to play "heavenly" music; not just to pay homage to the gods, but also to represent the harmony between man and nature. This process of seeking the most sublime and harmonious music between man and the environment resulted in the Tiger Chime, which not only represented the soul and quintessence of sound, but also served as the highest level of audio enjoyment. Like these ancestors, ASUS also searched for the best components and used only the finest designs to reproduce the purest of sounds. As a symbol of respect for these ancient pioneers, the Xonar Essence STX adopts a gold-plated Tiger Chime totem on the EMI shield—infusing a mix of ancient and cutting-edge technologies.

Industry-leading 124 dB SNR Delivers Pure Music for Listening Enjoyment
With the penultimate of component and design selection, the Xonar Essence STX is able to reproduce truly pure sounds, and delivers an industry-leading 124 dB SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio). This is 64 times clearer the most on-board audio solutions (85–88 SNR). It also features the ASUS exclusive Hyper-grounding circuitry design that utilizes a PCB design to separate signal and noise—ensuring that only the cleanest signals are passed on to ultra-sensitive components for decoding.

The Finest Component Selection to Deliver Crisp, Clear Audio
With a top-o-the-line Burr-Brown PCM 1792A Digital-to-Analog Convertor (DAC) to convert audio signals at 127dB signal-to-noise ratios, users will be able to enjoy minimum loss from the process of converting digital signals to analog sound. Additionally, Nichicon "Fine Gold" capacitors deliver rich bass and crystal-clear high frequencies (like the sounds from a piano or violin), allowing the Xonar Essence STX to achieve an amazing <10 Hz–90 kHz frequency response and 124dB dynamic range. Furthermore, The Xonar Essence STX’s EMI shield protects all analog outputs perfectly from any exterior electronic magnetic interference—resulting in the cleanest sound generation and delivery for the user´s enjoyment.

High Density Sound Performances with Built-in Headphone Amplifier
Most quality headphones usually require additional driving power; or else suffer from sounds that are dull and bland. The Xonar Essence STX is equipped with a built-in headphone amplifier capable of driving every available headphone with up to 600 ohms of impedance to their full extent and less than 0.001% of distortion—all without additional amplication. This ensures that only the most high density sounds can be heard from these headphones without the need to purchase an extra amplifier. Furthermore, the Xonar Essence STX also comes with the following features which include: Swappable OPamp sockets to help tune up unique sounds effortlessly, complete Dolby Home Theater technologies, and the latest DS3D GX2.5 3D gaming engine technology.

Specifications

Source: ASUS
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34 Comments on ASUS Xonar Essence STX Sound Card with 124dB SNR Now Official

#1
ktr
Wow, built in amp...sweet, I guess that's what that additional molex power is for.
Posted on Reply
#2
erocker
This is the most excited I've been for a sound card. I love the molex connector idea and it should translate into cleaner power, especially with those two nice caps for filters. I suppose I'll be the first to ask.. How much is this beauty going to cost?
Posted on Reply
#3
MKmods
Case Mod Guru
all I can say is I have the Xonar D1 (cheapy Xonar) and it fricken ROCKS!
Posted on Reply
#4
tkpenalty
I hope this card stirs up comptetition in the sound market... we seriously need competition in that sector!
Posted on Reply
#5
jamrop
No midi connections?
Posted on Reply
#6
theJesus
jamrop, I'm 99.99% certain this card isn't marketed/designed for DAWs, so no need for MIDI imo.

I want this . . . my external recording interface sounds great but the drivers suck and it gets waaay too hot for 24/7 use (maybe I should mod it :p).
Posted on Reply
#7
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: ktr
Wow, built in amp...sweet, I guess that's what that additional molex power is for.
That molex is simply to power the AV100, and the card itself. A headphone amp on a sound-card doesn't require auxiliary power. The HT Omega Claro HALO has a Hi-Fi grade headphone amp, but doesn't use aux power, did you notice it's PCI, while this ASUS card is PCI-E?

The method ASUS uses to sell PCI-E sound cards is simple. PCI-E is there for compatibility (with modern motherboards) or simply a USP, but it offers zero advantage over PCI. The AV100/AV200 aren't PCI-E chipsets. They require a bus-translation logic to exist between them and the PCI-E interface. While the translation logic chip (ASUS uses the ones made by PLX) relays signal from PCI-E to PCI (and vice-versa) seamlessly, it doesn't relay power. The power it gets from the PCI-E slot, it uses it up for its own functioning. The AV100/200, and the rest of the sound card are left to the power from auxiliary inputs such as a Molex or Floppy power connector. You'd notice the Xonar D2 to require aux power, being PCI-E, while its PCI twin the Xonar D1 doesn't. Neither feature headphone amps.

Posted on Reply
#8
The Witcher
The two big questions are :

1- Will this sound card cost an arm and a leg ?

2- If i've a XtremeGamer sound card, is it worth it to buy this card and why ?
Posted on Reply
#9
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: The Witcher
The two big questions are :

1- Will this sound card cost an arm and a leg ?

2- If i've a XtremeGamer sound card, is it worth it to buy this card and why ?
1- I don't expect it to cross $170.

2- Yes and no. Yes for its headphone amp, a hesitant no because it doesn't offer much over a X-Fi in terms of features (though its gaming effects genuinely work from my experience with Xonars).
Posted on Reply
#10
FreedomEclipse
Crazy Dogmatic Bullsh!t!
by: btarunr
1- I don't expect it to cross $170.

2- Yes and no. Yes for its headphone amp, a hesitant no because it doesn't offer much over a X-Fi in terms of features (though its gaming effects genuinely work from my experience with Xonars).
adding to what was said - most games still support creatives EAX - Xonars only emulate it. Ive heard of some bad things where peoples systems kept crashing when they tried to run a 'EAX' game on a Xonar. even though these cases are few & far between but you cant tule out that it could potentialy cause a lot of hassle - an Award that already goes to Creative for their lame driver support.

I see this card as more of an Audiophile's/Music Studio card rather then something just for all out gaming - not that its totally useless in gaming of course.


who can tell which way the sun will shine. - weather the world will still be dominated by creatives EAX or if it all will be thrown away for something totally different. sadly the case with creative & Asus
Posted on Reply
#11
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: FreedomEclipse
adding to what was said - most games still support creatives EAX - Xonars only emulate it.
Yes, but they do a fantastic job emulating it.
Posted on Reply
#12
MKmods
Case Mod Guru
by: The Witcher
The two big questions are :

1- Will this sound card cost an arm and a leg ?

2- If i've a XtremeGamer sound card, is it worth it to buy this card and why ?
I had all of the X Fi cards and I can honestly say my Xonar D1 is soooo much nicer to me.
My headphones seem a lot louder/clearer, (and my Xonar isant even this beauty)
the drivers worked perfectly with Vista 64 bit the first time
the adjustment panel was easy to work with and has many adjustments

I got the PCI version but its really nice there is a PCI Ex option as well

I am no Asus fan at all.. but I must say the D1 was a very large jump from what anything I had used before (mostly Creative cards, but M-Audio and BlueGears as well) I would say as an upgrade in the future it will be the first part I consider in a comp (to me it was a WAY better investment than going from dual core to quad)
Posted on Reply
#13
Zyrocenus
by: btarunr
Yes, but they do a fantastic job emulating it.
But it is STILL emulation and thus a performance impact :(

by: MKmods
I had all of the X Fi cards and I can honestly say my Xonar D1 is soooo much nicer to me.
My headphones seem a lot louder/clearer, (and my Xonar isant even this beauty)
the drivers worked perfectly with Vista 64 bit the first time
the adjustment panel was easy to work with and has many adjustments

I got the PCI version but its really nice there is a PCI Ex option as well

I am no Asus fan at all.. but I must say the D1 was a very large jump from what anything I had used before (mostly Creative cards, but M-Audio and BlueGears as well) I would say as an upgrade in the future it will be the first part I consider in a comp (to me it was a WAY better investment than going from dual core to quad)
I wanna see how this card stacks against an Auzen Prelude. In my opinion the prelude edges out any previous Xi-Fi or Xonar...the latter by a smaller margin. The emulation factor unfortunatly played into this but also in my veiw the Prelude was just a lil bit better than anythin the Xonar could offer and SUPREMELY better than the XiFi reference design they re-engineered quite well in my view.

Never used to consider a sound card a "MUST" upgrade... it was always last to be bought....and only if I had a few bux I honestly couldnt figure out how to burn -there was beer in the fridge etc lol- Until the Prelude, onboard sound was shite but "good enuf" as far as I was concerned.... Would I go back to onboard? U'd have to kill me and pry the Prelude out of MY COLD DEAD HANDS!!!! lol :twitch:

Zyro
Posted on Reply
#14
MKmods
Case Mod Guru
I never had the chance to use the Prelude (WAY too rich for my poor blood) and maybe thats why I love my Xonar so much (value wise it was excellent)

But I definitely know how you can feel so strongly about a sound card:toast:
Posted on Reply
#15
erocker
by: btarunr
1- I don't expect it to cross $170.
I'm not sure. With the parts they are using on that card, I can see it going for over $200 bucks.:ohwell:
Posted on Reply
#16
Zyrocenus
by: MKmods
I never had the chance to use the Prelude (WAY too rich for my poor blood) and maybe thats why I love my Xonar so much (value wise it was excellent)

But I definitely know how you can feel so strongly about a sound card:toast:
I only recently have a passion for sound and its quality :)

I chose the prelude actually cuz it was slightly LESS expensive than the flagship Xonar by 20-30 bux if I recall.... strange. The D1 Xonar i think it was called was less expensive but I think it lacked digi outs and I was concerned about the emulation factor. Thats what kept me away from the also less expensive Auzen Xplosion 7.1 it too is vastly emulated software driven -as opposed to hardware accelerated- but also a well received card. I think its safe to say without stepping on toes that Auzen or Asus have the lead -and you can argue it both ways till yer blue in the face- and that creative is fading into the background more and more each day and has ruled for far too long. Complacency evidenced by a company -Auzen- being able to better unleash and support a product that was designed by Creative -the XiFi sound chip-

by: erocker
I'm not sure. With the parts they are using on that card, I can see it going for over $200 bucks.:ohwell:
I think it will likely be in that ball park 200 USCAD the current Asus flagship is approx that right now. Same old same old. New product sold for around the same as last years top model was maybe a few bux more and las years model gets bumped down a pricing slot along with everything else below it. This results in the oldest products at the bottom of said list being discontinued.

EG Xonar 2009 sells for 200 lets say
Xonar 2008 sells for 160

Next year
Xonar 2010 sells for 220
Xonar 2009 sells for 160ish
Xonar 2008 sells for 110-120
D1 -in this example- discontinued

Thats how I see yearly product marketing.... in the PC sector anyway.... Someone educate me if I'm seein this wrong pls :)

Zyro
Posted on Reply
#17
Zyrocenus
OH MY GOD!

Something told me somethin was a lil fishy.... I dunno why but I was GRIPPED with the urge to look up the specs of this Xonar and stack it against the Prelude. 1st thing that FLIES off the page at me is this all important 124dB SNR rating. A WORLD 1st! Oh My GAWD HYPE IT!

.....the prelude offers 123dB SNR...suddenly the hype deflates for me.... I'm gonna try to compile a side by side table and see how many more "millimeter" victories improvments this thing is gonna have for 200+ bux.

I wasnt expecting this....

Zyro

EDIT: The table I'm compiling will not only compare Auzen Prelude to Xonar STX but also compare the STX to its predessessor as well. I get the feeling that the diff between prelude and STX isnt very much at all....I'm hoping for more variance when comparing it to Asus' own previous offering
Posted on Reply
#18
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: Zyrocenus
But it is STILL emulation and thus a performance impact :(
When you ran that Pentium II machine, and were particular about performance, you chose external modems over soft-modems. Before/during that time, ethernet cards. Today's CPUs and other hardware drive audio with the same ease with which Pentium 4 ran soft-modems (negligible performance impact).
Posted on Reply
#19
Zyrocenus
True....but.... dig a lil deeper

by: btarunr
When you ran that Pentium II machine, and were particular about performance, you chose external modems over soft-modems. Before/during that time, ethernet cards. Today's CPUs and other hardware drive audio with the same ease with which Pentium 4 ran soft-modems (negligible performance impact).
Yes yer right STRAIGHT line performance suffers next to no hit since the comp is so "powerful" what I'm talkin about it audio delays! Degradation of signal quality and or the addition of that awful "hiss" noise from the speakers. Lag in audio video may also be indroduced regardless of comp power efficiency

BEST example of this is that PHAIL of a card the XiFi XTremeMusic PCI-X. Maybe its cuz its the 1st PCI-x card creative offered....maybe its cuz it wasnt a Xi-Fi at all but rather an audigy on roids.....if that. Fire up any movie or game -Mass effect is the BEST example i could find- and within minutes you begin to notice that the sounds and actions arent lining up anymore.... after an hour and a half you only hear the machine gun burst u just fired AFTER you stopped.... thats ALOT of delay. There are many things that attribute to this most horrible experience....one of them is emulation. If said software that handles the emulation is shitty as well....the user is left wishing he was still using onboard.....and thats.....gross lol

Zyro
Posted on Reply
#20

by: Zyrocenus

BEST example of this is that PHAIL of a card the XiFi XTremeMusic PCI-X. Maybe its cuz its the 1st PCI-x card creative offered....maybe its cuz it wasnt a Xi-Fi at all but rather an audigy on roids.....if that. Fire up any movie or game -Mass effect is the BEST example i could find- and within minutes you begin to notice that the sounds and actions arent lining up anymore.... after an hour and a half you only hear the machine gun burst u just fired AFTER you stopped.... thats ALOT of delay. There are many things that attribute to this most horrible experience....one of them is emulation. If said software that handles the emulation is shitty as well....the user is left wishing he was still using onboard.....and thats.....gross lol

Zyro
I think you are talking about X-Fi Xtreme Audio.
Posted on Edit | Reply
#21
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: Zyrocenus
Yes yer right STRAIGHT line performance suffers next to no hit since the comp is so "powerful" what I'm talkin about it audio delays! Degradation of signal quality and or the addition of that awful "hiss" noise from the speakers. Lag in audio video may also be indroduced regardless of comp power efficiency

BEST example of this is that PHAIL of a card the XiFi XTremeMusic PCI-X. Maybe its cuz its the 1st PCI-x card creative offered....maybe its cuz it wasnt a Xi-Fi at all but rather an audigy on roids.....if that. Fire up any movie or game -Mass effect is the BEST example i could find- and within minutes you begin to notice that the sounds and actions arent lining up anymore.... after an hour and a half you only hear the machine gun burst u just fired AFTER you stopped.... thats ALOT of delay. There are many things that attribute to this most horrible experience....one of them is emulation. If said software that handles the emulation is shitty as well....the user is left wishing he was still using onboard.....and thats.....gross lol

Zyro
Actually, with my experience with PC audio, I've seen "delays" as in latencies to lower when the CPU is directly dealing with audio, and not a part intervention where stacks are moved back and forth for the several stages of audio processing the CPU and audio processor share. With a decent DAC, there's no degradation as a result of it. When the CPU is strong enough to spend time processing audio even when it's at 100% load, it's good enough to make sure those "hiss"/"pop" things don't take place.

There is no Xtreme Music PCI-X. Creative never made a PCI-X card. That's Xtreme Audio PCI-E, which failed due to a flawed driver model among several other things that are not what's normal for CPU-accelerated audio. Notice this doesn't happen with a Xonar D2/D1, or Claro Plus+. Don't confuse integrated audio with CPU-accelerated discrete audio. In discrete audio, the various tasks are assigned to different parts of the cards (such as a host, a DAC/ADC, OPAMP, etc), where as there's a lot of consolidation with those HDA / AC'97 chips on motherboards. They'll never even come close to what a Claro / X-Meridean can ever do.
Posted on Reply
#22
mechtech
So this is still using a PLX bridge and not true PCIe, why is this, can they not make a true PCIe soundcard for some reason???

When there is a soundcard with true pcie, then wake me up.:rockout:
Posted on Reply
#23
WarEagleAU
Bird of Prey
So they haven't licensed the EAX 3.0 and up from Creative and they are emulating it. Are they doing it a bit better with this card? Reason I ask is, Maximum PC did a review of it and the auzentech card and said if not for a bad job of emulating EAX 3.0 and up, it would be their pick. (They went with Auzentechs XFI card).
Posted on Reply
#24
imperialreign
by: btarunr
Yes, but they do a fantastic job emulating it.
agreed - and best I can tell, they're really doing nothing different than how Creative brought EAX support to Vista through the use of ALchemy. ASUS' solution requires OpenAL to work ;)


As much as I think the spec of this card look good - I still think some features are really meant to sell the card . . . an amp for the headphone output? Overkill. It will cause more issue in the long run than is worth it. Will it clean up the sound in your headphones? Sure, a bit . . . but is the slightly better quality worth the risk of damaging the recievers? With a high-end headset, no, it's not. IMHO, it's just a feature relying on the average buyer's limited knowledge of audio components.



I still think, though, the first company to get a 32b capable card to market will take the lead in this audio shootout. Even though 32b is overkill at the moment, HD media is very quickly pushing towards this . . .




by: mechtech
So this is still using a PLX bridge and not true PCIe, why is this, can they not make a true PCIe soundcard for some reason???

When there is a soundcard with true pcie, then wake me up.:rockout:
you want true PCIE, huh?





Native PCI-E solution. There is no translator implimentation on this PCB.
Posted on Reply
#25
npp
by: btarunr
The method ASUS uses to sell PCI-E sound cards is simple. PCI-E is there for compatibility (with modern motherboards) or simply a USP, but it offers zero advantage over PCI. The AV100/AV200 aren't PCI-E chipsets. They require a bus-translation logic to exist between them and the PCI-E interface. While the translation logic chip (ASUS uses the ones made by PLX) relays signal from PCI-E to PCI (and vice-versa) seamlessly, it doesn't relay power. The power it gets from the PCI-E slot, it uses it up for its own functioning. The AV100/200, and the rest of the sound card are left to the power from auxiliary inputs such as a Molex or Floppy power connector. You'd notice the Xonar D2 to require aux power, being PCI-E, while its PCI twin the Xonar D1 doesn't. Neither feature headphone amps.
It's very nice to see that there are still some people around who are using their brains instead of letting themself being fooled by pure PR B*S*. The fact that you've got a PCI-E interface is exactly as useless as the 124dB specs of the DAC, and all the other stuff like "Nichicon “Fine Gold” Professional audio capacitors offering rich bass and crystal clear high frequencies". I don't see how any of these could have perceptible effect on audio quality (i.e., in a blind test).

Pushing noise floors so low is completely useless, you must sit in an anechoic chamber to make any sense of it... Or else the ambient noise around will simply drown anything far above the -124dB floor. I seriously doubt this card will offer any noticeable advantages over an unexpensive x-fi, for example... Unless you've got some very unsensitive headphones or simply want to blow your head off.
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