ASUS Xonar Essence STX Sneak Peak Part II
Exclusive: ASUS XONAR Essence STX Sneak Peak Part II
TechWiki Info: ASUS Xonar Essence STX
Remeber that in the original Essence STX Sneak Peak , we mentioned that there wasn’t a fully functioning driver for the card? Well, ASUS sent a set of Beta drivers giving all the functions this card has to offer for us to test out and our Audio Lab has been quite impressed with what we have heard up to this point. As was stated in the first part of this preview, the final production model may vary so keep this in mind.
The above picture shows the control panel for the gain setting available and the three settings available for various headphone impedances. Given this wide gain range there should be no issue driving any commonly available headphones that require an external amplifier. The selectable gain ranges consist of:
Normal Gain (0DB for <64ohms)
High Gain (+12dB for 64~300 ohms)
Extra High Gain (+18dB for 300~600)
Preliminary Listening Tests
Rock: AC/DC – Black Ice
Metal: Metallica- Master of Puppets
Rap/Hip hop: Obie Trice Cheers
Blues: Robert Johnson- The Complete Recordings
RMAA has become a bit of a standard for reviews and this is both good and bad.
Many don’t know how to understand the measurements and have trouble making heads or tails of the graphs when included in reviews. We will show you our personal measurements of this card with the summary of measurements below.
The Xonar Essence card boasts 124dB SNR and 0.0003 THD% in the 24/96 range so what is going on here?
Well, with this card in loopback mode; you are seeing results of both the playback and recording sections summed for any distortion measurements. Furthermore, in loopback RMAA can illustrate the results of the playback section only insofar as they fall within the specifications of the (Recording) ADC chip. Nonetheless these results are still excellent across the board but you need to understand you are only seeing a part of what this card can offer and there is an influence from the recording circuitry.
There are Audio Precision tests for this card which show what the card is capable of when measured using a high end audio analyzer. We have wanted one of those audio analyzers that the ASUS labs have for testing their cards but the $27,000 price tag keeps it just out of our reach.
This card is one of the best we have tested in our labs and when you play back well known songs you hear new details and extensions that were unavailable especially with a set of quality headphones.
The Audio Lab is hoping to get a full production version prior to the holidays so you audio fans know what to ask Santa for in your stockings! Please note there is also a version being released for normal PCI slots known as the Xonar Essence ST. If you are a fan of headphone or stereo playback this card should definitely be on your list of audio hardware to keep a close eye on. Stay tuned for the full review.
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