Excerpt: Asus' Xonar Essence STX may be pricey, but for audiophiles or those with the money to spend on an excellent sound card, this is the one to get. It looks good and performs even better. It's made with high quality components throughout, right down to the capacitors and EMI shield and this attention to detail becomes evident right from the first listen.
Conclusion: As the performance graphs show, the ASUS Xonar Essence STX is a high achiever. It blitzed all tests, bar one, where the Xonar Xense got a slight upper hand in frequency response. The Essence STX absolutely obliterated the onboard solution in all tests, which is a good sign considering the asking price. Despite the lack of native EAX support, the Essence STX does surprisingly well in games.
Pros: Crisp audio output, Near flat frequency response, Respectable headphone amp, Very low noise levels on both line-in and line-out, Top-tier components, such as the capacitors, DAC and op-amps, Op-amps are user replaceable, Drivers work flawlessly on Vista and 7, Dolby Headphone works well for movies and games
Cons: Need pricey equipment to appreciate the added quality of sound, EAX emulation isn't quite as good as a native hardware solution, No hotkeys to quickly alter settings in Xonar Audio Center
Excerpt: There are a few dirty secrets in the tech industry, and one of the best-guarded among them regards multichannel audio—everybody wants multichannel audio but almost no one actually runs the speakers to use it. Sure, we all cheered when PC audio went from 4.1 to 5.1, and then from 6.1 to 7.1, but who actually runs that many satellites around his or her PC? That’s why Asus’s Xonar Essence STX is a soundcard that’s long overdue.
Pros: Clean and pure sound output and control over headphone impedance.
ASUS Xonar Essence STX PCI Express sound card review
18 May 2009
Conclusion: When we came to the climax of our review of Auzentech's new X-Fi Forte a couple of weeks ago, we labelled it as our new "king of the hill" as far as discrete audio solutions go. Indeed, it was almost a minor miracle in the way it squeezed so much functionality into such a small board, and without sacrificing audio quality to boot.
Conclusion: As with most products, I was slightly apprehensive about the Xonar Essence STX before I heard it. I asked myself, how could a small, simple amplifier on a soundcard perform anywhere near as well as a standalone headphone amplifier? The answer is, it performs spectacularly thanks to the high quality components producing the line-level audio signal, as well as the very capable headphone amplification circuitry.
Pros: The DAC, capacitors, and op-amps on the card produce an extremely pure and transparent sound, Hugely dynamic and accurate sound on any headphones using the onboard headphone amplifier, Headphone amplification works for the front panel (case) audio sockets, Flawless driver compatibility in Vista 64-bit, The multi-band EQ works much better than the implementations by Creative and Realtek, Large jacks and RCA/phono sockets instead of 3.5mm stereo sockets, Adaptors includ...
Cons: The GX mode isn't a 100% exact emulation of EAX
Conclusion: The Asus Xonar Essence STX is marketed as an Audiophile's sound card. That being said, we could do without some of the non-essential bells and whistles. An audiophile will never be satisfied with the stock EQ presets and there are plenty. The rotating surround sound is more a novelty than anything else. The line out left and right slides on the mixer could use a link that allows them to be moved together so both do not have to be adjusted independently.
Excerpt: The ASUS Xonar line of comprehensive audio solutions has been an impressive option for gamers through to music lovers ever since I took a look at the first Xonar D2 PCI board some time ago. To recap, that was a great board sporting some really good features on top of ASUS' renowned build quality, resulting in a very solid sound card that has proven to be a great building block for their latest range of products.
Conclusion: The Asus Essence STX is a bit of a strange creature when you think about it. While it’s obviously not being aimed towards the gamer crowd, the inclusion of Dolby Digital Live!, EAX 2.0, OpenAL and DirectSound3D 2.5 actually makes it pretty competitive in the gamer market. If you are one of the growing numbers of gamers who are running through a receiver and big screen LCD or plasma, then the Essence is an option you should seriously consider.