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
Summary: Although EAX5 is not supported, Microsoft Vista and sparse title support has mostly nullified the X-Fi API advantage today. The upshot is that the Essence STX is a hell of a good card. Hardcore gamers will still want a real X-Fi, but for folks who are interested in getting the most from their earphones, the Essence STX is your choice.
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.
Excerpt: Placing a product in the "audiophile" category automatically opens it up for scrutiny of the highest order. The new Asus Xonar Essence STX "headphone amp card for audiophiles" is Asus' latest in a line of audio card offerings that pretty much cover the spectrum of PC audio applications. Asus now offers audio cards designed for gaming to Home Theater PC applications. We recently gave you a thorough look at the ASUS Xonar DX PCI Express 7.1 Audio card .
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
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.