Summary: Amazing card so far. I'm hearing more in my music from my computer than I have before. So far I haven't done any gaming with it yet, but I will. After trying the sound blaster zxr, ht omega eClaro and sound blaster z, I finally found something that matches my needs. I downloaded the drivers from the ASUS site and the install was flawless. I never had to go into the Windows control panel and trick it into finding the speakers like I did for all previous Creative products.
Summary: With the exceptions of 1) the STX II, or 2) access to a time machine, this is without a doubt the best soundcard you can buy. ...That is, if you set it up properly. First of all, the card is powered by an external 4-pin Molnex. Hearing ASUS's explanations as to why, it makes sense, but it's still a little strange. I had to buy a SATA-to-Molnex adapter, since my power supply was SATA-only. After that, it was a simple install.
Excerpt: I replaced a dying sound card with this one. Exceptional build quality throughout, especially at the connectors. Software installation took two tries on Windows 7 but finally worked. Super clean sound, no noise at all. The 1/4" headphone jack can drive whatever you wear to full range. Overall fantastic hardware. The software can do many fancy things but is busy with blinky lights and knobs. Works ok. If you need to drive real headphones from a PC, this is it.
Summary: I've had this card for 21 months when I write this and I'm shocked reading the 1 star reviews. This card has phenomenal sound and pairs wonderfully with my ASUS Rampage IV motherboard. I've recorded beautifully with this product too. Couple this with a Professional Studio Monitor and it blows your mind. I suspect those who've had bad experiences with this product probably have incompatible motherboards or not enough power.
Summary: This card works out of the box with Arch Linux and probably any moder distro. The sound is definitely an upgrade over onboard audio even if your motherboard claims 108db SNR like my does. The front panel connector on my motherboard was causing a horrendous amount of mic noise and that is the main thing that propelled me to but this and boy and I happy I did!
Summary: I just installed this sound card on my Alienware aurora A4 and I highly recommend it. I use them with separate Eagles Arion sound system and my Sennheiser PC 360 headset. The reason I bought this sound card was mainly for music and it also greatly benefits my gaming as well. After installing the driver I immediately noticed a great change in my music. The sounds seemed to flow together more nicely and just flat out sounds great.
Summary: I bought this with a pair of AKG 702s for a entry level audiophile experience. I use it for music, movies, and gaming. The optical port works with my old Sony STR K790 5.1 system perfectly, it sounds better than ever. The 2 channel speaker driver makes my old old computer speakers sound way better. And of course the headphone driver makes my AKG 702's sing.
Excerpt: If you have high end headphones, enjoy online gaming, or watch movies at night, I cannot recommend the Essence STX highly enough. It is now my favorite soundcard and has taken the crown from my modified X-Fi XtremeMusic, so if you love sound and love headphones, do yourself a favor and get the Xonar Essence STX.
Pros: Easy To Install, Easy To Use, Hugely Dynamic And Accura, Quality Output, Reliable Performance, The Dac Capacitors And