Asus Xonar Essence STX Review
Asus Xonar Essence STX
Backside of the Essence
The sound card seems to have fallen out of favor with the hardware enthusiast over the past few years, as on-board solutions have provided multi-channel surround sound that functions as well as dedicated cards. This has been further exacerbated by the decision to remove direct access of hardware from Vista, which left many audio cards, especially those from Creative, neutered in regards to hardware acceleration. The loss of hardware accelerated audio, and Creative’s slow response to adapt, left a void that many manufacturers were more than willing to fill.
Asus began with their Xonar line of audio cards, each one designed for a specific market, from gaming to home theatres. Asus is also one of the only manufacturers designing cards that use x1 PCI-Express slots, which have been woefully underutilized since their inception 5 years ago. One of their newest cards is the Xonar Essence STX, which is being billed as a sound card for the audiophile. Featuring individual pre-amplifiers for each connection and an interchangeable op-amp, the Essence STX has some pretty impressive specifications that help gear it up to take on the most discerning audio user.
|Asus Xonar Essence STX|
|Form Factor||PCI-E x1|
|Audio Processor||Asus AV100 High Definition|
|Digital-to-Audio Converter||24-bit Texas Instruments PC1792A|
|Analog-to-Digital Converter||Cirrus-Logic CS5381|
|Analog Output Jack||RCA x2 (Front L/Front R)|
|Analog Input Jack||6.3mm x1 (Line-in/Mic-in)|
|Digital Output||Coaxial/TOSLink combo x1|
|Front-Panel Header||9-pin ATX Standard|
|Other line-level input||4-pin Aux-in on Card|
|Headphone Amplifier||Texas Instruments 6120A2|
|Supported Software modes||Dolby Digital Live!|
Dolby Virtual Speaker
Dolby Pro-Logic II
Xear 3D 7.1 Virtual Speaker Shifter
DirectSound3D GX 2.5
Creative X-Fi Fatal1ty on top, Asus Xonar Essence STX on bottom
As the Essence is designed more for audio fidelity than gaming, Asus implemented 2-channel RCA connectors as well a 6.3mm stereo jacks for the headphone and microphone connectivity. The Coaxial/TOSLink combination connector supports both S/PDIF and Optical output. Internally, the Essence supports front panel audio via a standard 9-pin connection. This allows you to connect your cases’ front panel audio ports to the Essence without the need for any extra equipment. Due to the hi-powered amplifiers utilized on the board, the Essence requires extra power in the form of a 4-pin molex connector from the power supply.