Asus XONAR ESSENCE STX Sound Card
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- One PCI Express 1.0 (or higher) compatible slot for the audio card
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Description :- 124 dB SNR / Headphone Amp card for Audiophiles Story behind the Masterpiece Thousands of years ago, our ancestors crystallized their knowledge of the materials and music into the Chime of Tiger, one of the first audio masterpiece in human history. Gold-plated on the EMI shield, the Chime of Tiger totem not only represents Xonar team’s new footnote in audio innovation, but also mankind's endless pursuit of the Essence of Sound. Industry-leading 124dB SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) Choosing only the best components and finest design, Xonar Essence STX achieves unprecedented 124 dB SNR – 64 times clear than on-board solutions, bringing top-o-the shelf audio experience for audiophiles. Built-in headphone amp A high-quality TI TPA6120A2 headphone driver supports headphones up to 600ohms of impendence with lower than 0.001% distortion. Drive your headphones as intended without additional amplification. Hyper-Grounding circuitry design This exclusive ASUS technique utilizes multi-layer PCB design to separate signal and noise, ensuring only the cleanest signals are passed to sensitive components. Perfectly sealed analog output path EMI and shielding seals all analog output signals perfectly from noise, offering distortion-free audio enjoyment. High quality DAC The Burr-Brown PCM 1792A Digital-to-Analog Convertor (DAC) converts signals at 127dB signal-to-noise ratio. Nichicon "Fine Gold" professional audio capacitors Using state-of-the-art etching technology, Nichicon "Fine Gold" capacitors deliver rich bass and crystal-clear high frequencies.
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Installation Blues : If you are using Windows Seven or Eight, installation of the sound drivers is to be done from the Official Asus Website or you can also use the Uni Xonar drivers from MaxedTech. The Drivers in the CD provided is only for Windows XP/Vista. However, before you install the card in the PCIE slot, remember to disable the onboard sound, either through bios or device manager.
Note : The STX II, which is the next and latest model for the STX I model here, is definitely better and costlier by another 4-5K, but is not available in India yet. So if you want that desperately, get it from someone abroad, cause anyone promising that in India cannot provide you with one, as of now. But then you can also get the Schiit Stack (Magni+Modi) or the Objective2+ODAC Combo for a better Headphone experience, within almost the same price range. And if you have the cash to splurge you can always go for better stuff like Schiit Valhalla+Bifrost or OPPO HA-1 or LAu, sky is the limit ;)
Rating : Deducted one star due to the Seller Experience and not for the product, should have deducted more but the product is too awesome to deserve that. I was promised a STX II model but received a STX I model. The matter was sorted out but nevertheless it was foolish of me fall for that. However, on such a reputed e-commerce site such as Amazon, the sellers should not be allowed to use such tactics. It just maligns the name of Amazon and buyers will get skeptical after such an experience.
An Asus STX headphone jack is way more than enough to drive HD 650 to its full potential. An O2/ODAC should audibly be similar as well. And so will other expensive systems like Benchmark 1 and Violectric amps. Everything else is either color/distortion, clipping or plain placebo!
As far as the HD 650/600/800 are concerned, all the below amps should sound more or less the same, if not absolutely identical:
Vioelectric neutral amps
Although there is more to this than merely output impedance, but a good rule of thumb is that for a dynamic headphone, if your amp's impedance is less than 1/8th that of your phone, you'll be fine.
The STX has an impedance of 10.7 ohm. So phones that are 80-100 ohm or more will be just fine.
HD 598 is 50 ohm I think. So technically there will be a sound signature change with slightly more bass and slightly less treble, and audibly so. But thankfully I have tried a HD 598 with it and it is fabulous indeed. Not as much as the HD 650 of course. :D
O2 and a Benchmark 1 have impedances below 1 ohm. So they can pretty much run any phone out there.
And this rule doesn't apply to planar phones like LCD2.
And then of course there are some exceptions that require too much voltage/current like HE6, K1000 etc.
The STX and O2 are fine for HE6 as far as measurements are concerned. From what I've read by other science people, that is. For K1000 - No!
Transparent = Transparent wrt the audible domain
If two amps are audibly transparent, they will sound the same minus placebo, irrespective of one being better or vice Verma.
If one is colored/warm/bright etc, of course there will be a difference. But a very slight one. These differences get exaggerated out of promotion. Even a colored one may often be difficult to tell apart in a Double A/B Blind Test.
Audiophile DAC Myth Busted!
Transparent = Transparent = iPhone/ ODAC / STX / AEX / MacBook = Same
Colored = Distortion = Slight Difference = Muses/ Android phones (I jus got heard Moto G 2014 though)
Colored DACs may sound slightly different. But that is distortion. Not hi fidelity. That is not how a DAC is supposed to be.
A DAC isn't supposed to have a sound. If it is audibly transparent, it sounds the same. End of story!
An STX or O2/ODAC or Superlux HA3D/iPhone is as good as it gets.
Everything else is either placebo or color, and it is mostly placebo.
I have been a victim of this placebo thing for years as well. No more!
If you have enough volume without color/clipping (this is hard to say without measurements) you're doing great!
I've even tried a Beta22/Lehmann BCL, just to shut people up. :P
Comparing the below setups:
Asus STX amp and DAC
Uncolored and transparent
Asus Essence One Muses Amp and DAC
Thinner, warmer, slightly looser bass but colored. Slight difference, so some people might prefer this DAC, especially with something like a HD 800
Asus Essence One Muses DAC -> Project Ember
Closer to a STX. Slightly more SS. Perhaps a slight difference. The mids may be a bit lusher and wet. But very close and I didn't do a AB test so I may be talking BS. Very close.
Asus STX DAC -> Project Ember
Again, not sure if there is a difference or not. But definitely not a huge difference.
They are all bloody close!
I wouldn't say they are exactly the same. There are differences. But they are close. And it is definitely not an easy task to rule out one better than the other based on listening, because it is a matter of taste/preference.
But according to measurements and science, STX is flat and transparent. The other setups are not.
So if you want Benchmark level fidelity, go with STX. And I can assure you the difference between those systems, even if very slightly audible, isn't huge. And often/mostly placebo. Just like I was a victim of placebo for years.
Honestly, anything over an O2/ODAC seems non sense to me.
And an STX is just as good for most people I guess, unless you're into low impedance non planar phones or IEMs.
Other Asus products like U3, U7, Muses etc are colored and technically worse.
You're fine with a ST or STX though. Not sure about STX II. Not sure whether the difference is placebo or color. But not heard it. Just read about it.
And I hope you realize non sense about cables, power leads etc is just that, non sense.