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Asus Xonar Essence STX Review

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I disconnected all the fans, even the CPU heatsink fan, and was left with just the PSU fan. The PSU fan emits a soft sound, it is pretty much inaudible in terms of fan noise. The noise from the hard disks both from idle and seeking vibrations was too annoying to ignore, so I took them all out and laid them on small rectangles of sound-isolating foam/sponge. The door to the room was closed during testing, and with no other equipment running, you could literally hear a pin drop.

The two most intriguing features of the Xonar Essence STX to me are the onboard headphone amplifier and the purity of the line-out. I wondered how the soundcard's amplifier would compare to my own custom made Class A headphone amplifier. I am also interested in seeing how it measures up to the line-level output of my modified XtremeMusic soundcard. Following cotdt's guide at head-fi.org, I have upgraded the front stereo line-out's op-amp and the power capacitor, as well as bypassing the decoupling output stage, to raise the sound quality to about the highest possible.


Testing Setup:

Comparison Sound Cards:

  • Realtek ALC889A High Definition Audio codec (onboard audio)
  • Asus Xonar D1
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic "Hotrodded"



Listening Gear:


  • AKG K 701 Reference Headphones (powered by M³ Headphone Amplifier for line-out mode)
  • Sennheiser HD25-1 II


  • Soundcard to amp: Custom made Van-Damme / Switchcraft / Neutrik with silver-plated OFC + OFC conductor, OFC shield
  • Soundcard loop-back: an identical cable, but using a 3.5mm to 2x phono/RCA adapter, or 3.5mm to 1/4" jack adapter




  • Audio:
    1. RightMark (RMAA)


Subjective Listening:

  • Audio:
    1. Music
    2. Games
    3. Movies


  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Closer Look (The Sound Card)
  3. Closer Look (Drivers & Programs)
  4. Specifications & Features
  5. Testing: Setup & Listening Gear
  6. Testing: RightMark (RMAA)
  7. Testing: Subjective Listening (Music)
  8. Testing: Subjective Listening (Games)
  9. Testing: Subjective Listening (Movies)
  10. Conclusion
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