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Asus Xonar Essence STX Review

hardnrg    -   May 14, 2009
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Testing:

Test Results:

Rightmark Audio Analyser (RMAA) works by sending test signals out of the soundcard and then recording the signals back into the soundcard, and making comparisons and measurements to assess the soundcard performance.

I chose to use a loop-back cable for RMAA because if you use internal hardware loop-backs, some soundcards bypass some of the output and input stages, to pipe the playback audio directly into recording. This is essentially cheating, and doesn't represent an actual loop-back, so an external cable ensures each soundcard is doing a complete loop-back during the tests.

The test results page shows you the average values across the frequency range. The frequency response you want to be as near to flat as possible, so small numbers are better. The noise level is the amount of background hiss, etc, so this needs to be as low (large negative values) as possible. The dynamic range is almost always nearly the same as the noise level, except positive. The remaining measurements of distortion, noise, and crosstalk, need to be as small (or large negative values) as possible. The Xonar Essence STX uses an audiophile level DAC and op-amps on analog outputs and a high quality ADC and op-amps on the inputs. You can see the advantages gained by using superior components, I'd say the capacitors and DAC are the reason for the higher performance over the modded X-Fi XtremeMusic.

There are two sets of results here. The first set was conducted on all soundcards, at 24-bit and 48 kHz. The second set was run at 24-bit and 96 kHz, but only on the modded X-Fi XtremeMusic and the Xonar Essence STX. The X-Fi can only record at a maximum sample rate of 96 kHz, so this was the highest test I conducted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 bit, 48 kHz

 

Each of the graphs are included here to show the measurements vs. frequency.

 

 

 

 

24-bit, 96 kHz

 

Each of the graphs are included here to show the measurements vs. frequency.

 

 

 

 

 

The noise level is very low for all soundcards, but the lead is taken by the Xonar cards, the Essence STX beating the rest of the pack. This trend continues until we get to Stereo Crosstalk, where the modded X-Fi XtremeMusic has better stereo separation from about 2 kHz upwards. In the 24-bit, 96 kHz tests, the modded X-Fi XtremeMusic has a strange rolloff at the audible frequency extremes, whereas the Xonar Essence STX has a much truer, flatter response. Again, the Stereo Crosstalk is the only test where the modded X-Fi beats the Essence STX, and it's only at frequencies above ~2 kHz.

 




  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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