Asus Xonar Essence STX - PCI-E Audiophile Soundcard



At first I was a little worried that the Xonar Essence would come with the 'bloatware' that you see on X-Fi based cards. This type of driver and software really does turn you off getting a card if you just want it to produce good sound.

Luckily, I need not have worried. Asus have given you a slightly flashy user interface, but it doesn't feel clunky and everything is available right there in front of you, no switching of modes or anything like that.

UI main
Pictures is the main part of the UI where all of the input switching takes place. Here you can determine how many speakers you are using, what type of analogue output you would like and how you want the SPDIF to work.

Setting SPDIF to Dolby Digital Live immediately greys out the analogue outputs. Settings the analogue output to speakers means that the sound goes out through the analogue RCA out. Setting to headphone means the onboard headphone AMP is activated.

There is such a large combination of outputs you can have I don't have time to list them all here. Suffice to say there is a great range of outputs and it's great to have them all in one place.

The Mixer allows you to adjust left and right levels for output and adjust any input levels.

The Effect panel allows you to add a huge range of environmental presets (surprisingly) and EQ presets to your music. Those with any modern soundcard or half decent onboard sound will be familiar with this and familiar with the fact they don't improve sound much. The only one I found useful was "Padded Cell", which negates echo if you hear any.

Obviously here you can adjust your EQ settings if you so desire and it does have an effect on the music. The presets are there for the EQ but frankly there are always terrible and not worth using.

The Karaoke screen is a bit of fun. You can fiddle with this and have your own Karaoke sesh if you feel so inclined. It does work fairly well, but I'm afraid it just isn't my thing. I think I had better learn to sing before I even attempt it!

Flexbass is an interesting part of the package. It allows you to set the LFE Crossover to whatever you want, down to 50HZ. This is a good idea for those who want to ensure that their speakers are either getting the most bass possible, or ensuring that your speakers are only fed the higher frequencies.

VocalFX is another feature I didn't get a huge amount of time to play with. Perhaps best described in the manual:
VocalFX is an innovative voice processing technology to let your voice get into the realistic game landscape (VoiceEX) or to emulate the background scenes in online chat (ChatEX). It also allows you to change your voice pitch to disguise who you are (Magic Voice). These features dramatically increase the fun for voice communication on PC.

It's a decent idea and could possibly be useful in some scenarios, but mostly it's a bit fun really. Might be good for winding up mates!
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Most Recent Comments

09-03-2009, 12:28:07

Nice review, but linky is to quad sli forum not this 'un.

Given the price, it looks like it would go great with my shure se530s, but if I'm sitting at my desk I prefer speakers.

Definitely a niche audiophile product (like high end headphones) but still a nice review guys.Quote

09-03-2009, 12:59:04

I prefer speakers too, which is why I hooked it up to my AV receiver

Great card and personally I don't see it as a niche product per se, it's got all the connections you'd need to use with a decent speaker system (inc digital out)Quote

09-03-2009, 13:26:47

I suppose I prefer a normal 7.1 wired on 3.5mm jacks rather than needing a separate amp etc.

I guess if you have higher end audio its great, but for £120 I would go for the D2X. I suppose its aimed at music listeners rather than gamers so its better in that respect. Considering my only really high quality headphones are the shures (~£250) its not worth it just for those.

Its all a matter of what you want from the card and if you want really nice sounding music and have a good av kit, this is definitely the card to go for.Quote

09-03-2009, 14:18:00

Nice review mate and yes that card does indeed rock. Had one in my system for a month or so now and I just could never go back to an X-Fi or whatever now.Quote

09-03-2009, 16:17:36

How does it compare to the normal asus cards, does anyone know?

And kempez, the forum link at the end links to quad sli review...Quote

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