Asus Xonar Essence STX - PCI-E Audiophile Soundcard
To test the Xonar Essence with games, I pitted it against the X-Fi Prelude. With it's Creative Technology inside, how would the Xonar Essence fair in an area it isn't necessarily designed to work in?
I tested a wide range of games to see how the card coped with each game. FPS graphs below are from a small selection. I set the control panel to both multiple speaker and headphone modes to test how the Dolby Digital Live conversion sounded.
Unreal Tournament 3
An Unreal Engine 3 game as it is a fast, frantic and furious multi player mash-up experience. Using advanced DirectX 9.0c features, the Unreal Engine looks fantastic and has a lot of explosions all around to give that feeling of depth. PhysX was not enabled in-game.
Settings: 1920 x 1200, Very high settings. The UT3 Benchmark was used for all cards.
The Xonar keeps up with the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude, perhaps an FPS or two below the Prelude.
Surround sound puts the FPS down very slightly but you will notice the Essence XTS keeps up with the X-Fi based card.
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features based on OpenGL game. Once again I did three benchmark runs on Quake 4 on each card and took the average of all my readings from these. The Quake4Bench demo was used to benchmark all cards.
Settings were: 1920 x 1200, Ultra settings. 16 x AF, 4 x AA. Multi-CPU enabled.
A little higher FPS difference between the Asus card and the Auzentech shows in Quake 4. The settings were set to a very high level which was very challenging on my awesome 8800GTX.
The difference is evened up here as the Asus's fantastic Dolby Digital live processing kicks in in Multi-channel mode.
I have to note that whilst most games ran very well, there were a few that had some glitches, especially with the release drivers. Whilst the updated drivers fixed a lot of these, some games had slightly odd sound and some didn't sound quite like the surround sound was working properly. These games were mostly those that relied on high levels of EAX support to give surround sound.
These issues aside, the sound was superb in both headphone and multi-channel sound from the mighty Asus Xonar Essence STX. Headphone sound especially was detailed and punchy and you really felt those headshots!
The Asus Xonar Essence STX isn't the best gaming sound-card you can buy, but it's not aimed at that market, unlike the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude. It does very well in almost every game out there and Asus are constantly looking to improve their drivers so the one or two games I heard slight glitches in occasionally will, I'm sure, be sorted.