Asus Xonar Essence STX - PCI-E Audiophile Soundcard

Gaming benchmarks

Gaming - testing

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.

UT3 headphone

The Xonar keeps up with the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude, perhaps an FPS or two below the Prelude.

UT3 surround sound

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

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.

quake 4 headphone

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.

quake 4 surround

The difference is evened up here as the Asus's fantastic Dolby Digital live processing kicks in in Multi-channel mode.

Gaming sound

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.
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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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