So far this year there has been one standout product in the category of sound cards and that product was and is the Xonar Essence STX from ASUS.
Complementing their already beefy line-up of products wearing the Xonar badge, the Essence STX came out of the woodwork with gusto.
Targeting a niche market, if I'm being honest I think in many ways the Essence was a gamble for ASUS, but one which paid off big time. As I'm sure it would be the case now, the Essence STX and the Xonar line as a whole will have built a strong fan base for ASUS.
Sporting specifications more akin to what a professional might use, the STX trounced the competition in most areas. What made the Essence STX such a special thing in particular were the individually chosen components, namely the pre-amps and capacitors, along with the fastidiously designed and implemented analog signal path which became the back bone of the board's strength and performance.
Using the now famous X-Fi chipset from Creative Labs, smaller company Auzentech designed and built for it a board fit for a king, the X-Fi Prelude 7.1.
Delivering all the latest benefits of the X-Fi chipset, including the 24-bit crystallizer and high sample rates, Auzentech added a few extra goodies to the mix in order to extract every drop of latent performance out of the chipset.
While the Prelude did not pack quite the punch of the Essence, I still found it to be great performer and certainly something for Creative Labs to ponder over.