The ASUS Xonar line of comprehensive audio solutions has been an impressive option for gamers through to music lovers ever since I took a look at the first Xonar D2 PCI board some time ago. To recap, that was a great board sporting some really good features on top of ASUS' renowned build quality, resulting in a very solid sound card that has proven to be a great building block for their latest range of products.
Just after Christmas I received a small black box in the mail; this contained one ASUS Xonar Essence STX PCI-Express sound card. The first shock I received was how fast ASUS had managed to get this sample out to myself; this tells me they're excited about the product and to be honest, I am too!
ASUS has taken some truly promising steps with the STX, providing a high-end audio card for the general consumer who might be a headphone lover or simply a music lover, or perhaps both. Now, some of the exciting inclusions here are:
- Burr brown digital to analog converters offering -124db signal to noise ratio which is up 7db from -117db seen on the original xonar I looked at.
- Independent power sources for headphone line in and out insuring signal integrity is maintained always at every stage of the signal path.
- Swappable op amps allowing fine tuning of the cards sound quality to the users liking.
- EMI shielding allows the sensitive analog signal path to kept super clean and noise free at all times.
- New technology in grounding circuitry isolates ultra sensitive analog signal paths from interference and noise.
- Nichicon "fine gold" capacitors offer rich bass and smooth crystal clear high-end.
- Built in headphone pre-amp with software settable gain allowing for high quality headphones to be used without external pre-amp unit.
- Full size gold plated headphone jack and line in for Mic connection.
Glancing over that brief rundown of what the card offers, this will leave audio lovers drooling over what promises to be an absolute god-send for audiophiles.
Now it's time to delve into the goodies and see what contents we get inside.