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ASUS Xonar Essence STX Sound Card - Technical Overview

James is back in business and this time he looks at a special Xonar offering from ASUS, essentially a headphone pre-amp for discerning audiophiles.

| Sound Cards in Audio, Sound & Speakers | Posted: Jan 13, 2009 5:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 96%      Manufacturer: ASUS

Technical Overview

 

The Essence features several exciting pieces of technology combined with the use of only the best individual components for the job. At this point I will expand on the brief specifications given earlier.

 

First up is a professional grade 124db signal-to-noise ratio, or SNR; this is the ratio of the signal to unwanted noise and the higher the better as it simply means the signal is cleaner. ASUS claim that this figure is 64 times superior to onboard solutions currently out there.

 

Shifting focus to the on-board headphone amp, the Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 headphone driver can support headphones up to 600ohms with less than a tiny 0.001% THD, which again is professional grade performance. Once again, this is great because it means you can drive a great set of headphones with solid clean power, negating the need for an outboard headphone pre-amp.

 

Next, we have Hyper-Grounding; ASUS' unique circuit grounding technology that uses a multi-layer PCB design in the construction process to separate signal and noise, maintaining utmost signal integrity to the filtering and processing stages.

 

Now to the isolated analog signal path; the Essence features a gorgeous anodized black EMI shield, as did the stylish Xonar D2. But aside from looking really serious and beautiful, what this shield does is insure the sensitive analog signal path and respective components are kept completely isolated from unwanted noise and electronic interference.

 

ASUS Xonar Essence STX Sound Card

 

Located beneath the shield is a copper insulating element that protects the output amplifier stage from the power input and filtering section. This is definitely another professional grade inclusion to the design of the product.

 

Moving to the digital-to-analog converters, these are always necessary since we cannot perceive a digital signal using our ears; the signal must first be converted to an analog waveform to travel through the air. Now, in order to do this, something called a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) is used, but as with most anything, there are good and bad ones out there. As such, ASUS has gone with a lovely Burr-Brown PCM 1792A DAC which features a 127db signal-to-noise ratio. Remember, a higher SNR is better.

 

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