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ASUS PCI-Express x1 Sound Card XONAR ESSENCE STX/90-YAA0C0-0UAN00Z

by Asus
4.1 out of 5 stars 198 customer reviews
| 75 answered questions

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  • Hi-FI headphone amplifier
  • Main stereo RCA out, headphone out, SPDIF out, line in (Mic in) Other frount audio header, Aux in, S/PDIF header
  • Sound noise ratio (SNR) 124
  • Gx 2.5 (EAX 5.0)
26 new from $226.00 4 used from $162.49

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Technical Details

  • Minimum RAM: 256 MB

Product Description

Asus Xonar Essence STX PCI-Express x1 Sound Card

Product Details

User Manual [4.01mb PDF]
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 11.2 x 3.1 inches ; 1.4 pounds
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Domestic Shipping: Item can be shipped within U.S.
  • International Shipping: This item is not eligible for international shipping. Learn More
  • ASIN: B001OV789U
  • Item model number: XONAR ESSENCE STX /90-YAA0C0-0UAN00Z
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
  • Product Warranty: For warranty information about this product, please click here
  • Date first available at Amazon.com: January 2, 2009

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Verified Purchase
Probably the best way to start this review is to say that the sound is superb. I have no qualms about what comes out of the headphones (this is my preferred way to listen to music). Uncompressed files run through the Xonar through a line out to a Schiit Lyr headphone amp and AKG K702 headphones. Soundfield is wide and precise, detail is brilliant. Blah, blah, blah... Sounds like a wine snob describing how he likes his reds "smoky, yet obtuse" but let's just say that for 2-channel sound (where this thing really shines) it's worth the money.

Now the cons: Installation on a modern computer with a modern OS (Windows 7, 64-bit). It's horrible. (sorry, don't know about Mac installs) If you're a computer tech, you're probably fine, but I'm just some poor schmuck who wants good music. Several forums have stated that the installation of this thing is buggy at best and forces them to return the card at worst. This is most likely due to the unit being shipped with driver 5.xxx for XP and 6.xxx for Vista. For all I know, they have a lot of those discs sitting around to put in the packaging and expect the consumer to download the latest and greatest version (currently 7.12.8.1793 for Widows 7, 64-bit). We'll get to that update nightmare in a minute.

Installing the Vista version of the drivers will most likely mess your 7-64 system up. Gimped all of my software, forced me to do a System Restore just to get back to point A. You must download the current version for your OS to make sure things run smoothly and the hardware installs. This brings up another point for those of use who usually just point and click and wouldn't know a driver from a .dll file. When you download the current driver, it can't be used like it is because it's in a compressed format, kind of like a .
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Verified Purchase
I bought this card after first considering the another brand for a similar price. I chose the Essence STX mainly on the strength of the quality of the Line-In components. All of the reviews of this card I have seen are focused on playback performance and, by inference, the DAC section of the card, which is excellent. Since I do a lot of 2-channel recording, mainly vinyl conversion and other analog sources, I wanted a card with top notch analog/digital converters. This card fits the bill. The sound quality on the recordings is even better than I expected--great depth, clarity, dynamics and very quiet. Note: I do not record live with this card.

If you are looking for a sound card to mate with either a good pair of headphones, or a high-end stereo system, this one is just the ticket. Or if you want to transfer your lp collection to digital format and you have a good front end setup, this is a great tool for the job. You can also use the wave input to record material streamed off the internet.
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Verified Purchase
I bought this sound card to drive my 2ch stereo system via the RCA connectors. I'm very pleased with the sound. Setup was done in 3 minutes or so and there was nothing tricky about it at all. It's got a bit of "audio jewelry" to make it look nice which some people are into, but I could care less. The sound is on par with what I would expect from a card of this price range. The SNR is the best I've seen from any other sound card (asus or otherwise). Not that SNR is the holy grail of quality measurements but it's clear the designers worked hard to make a very clean sounding device. I use my computer as my main source now (CD's, BluRay, Flac, MP3 all rolled into one!) and having a nice sound card is essential if you want good quality sound from your PC.

One note, and it's not a "con" but something to consider. It's *just* a sound card. Unless you're using some very high quality output devices (amp, speakers and/or headphones) you should probably spend your money on speakers/amp before you throw money down on a sound card because it will offer the least improvement for your dollar. If you've already got speakers/headphones and an amp that you're very happy with, this sound card will make a noticeable improvement in your system.
3 Comments 88 of 99 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Verified Purchase
This card sounds amazing once you have configured it through the software. There are various settings but I'll go over the ones which matter to stereo headphones. If you have a PC-350 and you're reading this, this is the card to get. I have slight hearing loss in my right ear; I am able to balance the 2 channels manually through software to virtually center the sound from my headphones.

You can select the sample rate:
- 44.1 khz
- 48 khz
- 96 khz
- 192 khz

You can select the analog output. This setting specifies which of the ports to output from for stereo (Only one at a time is allowed; you'll hear clicking noises as it switches):
- Headphone (1/4" 6.3mm)
- 2 speakers
- Front Panel Headphone (connection via sound card header to your case I/O)
- Front Panel 2 Speakers

You can select the gain tuning:
- Normal Gain (0dB for < 64ohms)
- High Gain (+12dB for 64ohms to 300ohms)
- Extra High Gain (+18dB for 300ohms to 600ohms)

You can select a DSP mode which simply preset your sound card:
- Music
- Movie
- Game
- Hi-Fi
- DS3D GX

You can select Dolby Headphones which gives you the ability to select sound perception as if it were in a:
- Reference room
- Livelier room
- Large room

You can set your equalizer. I've found 'classical' to be the best. Changing DSP modes (since they are presets) disables the equalizer. You need to manually re-enable them.

I bought this sound card over the HT Omega for the following reasons:
- PCI-X interface instead of PCI (may be the case the sound card won't saturate either, but I just like progressive technology)
- Headphone Out and Line In are 1/4" 6.3mm (the package comes with 1 x 3.
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