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Claro halo vs Xonar Essence STX

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  • Sound Cards
  • Playstation
  • Audio
  • Components
Last response: in Components
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March 17, 2010 7:58:44 PM

This is what I know.

HT Omega Claro halo
Pro: The card has SPDIF input that I could use to get digital audio from my PS3.
Con: The HD audio of this card is not supported on the front panel, which is a little disappointing. The card is not PCIe.

ASUS Xonar Essence STX
Pro: PCIe
Con: No SPDIF in.

The question is which sound card would be better. I would use it for listening to music, gaming, and PS3. Does PCIe offer lower latency which would be useful for sound card at all, or any improvements in general? And is the digital audio from my PS3 going to be much better than the analog output? Any additional information would be helpful, such as pros, cons, and suggestions.

More about : claro halo xonar essence stx

March 17, 2010 8:40:34 PM

The best audio is hdmi followed by optical. The analog out is pretty low-fi and limited to stereo.
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March 17, 2010 8:47:53 PM

rakki said:
This is what I know.

HT Omega Claro halo
Pro: The card has SPDIF input that I could use to get digital audio from my PS3.
Con: The HD audio of this card is not supported on the front panel, which is a little disappointing. The card is not PCIe.

ASUS Xonar Essence STX
Pro: PCIe
Con: No SPDIF in.

The question is which sound card would be better. I would use it for listening to music, gaming, and PS3. Does PCIe offer lower latency which would be useful for sound card at all, or any improvements in general? And is the digital audio from my PS3 going to be much better than the analog output? Any additional information would be helpful, such as pros, cons, and suggestions.

Your manual shows that the optical out provides for 5.1 sound. Also, "To output Dolby Digital or DTS audio, you must connect the PS3™ system and the audio device using a digital optical cable...." That's what you want. You don't say how you're doing PS3 sound now, so I can't say whether it will be better through the PC. It will be 5.1 surround, though.

PCIe doesn't matter. PCI is massive overkill for audio already.
March 17, 2010 9:10:12 PM

I am listening only on headphones. Audio quality is my main concern. I guess both companies have good driver support for Windows 7?
March 17, 2010 10:52:42 PM

The Claro Halo is a great card and well suited to headphones. For anything stereo I tend to use an external DAC and Headphone amp but my Halo is great for games.

The PCIe should not be an issue, there's not that much data going to the card and for you having an optical input seems to be much more important. The internal headphone amp on the Halo is better than the one on the ASUS board and it'll drive a decent set of heaphones too. Getting audio to the front of your case really shouldn't be a problem. Get an extension for the required outputs and run them to the front of the case if you're always going to be plugging things in and out, otherwise just crawl around getting it set up then forget it. I never go 'round the back of my box these days.

Analog is probably going to be fine for games, the sound quality usually isn't up to much anyway and unless you've got a decent amp and speaker system then the difference shouldn't be noticable. That said, there are a lot fewer cables to manage with optical so it's often cheaper to stay digital. Don't be fooled by expensive optical cables, they're not worth it. Either the signal gets through or it doesn't, that's why digital is supposed to be better in the first place :) 

In the end, both of these cards should be a big step up from the standard motherboard fare but having used both I consider the Halo to be by far the best, better DAC, better amp and better built too. Unless drivers, game compatibility or some other issue pushes you toward the ASUS I'd go with the HT Omega Claro Halo.
March 17, 2010 11:23:31 PM

The Halo sounds good. Do you know how the drivers are on Windows 7 x64?
March 19, 2010 12:25:54 AM

I've never had any problems with the drivers on Vista 64 but I'm not an avid games player, just a few fairly old titles which I'm sure don't tax it to much. If I had to give a review based on my experience though I'd say they're fine.

I do my music listening through external DAC and dedicated headphone amp and have the Halo just for the games and occasional non-critical listening. This does me fine but if I were in the market to do some serious PC gaming I'd probably opt for an XFi or something like that and then use the halo or an external system for serious audio.

Amping the PS3 through the PC seems a bit odd to me. There should be plenty of AV amps that could handle the PS3 output, particularly if you're down-mixing everything for headphones. Effectively you're only getting stereo and losing the other channels. What is your current PS3 audio experience and what are you trying to improve?
March 30, 2010 7:52:40 PM

I have a claro halo now. The digital audio input from PS3 sounds much better than the analog input. In the software you can choose to "monitor" the SPDIF in, but the volume cannot be changed. This is the problem. In Windows 7 sound properties, you can "listen" to the SPDIF in and change the volume but there are pauses/skips in the stream. I think I am going to RMA this and get the Xonar Essence since they have better driver support.
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