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Asus Introduces Audiophile-Grade Essence STX II Sound Cards

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 31 comments

Asus has built two very attractive new sound cards (again) with swappable op-amps.

Asus has updated its Essence STX sound card, which now, after a four-year run, will be replaced by the Essence STX II and the Essence STX II 7.1 sound cards.

The sound cards come very well packed with hardware. For starters, the line out connection features an SNR of 124 dB, while the headphone connection has an SNR rated at 120 dB. The headphone output is also driven by a high-quality headphone amplifier which can drive headphones with impedances of up to 600 Ohms.

Connectivity is handled by what many of us would find unusual, but it is perfectly normal in the Hi-Fi world. As such, you won't find any 3.5 mm jacks, but rather all tulip plugs for the line-out connectors and 5 mm jacks for the headphone outputs. All of these are also gold plated.

The Essence STX II and the 7.1 variant of it are both pretty much identical cards, with the only difference being the added expansion card for the 7.1 variant. This expansion card carries the additional six channels needed for 7.1 audio, as the main card itself already carries the front left and front right channels.

All around the cards users will also find swappable OP-Amps, with the MUSES 8920 and the MUSES 8820 pre-installed, but with one extra MUSES 8820 included along with two Texas Instruments LME49720's added for swapping to attain different sound profiles. Each of the channels on the 7.1 card also features its own swappable operational amplifier.

Commenting on the launch, Ives Chiu, Asus Product Manager for the Audio Sector in the Multimedia Business Department said, "Four years after the debut of Essence STX, Asus remains committed to delivering ever better high-end sound cards to delight the most demanding audiophiles. Drawing on years of experience in developing Essence One, Essence STU and Essence III, Essence STX II delivers meticulous design, quintessential performance and profound musicality -- elements that shape the spirit of the whole Essence Hi-Fi series."

Asus has not given any word on pricing or availability just yet.

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  • 4 Hide
    WyomingKnott , March 14, 2014 11:48 AM
    My STX is awesome, both with headphones and driving amplified speakers.
  • 4 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , March 14, 2014 12:21 PM
    Strange that there's no mention of the DAC or headphone amp in the press release. ASUS was very public about both with the original Essence.
  • 3 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , March 14, 2014 12:49 PM
    More information for anyone who's interested:

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/708756/asus-xonar-essence-stx-ii

    It looks like it uses the same Burr Brown DAC from the original ST/STX. There are some new caps and upgraded op amps though.
  • 6 Hide
    Evolution2001 , March 14, 2014 1:02 PM
    THIS shortly after Tom's runs an article about most people not being able to differentiate between audiophile grade hardware and a top-of-the-line Realtek ALC889 audio for $2. *chuckles*http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/high-end-pc-audio,3733-19.html
  • -1 Hide
    bharatwd , March 14, 2014 1:16 PM
    hope they changed molex power to sata power...........please.......
  • 0 Hide
    Evolution2001 , March 14, 2014 1:20 PM
    Quote:
    hope they changed molex power to sata power...........please.......
    The fullsize pic...still looks like a molex. *eyeroll*

  • 0 Hide
    bharatwd , March 14, 2014 1:21 PM
    What a shame...................2014 and molex power connector..........

  • -5 Hide
    getochkn , March 14, 2014 1:42 PM
    Who's amp has 8 separate connections? It's all digital or HDMI.
  • 3 Hide
    jimmysmitty , March 14, 2014 1:42 PM
    Quote:
    THIS shortly after Tom's runs an article about most people not being able to differentiate between audiophile grade hardware and a top-of-the-line Realtek ALC889 audio for $2. *chuckles*http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/high-end-pc-audio,3733-19.html


    There are a lot of people who claim to not be able to tell the difference. I think they are full of it but there are some people who cannot hear the difference but ever since I got my X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatality Pro card, I couldn't go back. I tried to use my onboard sound for a while and it just didn't have the same quality and clarity.

    Upgraded to a SB-Z and haven't looked back, especially with the ability to have speakers and headphones plugged in it just makes it that much better so I can easily switch.

    Quote:
    hope they changed molex power to sata power...........please.......


    I would hope so too. But from what I can tell from the pictures it looks like a normal Molex connection. If you look towards the base on the power connection you will see 4 solder points, SATA power has more that 4 points.

    I only have one Molex in my entire system, due to my case having a fan controller for the front and side fans.
  • -2 Hide
    esco_sid , March 14, 2014 2:03 PM
    I fail to see how they call Internal sound cards audiophile as far as i know internal cards get introduced to too much noise from the computer only way to go is external, although i still hope it is a good product but i will stick to my bifrost as i am sure it is still a lot better.
  • 6 Hide
    getochkn , March 14, 2014 2:32 PM
    Quote:
    I fail to see how they call Internal sound cards audiophile as far as i know internal cards get introduced to too much noise from the computer only way to go is external, although i still hope it is a good product but i will stick to my bifrost as i am sure it is still a lot better.


    If it's designed right, it doesn't matter that it's internal. RME makes some of the best pro-audio recording sound cards in the world and they have come internal for like 10 years.
  • 1 Hide
    MSus , March 14, 2014 2:49 PM
    200$ - 250$
  • 0 Hide
    Zeroplanetz , March 14, 2014 2:51 PM
    Question here... I can appreciate great sound but I am a noob when it comes to audiophile stuff. In other words would I benefit from having a card with my speakers and headphones which are UE6000 headphones and Bose companion 3 series II ? Ive had the bose for a while now and to me they sound great, But could I get more out of them? I know some may say otherwise towards bose but I received them as a gift so yea.
  • 1 Hide
    XGrabMyY , March 14, 2014 3:06 PM
    I wonder if the drivers for the STX II will have the same insanely frequent compatibility issues with 33% of all games ever made due to the use of EAX and OpenAL, specifically the HsSrv.dll file which will cause launch crashes with a wide variety of games and even BSODs in more severe compatibility issues.If they have solved these problems sign me up, I had to return my STX Classic because of that.
  • 4 Hide
    WyomingKnott , March 14, 2014 3:30 PM
    Quote:
    Question here... I can appreciate great sound but I am a noob when it comes to audiophile stuff. In other words would I benefit from having a card with my speakers and headphones which are UE6000 headphones and Bose companion 3 series II ? Ive had the bose for a while now and to me they sound great, But could I get more out of them? I know some may say otherwise towards bose but I received them as a gift so yea.


    It depends on your ears. You have to try it, preferably by borrowing one for a couple of weeks and spending two days with one setup, two days with the other. A/B blind testing is, IMHO, useless. Build an impression of one over a few days, then the other, and keep switching.

    Me, I can tell the difference. I've gotten my headphone equipment to the point where it is good enough, even the portable stuff, and it would take something really amazing to make me pay money to switch. Speakers - what speakers? Someday I may go back to fooling with them.
  • 0 Hide
    sancco , March 14, 2014 3:51 PM
    how is this different to the original stx?
  • 0 Hide
    Zeroplanetz , March 14, 2014 6:31 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Question here... I can appreciate great sound but I am a noob when it comes to audiophile stuff. In other words would I benefit from having a card with my speakers and headphones which are UE6000 headphones and Bose companion 3 series II ? Ive had the bose for a while now and to me they sound great, But could I get more out of them? I know some may say otherwise towards bose but I received them as a gift so yea.


    It depends on your ears. You have to try it, preferably by borrowing one for a couple of weeks and spending two days with one setup, two days with the other. A/B blind testing is, IMHO, useless. Build an impression of one over a few days, then the other, and keep switching.

    Me, I can tell the difference. I've gotten my headphone equipment to the point where it is good enough, even the portable stuff, and it would take something really amazing to make me pay money to switch. Speakers - what speakers? Someday I may go back to fooling with them.


    I def have ears that can hear differences. But would my current equipment be able to utilize a sound card? I guess that's what im asking more because they both just have one plug in to the pc not several...?
  • 3 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , March 14, 2014 6:40 PM
    Quote:
    THIS shortly after Tom's runs an article about most people not being able to differentiate between audiophile grade hardware and a top-of-the-line Realtek ALC889 audio for $2. *chuckles*http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/high-end-pc-audio,3733-19.html
    I think you may have misinterpreted the results. That's taking amplification out of the equation. A quality amp can still make all the difference when driving high impedance headphones.
  • -3 Hide
    jasonelmore , March 14, 2014 10:18 PM
    Can this sound card push a 130w 7.1 Surround sound System? or is a reciever needed to push power to speakers and subwoofer.
  • 1 Hide
    laststop311 , March 14, 2014 11:10 PM
    For people who already own the original STX is this card worth upgrading to or is the difference very minimal between the 2?
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