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.