on 25 January 2011
First impressions are excellent: the card is very attractively packaged with a 'high-end' feel to it. The card itself is on a very high quality PCB substrate and clearly uses very high quality components.
Fitting into my case (a Silverstone HTPC case), the card could not be screwed down fully as the back panel is slightly too long at the bottom, and this would have caused misalignment of the PCI-E connector. Note that the card requires an additional IDE-style power connection, and won't work without it. The card is reasonably slim, but too high to fit a low profile case.
There is both a rear headphone output and a front panel headphone output as part of the HD-Audio interface (also line in and out on the rear). More on these later.
Getting the drivers to install was a pain: my brand new, clean Windows 7 64 bit installation wouldn't detect the hardware, and I needed to install the drivers myself. This turned out to require searching for the drivers on the supplied DVD-ROM as the auto-run file didn't work properly.
Once installed, my impressions of the software are not great. I have only managed to get ASIO sound operation working so far, and adjusting the volume is tricky for headphones. The software is 'skinned' to look like a cheap 1980s HiFi compo with lots of flashing lights and buttons, rather than making it easy to configure the things you need and otherwise staying out of the way. The Dolby virtual surround for headphones is fine if you have ever wondered what it would be like listening to music in a fishbowl, but otherwise it's total garbage. My card defaulted to Dolby Headphone enabled, which is definitely not what you want, so make sure you switch it off before doing any serious listening.
So far, so below average, to be honest. However...
Plug headphones into (HD 595s) the rear socket and play a couple of high quality (lossless) CD rips. All annoyance melts away. The sound is very good indeed, with excellent detail, separation and body. While it's too early to make detailed comparisons (and the headphones need a bit more 'running in'), the sound is certainly in the same ball park as my main system (Meridian CD 506, Cyrus Audio amp, ProAc speakers) and possibly better. Certainly like nothing I have ever heard coming out of a computer.
As a more concrete comparison, the same rip, via the same headphones on my iPod sounded far thinner and more constrained, so it is definitely a major step up from what is a pretty decent portable player headphone output. I am very impressed, and the proof is that I ended up listening to tracks for several hours before realising that it was 1:30am.
The front HD Audio headphone socket isn't in the same league, by the way - it was a little better than the iPod, but I won't be using it again, despite the convenience.
Very highly recommended if you have the time and technical expertise to configure it, and care about the sound enough to forgive the fiddling.
on 26 March 2010
I'm very pleased with the sound from this device. Running through my stereo speakers with Dolby signal processing enabled, my music sounds amazing. Since installing this card I have been giving much of my music collection a fresh listen and enjoying some of it it more than I ever did on my old equipment (an Audigy 2).
With headphones, I prefer to have the signal processing off, as the Dolby Headphone modes can distort some sounds too much for my liking. The dedicated headphone amp goes up to 11 and is a fantastic change from the weedy signal that I made do with from my previous sound card. It's great for getting decent volume on tracks that were mastered at quieter levels.
My only gripe is with the bundled software. Switching between the stereo component outputs and the headphone amp requires opening the software, clicking a button to reveal some menus, and then choosing the output option from a drop-down menu. This quickly becomes tedious, and it's ridiculous that there isn't an easier way to to this, such as via the pop-up menu on the system tray icon.
on 27 September 2012
Anyone considering this card and baulking at the price...don't worry..it's worth it!
I bought the PCI-E version 6 months ago for the price it is currently (£135)
..and I'd do the same tomorrow.
I cannot stress how great the sound quality is here.
Any guilt you might have about shelling out so much for a soundcard is quickly smothered in a velvet sheet of audio loveliness as soon as you start playing..anything!
24-bit / 16-bit sound is sublime. It's crisp, sharp, crystal clear...warm
mp3 /etc playback is greatly enhanced by a high signal/noise
I cannot recommend this card any higher!
Software issues can be avoided if latest drivers installed from the off.
on 7 October 2010
For the last few years (mostly due to financial restrictions), I've made do with onboard sound for my computers. It's free, it's usually adequate (especially now that most onboard solutions ship with optical outs), and for the budget conscious, we're happy to make do...
...HOWEVER: After using this sound card for just a couple of weeks, I have completely changed my tune (so to speak)! The quality of sound produced by this card isn't just good for computer sound, it's good, full stop! I felt guilty for about 2 days after shelling out about £135 on this, and that guilt alleviated the moment I heard it in operation. It's truly that good.
I should qualify my hyperbole by explaining a few things. First of all, I consider myself a bit of an audiophile. I'm not entirely a nutcase when it comes to sound, but I would certainly consider myself someone with a more discerning ear than the average user. Secondly, I was looking for a sound card that would give me two things in particular: excellent stereo sound, and excellent headphone usage. This sound card has dedicated hardware designed for headphones, and one can tell. It is simply the best headphone sound I've ever come across. Admittedly, if you purchased a top-end amplifier, some sound engineer somewhere will probably claim it is better, but for the money and its intended use you aren't going to beat this sound card for headphone usage. This sound card destroys the 'competition'.
When not using headphones, my sound card is plugged into a dedicated amplifier with good quality separate speakers. Again, in the domain of sound card solutions, this is the best sound I've ever heard produced from a computer, however I do wonder how noticeable the quality improvement would be if you aren't using at least decent speakers. From this point of view, I'd hesitate to suggest recommending this card to anyone who uses standard computer speakers (unless they were a heavy headphone user, of course).
One of the reasons why this sound card rinses the rest of the field for quality is the hardware employed. I won't go into the technical nitty gritty (google the card to find numerous reviews on this), but I think it suffices to say that any sound card that requires a dedicated power supply shows you that it's not your average card!
My only minor quibble is the same as the previous reviewer: the software isn't the best. It's a *bit* clunky, and changing between speakers and headphones is a little annoying, but even so, overall I forgive Asus.
This card does have an optical out, so will pass through surround sound streams, but I'm unable to comment on this as I prefer a stereo set up.
Overall, one of the best purchases I've ever made.
on 14 March 2014
Well, my Xonar SXT was installed on Monday - some trepidation, as I had belatedly begun to read about issues with 64-bit drivers.
Thankfully, no problems of any kind - the card installed first try, using the 'Uni Drivers' (latest, 1.72), although I took the precaution of disabling the on-board HD audio codec (in the BIOS) and the nVidia GFX card's onboard HD audio (in windows).
I also installed the the 'Xonar Switch' program, available from the same group, and it's is a very handy addition.
The sound is probably about as good as can be achieved using an internal card. I doubt even pro devices such RME's and Lynx's, costing several times what the Xonar does, would be an improvement.
A little history;
I had recently replaced my ageing M-audio Delta 410 with an ESI MAYA44 (both PCI cards).
The MAYA44 was a massive leap in sound quality (I think at least equal to the Xonar), but after nearly 2 months of wrestling with a random bug, possibly a compatibility issue with my Asus P8Z77-V motherboard, I gave up and bought the Xonar.
Which brings me to a major bonus with the Xonar;
both the Delta 410 and MAYA44 were apparently outputting ultrasonic or RF hash on their line-outs which, although inaudible though various linear amps (Rotel stereo integrated, Creek and Cmoy headphone), modulated my two Tripath TA2020 switching amps so that they produced noise in the audio band.
Heavy loading of the GFX card in particular caused enough buzzing and humming to spoil games.
The Xonar is completely silent, and I think this must be down to it's not using the PCIe bus for it's power, but straight off the PSU instead.
Damned good idea - why isn't it de-facto?
And another welcome feature - the other two cards produced a loud crack/thump at boot/shutdown, the Xonar just makes a quiet 'pop' when the relays on the card switch on/off as windows starts up/shuts down.
Anyway - I have bit-perfect playback of music via ASIO with Foobar when needed, and very clean up-sampling to 24/96 in Windows Media Center for everything else.
To sum up ;
The Xonar STX installed on a well-used, 18-month old build of Win7 Pro 64 on an Asus P8Z77-V system, after installation/uninstallation of two other sound cards, and it works *perfectly*.
l in all - PC audio-nirvana.
on 28 February 2014
After having problems with my on board realtek audio device I did a bit of research and wanted something with great quality and lastability. So this was among one of a number of cards I was looking at and I was mulling over it for a week or two, reading various reviews and what not, some of which made me hesitate. But I decided to bite the bullet yesterday and ordered it. I have had none of the problems others are complaining about.
I simply made sure that I did the following:
1. Download latest driver from Asus
2. Disable onboard sound through your bios.
3. Turn off PC, flick the PSU switch off.
4. Connect FP HD audio plug and 4 pin power
5. Connect 4 pin power pluf from PSU (make sure this is properly connected)
6. Slot the Card into the socket.
7. Start up PC
8. Run downloaded driver software from ASUS and BOOOOM! Prepare to be blown away.
To the sound itself... it has exceeded my expectations by a million miles. I am using Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X Open backed Hi-Fi headphones and the difference with the onboard sound and a previous low-end xonar I had bears no comparison. Listening to various types of rock, metal, country, electronic and other genres feels so authentic and exhilirating like you're listening live. Someone else described the sensation of listening through these as an eargasm, well I will take it a few steps further to say it's giving me multiple eargasms. lol.
My hackles rise at the prospect of gaming with it!
on 10 November 2015
I have this installed on an ASUS Sabertooth Z97 Mk1 Motherboard. I have been trying to get it to work reliably for over 10 months.. no luck. I works for a day or less before it freezes. It sometimes happens after a day or two but it always stops. I cannot say with certainty if this is a driver or hardware issue.
When it works: It offers a smooth and natural sound (connected to aux-in of Bowers Wilkins MM1 speakers). Very good soundstage. Not a lot of PRAT / punch. Quite a relaxing, smooth, articulate sound. I also tried this as a headphone amplifier with Sennheiser HD700. It works well and complements the smooth nature of the Sennheiser headphones. Not a punchy bass but very natural and articulate. The 10 Ohm output impedance will be a problem for headphones with 80 Ohm or less impedance.
It could have been a great product but overall I am not very happy with the soundcard. This primarily due to i) poor reliability (sound cuts off regularly and I have to reboot to get it working again) and, ii) Headphone amplifier output impedance of 10Ohms means it rules out a wide range of headphones.
I have switched to an external dac.
on 9 December 2014
First off, don't freak out that this states it doesn't run on modern windows. It does. I'm (sadly) using 8.1 and easily found a proper driver.
So. Is this thing any good?
Well, it is for hi-fidelity sound, what the electric guitar was for rock n roll. It sounds heavenly. The bass is so rich but never boomy and the high ranges and so crisp that they leave a seasoned headphone user like me feeling like I have died and been transported to an aural heaven.
Being Asus, it is brilliantly well made and has, for me, suffered no glitches at all. It even has some interesting little tools to give a really broad and spatial experience to your music.
These days, music is invariably heard in horrible, tinny, mp3 format and so to be able to hear music as it was intended to sound (I like Pink Floyd for example) is a joy.
I adore this sound card and will buy Asus hardware forever more.
on 10 March 2014
I bought this card when I first built my latest PC, but I ended up returning it.
If all you want is a great quality 2 channel sound card for music playback in this price range, then I can highly recommend this card. The sound quality is absolutely superb for the money.
Music playback is only one side of the story though, as I also wanted to use this card for recording. For that purpose, I found it to be awful. The latency was huge and it doesn't offer any kind of direct monitoring. I tried both the latest version of the drivers direct from Asus and the "unified drivers" that you can get elsewhere, but it's just not a good card for recording IMO.
The audio control panel is another negative, as even though it does the job, it's not a particularly well written piece of software.
If I was just rating this card based on its ability to play music, I'd give it 5 stars, no question (even with the somewhat dodgy software), but because of the recording issues I ended up returning the card, therefore I've knocked 2 stars off for that.
EDIT - I can't reply to comments on here for some reason, but to answer the question asked by another Amazon member, as sound is passed through the input of the card, latency may be introduced. Depending on the type of recording you're doing, for example, if you're doing multi-track recording, this can be a deal breaker. Direct monitoring allows you to directly monitor the input so that there isn't any latency. With this particular card, the latency was too high for the type of recording I wanted to do. As you bought the card for recording vinyl, presumably to convert it to MP3 or FLAC files or whatever for listening purposes, that's not a situation where you'd need direct monitoring so you'll be fine.
on 17 April 2014
I've had this card just over a month and I'm using it with Win8.1 with no issues at all using the official Asus beta drivers, no problems at all with both games and general use.
When it comes to sound production this is a real maestro, I compare it to the Sound Blaster Z a much newer card, clearly when it comes to sound age means very little as this thing quite literally wipes the floor with it, it's a far warmer, deeper, natural sound with the STX where the Z felt shallow and metallic...don't misunderstand me if you aren't especially into music on your PC and you just want to play games with "decent" sound the Z is a great and cheaper option but I wanted more.
I ordered this and the ZXR to replace the Z and the ZXR just sounded inferior out of the box, again slightly harsher and metallic, the STX produces a very relaxed sound with minimal effort, it's the Tom Jones of Sound Cards. With games I have no complaints about positional audio, I find the card produces a great immersive sound experiance, I'm not a competative FPS player so I'm cant really comment on which card will position the foorsteps of the enemy about to shank you in the back, but the Dolby headphone options with the card seem to work well enough.
If you want the best, this remains the only option IMO.