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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 2 November 2009
I bought this sound card to replace an M-Audio 24/96, which has been the leading high-fidelity sound card for many years. The Essence is an amazing advance on the older card. I listened to Mackerras' performance of Mozart's Jupiter symphony direct from an uncompressed flac file downloaded from Linn Records. I compared it with the same download, converted to wav, burned to CD-R and played on my Naim CD player, which is priced in four figures. There was little difference. Eventually I decided the CD player was better after all, but the ability of this sound card to reproduce the vitality of the music (some call it "prat") is quite remarkable, certainly better than a cheap CD player.

So far I have not tested its recording (A-D) capabilities, something the M-Audio 24/96 does very well.

At the time I first wrote this review there were only Windows drivers available. Now there is a very good Linux driver "Virtuoso" available in the 3-series kernel.
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on 6 April 2013
I've been using creative soundcards for the past 10 years and thought time for a change after I was not pleased with their last fatality1 card. As soon as I plugged this baby in, the sound was way way different. I just downgraded from a 7.1 system to an Edifier S730 2.1 system and with this card the sound quality is just awesome. It's great for listening to music, it doesn't struggle with anything games etc and the bass is much better, and I mean a lot better. The creative card I had forced me to set the bass to -6 and the sub volume to -10 on the speaker system and in the creative console I had to turn the base down to 25% on that also, it was just silly. Not to mention there was insufficient noise shielding on the card that it would often have a fit and feedback to the motherboard when switching modes.
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on 8 July 2011
The best sound from a PC that I have ever heard!

Have spent the morning listening to the Xonar ST and have to say it's an awesome improvment over the D1/DX!
Everything is clearer, there is better balance, a better soundstage, better bass and more detail.
The highs and upper midrange are much better now and vocals stand out crystal clear.

Before with the D1 I couldn't help feeling everything was a bit muddy and vocals felt slightly buried. I even had to tweak the Xonar equalizer at the 2k, 4k and 8k mark to brighten them up a bit even though my amp was nearly set at full treble.

Now with the ST I can leave the Xonar equalizer at neutral and finally can roll the treble and bass back on my amp.

The overall sound is much more pleasing and listenable. I don't know what I was doing with that D1. It was obviously the weakest link in my setup.

Overall very happy with the ST indeed!

edit - After having upgraded the opamps to LME49720HA's, this thing is even more unbelievably incredible sounding!
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on 5 February 2011
I bought this card with a pair of Audio Technica ATH M50 and i can say the sound is more detailed and crisp..I had an Xonar DX with a pair of AKG that had a price of around 30euros.I didn't tested the ATH M50 with the DX so i can't say if the clarity is from the card or Headphones.The problem with this card is you need to learn technical tricks to get things right.For example in games you have to activate the 7.1 virtual speakers on a 2.1 system to get corect sounding and positioning.This is valid mostly in EAX games where Creative have the market..In the future all games will move to openAL.This card is more for music quality..I love the fact that you can plug both speakers and heaphones simultaniosly in the sound card and is just a matter of switching from control panel from one to another.Before i had to change cables all time behind the computer.My 2.1 Altec Lansing 5021 speakers had a headphone hole in the volume unit but the speaker system also add aditional bass / treble to the sound of the headphones.Also the volume output was very low compared to one when you connect directly the heaphones to XONAR DX.Now with Essence is much more simpler but the card is at leaset 50% more expensive than Xonar DX.Better buy a good pair of speakers / headphones to get some value from this premium card.Otherwise is not really worth..The DX and even the DG will do the trick at much lower price..
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on 26 September 2013
The essence ST sound card is an excellent PC sound card. The Card has a great signal to noise ratio( >118db) allowing a far larger dynamic range, suitable for classical music.

The Problem I find is that the excellent signal to noise ratio is drowned by the electrical and acoustic noise from the computer. The Card only shines when put inside a PC with very low electrical and acoustic noise.

If the card is put into a standard PC the fan and disk noise , apparent even when using all round earphones, is very distracting.

The Electrical noise does not become apparent until the card is connected to an amplifier, with the resulting mains hum all but destroying the low noise from the card. The mains hum can be limited , but not entirely removed, by putting the mains plugs for PC and amplifier very close together. A very short shielded high quality phono cable should be used.

The Earphone outlet, with no earth, does not suffer from earth loop hum, and is altogether excellent when used with expensive earphones on a long lead. (limiting the acoustic noise from the PC fans.)

The Card also comes with an optical output which eliminates the mains borne hum.Many PC's , however , are already fitted with identical optical outputs.
A high quality DAC is however needed to convert the optical signal to audio.

In summary, this excellent card needs an excellent low, acoustic and electrical noise PC when outputting to an excellent high quality earphone. The stereo output is prone to mains hum whilst the optical output is superfluous on a standard PC.

The Build quality is, as usual from ASUS, excellent.

Would I buy this card again?.............................Yes.
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on 24 January 2014
I cant really write a review on this product because i bought it and it would not fit my motherboard as i have a asus rampage extreme 4 board and i did not relise that it needed a plain pci slot so i learnt another lesson as i thought i knew every thing about building pc's.Anyway i sent it back and Amazon with out no quibble sent me a replacement the Asus xonar essence stx and am i glad i did, the sound from this card while the sound is on loud is brilliant, the onboard sound card i could only have it on about 70 before it would distort on certain sounds and this card just will not distort at all so if the stx and the st are nearly the same card and youve got the right pci slot you'll be very happy with this card.I use a good set of hear phones the audio technica ATM M50's http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000ULAP4U/ref=noref?ie=UTF8&psc=1&s=electronics and there brilliant with this card i also use the optical with my av amp and it does sound better than onboard so i'm really happy with this card.
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on 8 July 2015
One word.....AVOID!
If you need any persuading just do a Google search for 'Asus Xonar Essence ST sound issue' and everything will become clear! The interweb is swamped with disgruntled people trying, mostly in vane, to get this card to produce sound - any sound! (the same appears true for the Essence STX card so beware).
The card needs a power supply over and above being plugged in to the PCI slot - not something that is overly obvious when you purchase it. Just trying to get this card powered and recognised by the computer took ages.
The manufacturer's own drivers on the disc that comes with the card are out of date - no drivers for Win 7, 8 or above! You will need to download them separately and, from my experience and many others, their reliability is dubious! So much so that there are people who have produced their own unified, non-Asus drivers!
Even if you get the card powered up and recognised by your PC, trying to get it to produce sound via your speakers/headphones is another sanity testing experience. I have spent over 5 hours trying to get this sorted by going on-line and searching through various tech help sites and Asus support and still no joy! AVOID!
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on 21 June 2014
Pros: absolutely neutral, decent headphone amp, build quality, design
Cons: crappy driver?, line-in lags & seems to apply compression

Having previously owned many varieties of Creative soundcards I finally decided to take the plunge and try the Xonar ST.
I already owned two interfaces: Creative X-FI ExtremeMusic and an E-MU 0202 USB. I also already had a headphone amp in the shape of a Portaphile 627 so was finding the ST purchase a difficult one to justify.

When I listened to my X-Fi extreme music with my new very revealing Grados for the first time I was so appalled that I ordered the ASUS Xonar Essence ST. When it arrived I marveled at the design and the built quality. It looks nice, it feels nice.

What can I say? Its not warm or cold.... One word only: invisible. The ASUS Xonar Essence ST sounds different because it has no own sound. It just seems to pass the music along to the integrated headphone amp and on its way the music is neither coloured nor changed. Result: some recordings I formerly perceived as good sounding now sounded like crap while for example some muffled recordings I had now have sparkle and detail. The Xonar Essence will point out every error in the music, for sure it is not on the forgiving side. BUT: if a recording sounds warm & cozy the ASUS will sound the same, warm & cozy. Room, soundstage, dynamic - everything is flawless. It's as if the card is stepping into the background only to reveal the true face of the music it plays.

But oh... here comes the problem with its driver. In short, it's crap. ASIO doesn't work properly and ASUS doesn't seem to be capable to produce a functioning driver. It had to come up to an ASUS forum user to provide a functioning driver. Thank God, now it can even play 88.200 and 176.000 material without resampling.

A third problem: the card is sometimes presented by ASUS as a music production tool when in fact it isn't capable of that. Reason: the input (besides applying a perceptable soft compression) lags for roughly one second. Connect a keyboard to the input and press a key, the sound will arrive one second later on the headphone or line-out of the card. It doesn't matter if you use ASIO, DirectSound, Dolby Headphone etc., the lag is always there. However, the audio quality of the input mirrors the quality of the output - it's perfect.

So what do you get? It is so good that it would be extremely harsh of me to deduct a star because of its poor Asio driver/ input lag when using the line in as I don't use it for that purpose. You'll get a soundcard that'll sound perfect at its line-out and with headphones but you'll also get an awfully bad driver lagging & compressing input. You have to choose if you can live with the obstacles. If you can, you will have a tool that beats everything at its price range, something that reaches sonically towards unexpected territory: Studio Quality High End.

As long as you are not using cheapo low end desktop speakers/headphones your system will definately benefit from it, I promise you will be blown away!
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on 20 April 2014
I bought this when I discovered high definition audio. I was using a Sonar D2, but wondered whether the Essence would reveal yet more detail. Linked to a Cyrus Amp through high specification leads, my PC at last sounds as good as vinyl.
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on 20 March 2016
I wanted something that eliminates noise from the PC, especially the graphics card. It does the job. Does it sound good? I bet it does, I can't tell the difference unless I use my headphones (normally I use my nad series 20 amplifier, mission 760i speakers and a mordaunt-short subwoofer in the middle). I've yet to try it with different op-amps, but the ones they use sound totally fine to me. I'm fond of flat sounds anyway, I try to have as little colouring to it as possible
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