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on 11 September 2014
What a sound.
What; a; sound.

I have this hooked up to my Z-5500s. Tried with my IE80s (finesse), and Strix Pro (gaming) and I feel like I'm only limited by the equipment I connect to it.

I have encountered no driver issues at all (I did a full re-install on a SSD due to other hardware changes).

I cannot fathom why people don't see audio the same light they do a new gfx card. A wicked audio card, that this is the epitome of, will last you years. Build after build it will be migrated, and providing you have decent supporting gear to showcase it's abilities, you will never reget a single spent penny.

This card has "bang for buck" and you will not believe this review until you hear it for yourself.

The caveat, it unlocks the potential of supporting sound equipment.
A 2.1 set of stero speakers you bought from PC World, that cost you a fiver, can't showcase it's abilities - but a top of the line logitech surround sound set (approx £200) + this card, in my oppinion, will trump any of the > £1k 'home cinema' sets ups you can buy; importantly at far, far, less expense.

Buy this card. Don't check your balance, ask your wife etc, just do it.
Once fitted, you will echo this review.
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on 17 December 2015
Bought this to replace an aging Creative SoundBlaster XFi Platinum, the PCI version, that came with a front panel and a remote.
Therefore, I'll compare the xonar with the xfi.

I use the sound-cards to listen to music on a Logitech Z5500 via analog direct, watch movies w/ spdif passthrough via coax, listen to music and play games using various headphones, the most high-end being a pair of Senn HMD280.

Music via speakers, analog:
- similar sound, more bassy on the xonar, more 'rich' on the xfi.
- on the xfi I had enabled the "crystalizer" function, which made a difference, for the better, and a similar function is missing on xonar
- on the xfi I also had enabled the "CMSS surround" function, which also made a difference, and the xonar doesn't have something similar when choosing output as 6 speakers (5.1)

Music via headphones:
- on the xfi, I was using the front panel 6.5mm jack, on the xonar I'm using the back 6.5mm phones jack.
- on the lowest power setting, the xonar makes the HMD280 sound washed out. On a higher power setting, it sounds almost as good as the xfi, but not quite.
- the xonar has DD headphone functions, which do add some surround sensation, and some tracks sound ok & better with the mode on, others sound worse than the unaltered original. Compared to the CMSS + crystalizer combination - which I always had on - it's not worth it.

Gaming, headphones or speakers : no discernible difference

Movies, w/ spdif passthrough: no discernible difference
- there are some discussions whether even with passthrough, the xfi was adding effects to the sounds, but honestly I haven't tested that.
- with passthrough, in theory, there shouldn't be any difference between the two, since the speaker system is doing the audio track decoding.

Other notes:
- the xfi had a front panel with various connectors/jacks, the most important being the headphone and mic. Each had an analog volume control, that could be used without the need of any software and found it very helpful.
- I don't know the power output of the xfi front panel but it was enough to drive the HMD280
- I've connected the xonar to the case front audio panel, and when using that, the sound IS worse than using the jacks in the back, and the microphone picks up interference, but it is usable for Skype and other apps. Using the xonar's back jacks for mic and phones sounds better & it's without interference.
- the drivers for the xfi have been problematic since day one and have continued to be, for my model. The xonar ones, while beta (?) don't have any issues so far
- the xfi's settings control panel is more polished and better looking, even if it has used the same interface since 2010. The xonar's is more spartan, but at the end of the day, they both work.
- the xfi could be configured from software to switch from speaker to headphones and back, when plugging headphones in. For the xonar, you have to manually select the source, or you won't have (proper) sound.
- fortunately, neither of them have hard wired connectors, which means you can have your speakers AND headphones plugged at the same time, and just select the source for the xonar, or have both working for the xfi, without needing to select anything
- for the xfi, sometimes you had to switch in software between line-in/coax out at the back, also depending on mode, since that jack was shared. On the xonar, you don't, since you also have more connectors/jacks.
- the xonar has a relay for 'de-popping', which makes an audible click when you change the output (from 5.1 to headphones for instance)
- for the xonar you can switch amps, which would improve your sound (there are online threads on the subject) but the best amps are expensive, so it would add to the cost quite a bit. I have not yet tried this.

And now for the grand finally: would I recommend this? Yes, it's probably the best PCIE sound-card you can get at the moment. Would I have preferred an updated & improved xfi from Creative? Absolutely.

L.E: from other reviews, Creative's latest boards might be better just for gaming, but without getting the ZXR and switching its amps, it looks like they're a bit behind overall. Creative also has chosen to drop the cristalizer and cmss, and instead use that tech in other products, such as headphones. They are also providing DD headphone functions for the soundcards, which are, in my opinion, a step back.
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on 8 October 2014
This soundcard paired with my edifier RT1600 active speakers provides an amazing listening experience.

The experience of watching content on the PC has now excelled as the soundcard greatly enhances the immersive nature of the audio content. There is a much more dynamic audio environment, imbuing tones with a greater punch and depth, whilst enhancing background sounds with nuanced subtleties.

There are lots of options to mess around with, each setting sounds good in its own way and will come down to personal preference in the end. I am using HIFI preset mode with 8 channels and 96KHz sample rate.

My only complaint is the software/control panel, it is horribly designed.
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on 18 June 2014
After having some issues with a Creative ZXR (The infamous channel swapping bug with PCIe PLX chips), i decided to try this. Most people raving about how much better the drivers are.

The card come in a flashy package (typical of Asus), the Creative ZXR is more solidly built, but the STX uses the exact same DAC, i was not expecting much difference. But in terms of drivers, the first message i got is "Choose not to restart the computer, some functions may cause no effect, please restart the computer later". They obviously speak a different English than i am used to, but heck, this is just a warning message. So just rebooted. After i tried to play some music, its not bad, but its definitely flatter than the ZXR. Much flatter (and disabled all effects on the ZXR). Well see how can i tweak these, but lets move on the next item. There is no 5.1 surround over analog speakers. Nada. None. There is only one configuration for 5.1 is with side speakers, there is no way to get 5.1 with the classic 2 front, 2 back, 1 center, 1 subwoofer. This card only does 5.1 with two side speakers, only 7.1 allows me to use rear speakers.

The drivers are a joke compared to Creative's. This is what most reviews praised, but after the ZXR its like going back to the stone age. It looks like a Windows 3.1 application, miniature icons, no settings, apart from the stock CMedia options (this card is powered by an archaic cmedia chip)

- Its not recommened for gaming (i am sure they could improve it with drivers, but if the Xonar Phoebus is any indication, it probably wont)
- 5.1 speaker support is flaky (i could get it to work in 7.1, but then i lose the output from side speakers)
- I dont like the sound of the card - something is not right the way it reproduces low frequency sounds)
- Games.... Well, my experience with this card so far only proved that it was not designed for such purpose.And since the card sounds weird in low frequency, explosions sound weird.
- Movies : this is where the card is actually shows some promise.
- Music : flat sound, and it wont pick up the number of channels from the media stream, must be manually selected for the entire system. Missing the Creative feature where it can upmix per application. This is just a sign of primitive drivers.

In essence, if you would use this card is to listen to music, and don't play games, get this one (headphone output is nice). Its a bit pricey for that. If you think that Creative drivers are the worst, get this card, and you will appreciate them much more. After 2 days with card, I am not convinced that it worth's its price. The drivers let it down. Its performs well on basic scenarios. Anything more complex (listen to a mp3 while playing a game) , and you will run into its limitations.

Update 18/10/2014:
* Some games crashes on new games/game restarts, and if this happens the card outputs static noise, and reboot required to clean it up.
* No driver updates since release. 6 months by now.
* Reduced to two stars - support is abysmal. (3 stars = average product).

Update 18/05/2015:
* Downrated to one star for not having a single driver update since it was released, and the extremely high audio latency.
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on 9 December 2015
The sound card was shipped with no damage; the card itself works wonderfully with no audible distortion, and the H6 daughter board provides true surround, both were easy to install and works on windows 10.
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on 15 June 2016
Tried everything, this sound card would not work in my windows 10 computer. And very poor technical support from Asus.
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on 3 January 2015
As I understand from reviews of this sound card's predecessor (STX I), the ASIO driver was not fit for purpose. In my experience, it is just the same with this card. In fact, when going through ASUS technical help, they immediately advised my using a third-party workaround driver (ASIO4ALL) - an absurdity given that the card is advertised with native ASIO driver support.

ASUS technical help finally said that their R&D department only tests this card on Foobar2000. The implication of this, of course, is that ASIO may not work with any other audio software; indeed it did not work with any of my software (e.g. Sibelius, Kontakt Player).

Although I did not have an issue with the sound card's audio capabilities, I would not recommend this card to anyone who needs a reliable ASIO driver. In addition, the software interface looks like it was designed in the 1980s.

Also beware: the saga of dealing with ASUS technical help is not something I would want to go through again. It is the worst, prevaricating technical "help" I have ever come across.
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