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As good as audio gets from an internal PC source .......
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.