Pros: 7.1 audio with very high signal-to-noise ratio for excellent clarity, Headphone amplifier, Digital Audio processing software
Cons: No HDMI port, Requires an available 4-pin MOLEX power connector
Review: Treat your ears to the best sounds your computer can make with the ASUS XONAR Essence STX Sound card. The excellent audio processing power in this device is perfect for musicians and audiophiles who demand absolute clarity and thundering dynamics in their music, while, as a nice side bonus, the XONAR's elegant black-and-gold construction tips in a little more style into your computer case. This internal sound card makes use of a spare PCI-E X1 Slot, and will require that you have an available 4-pin MOLEX connector to provide it with power. In return though, you get sheer auditory bliss whether you are listening to music, watching movies, or playing games. With an ASUS AV100 chipset onboard, this sound card produces a Virtual 7.1 Channel environment with 192Kbps sampling. The XONAR STX boasts of a device benchmark of a 124 dB SNR rating, which brings out every little detail that your onboard sound card misses. It appears to cater more to headphones users, as it has an actual built-in headphone amplifier that boosts the sound that it channels into your earphones, as well as an EMI shield that insulates signals and lessens distortion. This sound card comes fully loaded with the best digital audio processing suites on the market. With the ASUS XONAR Essence, you get Dolby Digital Live, Headphone, Virtual Speaker, and Pro-Logic II Technology, which all work in sync to produce a total sound environment. It also enhances on some of your operating system's own sound processing drivers. The back panel of the ASUS XONAR Essence has the connection ports for auxiliary equipment, such as left and right Analog RCA outputs, a pair of 6.30mm jacks, one input and the other output, for headphones and microphones/Line-in devices, and a S/PDIF port that you use for connecting the XONAR Essence to Digital audio devices. The thing we were looking for on the ASUS XONAR Essence STX Sound Card is an HDMI port, and this may very well be the main issue with this sound card. Instead of HDMI, it uses an additional S/PDIF out located on the board itself that you need to connect to a graphics card with that particular functionality, which translates to a bit more time setting up the unit than is really necessary if that particular technology had been available from the outset. For headphone users though, this sound card is a definite easy sell, especially as it works great with high-quality headsets.
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