Asus Xonar Essence STX - PCI-E Audiophile Soundcard

Test Setup and Rightmark Benchmarks

Test Setup

For the excellent Asus Xonar Essence STX, I used the following PC equipment:

Intel Q6600 @ 3.3GHz
Abit IP35 Pro
4GB OCZ ReaperX PC6400 @ 1000MHz
MSI 8800 GTX
Seagate 7200.10 250GB HDD
Coolermaster Real Power Pro 1000w PSU
Belkin AV Home Cinema Surge Protector - 7 Socket
Asus Xonar Essence STX
Abit IP35 Pro onboard sound (Realtek ALC888 codec)
Auzentech X-Fi Prelude

To bring out the best in the sound card, I have used the following Audio setup:

Sennheiser HD555 Headphones

Denon AVR-1909 AV Receiver
Mordaunt Short 906i Floorstanders (Bi-Amped, silver coated oxygen free copper)
Mordaunt Short 905i Centre Speaker (Bi-wired, silver coated oxygen free copper)
Mordaunt Short 905i Bipole Rears (300 strand oxygen free copper)

Additional Cabling:
Tacima CS929 6 Way Mains Conditioner
IXOS XHD208-300 Toslink Digital Optical Audio Cable
IXOS XHA215-300 2 RCA to 2 RCA Stereo Audio Cable

I managed to grab an Auzentech X-Fi Prelude to match against the sound quality of the Xonar Essence STX. Whilst this is more of a 'gamers' sound card, I feel it represents the closest card that the market has to offer for sound quality.


Rightmark is an audio analyser designed for testing the quality of analogue (and digital) paths of audio devices. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. – Rightmark.

Noise Level  Stereo Crosstalk

IMD test  THD Test

The figures are good in the tests, with a compliance to the standard and above. I was not happy with the connection I had to use for the noise level tests as I could not get hold of the correct wire before running the tests. The noise level gained in the test was taken at approximately 60% volume, for example. Even this inaccuracy aside, the sound card was far superior to any onboard sound and subsequently is better that that of the X-Fi preludes (not shown).

CPU Utilisation

Here we see how much of an impact using the Xonar's software based emulation has on the CPU. Results are again provided by a Righmark piece of software, this time Rightmark 3D Sound CPU Utilisation test.

(CPU Utilisation set at 16-bit/44.1KHz – 16 buffers)

(CPU Utilisation set at 16-bit/44.1KHz-128 buffers)

(CPU Utilisation set at 24-bit/96KHz 16-buffers)

(CPU Utilisation set at 24-bit/96KHz-128buffers)
The Xonar Essence stayed well below 4.5% CPU utilisation during all CPU utilisation tests. This shows that even during 24bit, 96KHz, 128buffer Direct3D Sound with EAX playback, the Essence won't take up much of your processing time at all. As the saying goes: 'time is money' and the Xonar Essence STX saves your CPU time, dedicating it to playing games or whatever you are doing at the time!
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Most Recent Comments

09-03-2009, 06:28:46

Asus give us a musically orientated soundcard to play with.

We play music LOUD and see how it does.

Read more inside....Quote

09-03-2009, 08:28:07

Nice review, but linky is to quad sli forum not this 'un.

Given the price, it looks like it would go great with my shure se530s, but if I'm sitting at my desk I prefer speakers.

Definitely a niche audiophile product (like high end headphones) but still a nice review guys.Quote

09-03-2009, 08:59:04

I prefer speakers too, which is why I hooked it up to my AV receiver

Great card and personally I don't see it as a niche product per se, it's got all the connections you'd need to use with a decent speaker system (inc digital out)Quote

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