When I had been listening to the Auzen X-Fi Prelude, I had not expected any card to surpass it. Later on, the ASUS Xonar D2 showed the weak aspects of the Prelude. And now, the Xonar Essence STX sounds better than the Xonar D2 and Prelude, and better than the X-Fi Elite Pro, and perhaps even better than any audio card in the world, but I still want some more! It is a shame that the Essence is just one step short of being perfect. It just needs better resistors and different operation amplifiers.
Of course, everyone can try to pick up operation amplifiers to his/her own taste as the developer has provided for that. But why is not the card set up properly out of the box to deliver a SNR of 124dB and maximum sound quality? There is a lot of theory available on transimpedance amplifiers and suitable opamps are specially marked by their makers. And why is the odd problem with the noise level at 44.1 kHz not solved since the Xonar D2? Developing audiophile equipment means searching for the ideal. One should not take it up unless there are ways to achieve that ideal. Or should one?
Anyway, today, the Xonar Essence STX is the best choice for a person who wants to enjoy excellent-quality music, especially in 250-300Ohm headphones. It will also be good in games and may even prove superior to X-Fi based audio cards in some gaming situations. And finally, this audio card can be used for high-quality sound recording as it offers solid ASIO support. It also offers two outputs with different connectors and significantly different sound and is based on the modern PCI Express interface. Thus, I just can’t think of a worthy opponent to this audio card in terms of functionality and sound quality.
But still, what a pity it is that such a tiny gap distanced Asus Xonar Essence STX from being absolutely ideal...