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Xonar Essence ST Coming Soon
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ROBSCIX
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Default Xonar Essence ST Coming Soon - 05-17-2009, 15:30 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

ASUS announced Friday they would be bringing the Xonar Essence ST to market very soon. AS mamy of you may remember Guru3D released a sneak peak on the Essence ST hardware awhile ago: Essence ST sneak peak

Here is the link to the ASUS Information: Press Release

World’s First Precision Tuning Down to the Picosecond for Ultra-accurate Audio Details
Xonar Essence ST is the first soundcard in the world to focus on precise audio clock tuning. Using a technique that was once only seen on top-tier living room equipment, PC users can now experience 31% less audio jitter interference and enjoy ultimate sound quality that frees the audio signal from unsynchronized input streams and results in extensive music details and lively sound image for the ultimate listening experience. The improvement is most significant during general audio CD playback where the sample rate is 44.1kHz.

Industry-leading 124dB SNR for Pure Sound, Pure Music and Pure Listening Pleasure
Utilizing only the finest components and design, ASUS has delivered a soundcard that is able to reproduce truly pure sounds at an industry-leading 124dB SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio). This is 64 times clearer the most onboard audio solutions (85–88 SNR). It also features the ASUS exclusive Hyper-grounding circuitry design that utilizes a PCB design to separate signal and noise—ensuring that only the cleanest signals are passed on to ultra-sensitive components for decoding.

The Finest Component Selection to Deliver Crisp, Clear Audio
With a top-of-the-line Burr-Brown PCM 1792A Digital-to-Analog Convertor (DAC) to convert audio signals at 127dB SNR, users will be able to enjoy minimum loss from the process of converting digital signals to analog sound. Additionally, Nichicon “Fine Gold” capacitors deliver rich bass and crystal-clear high frequencies (like the sounds from a piano or violin), allowing the Xonar Essence ST to achieve an amazing <10 Hz–90 kHz frequency response and 124dB dynamic range. Furthermore, The Xonar Essence ST’s EMI shield protects all analog outputs perfectly from any exterior electronic magnetic interference—resulting in the cleanest sound generation and delivery for the user's enjoyment.

High Density Sound Performances with Built-in Headphone Amplifier
Most quality headphones usually require additional driving power. Without it, the sound quality becomes bland. The Xonar Essence ST is equipped with a built-in headphone amplifier capable of driving every available headphone with up to 600ohms of impedance to their full extent and less than 0.001% of distortion—all without additional amplification. This ensures that only the highest density sounds can be heard from these headphones without the need to purchase an extra amplifier. Furthermore, the Xonar Essence ST also comes with swappable OPamp sockets to help tune up unique sounds effortlessly, complete with Dolby Home Theater technologies and the latest DS3D GX2.5 3D gaming engine technology.

Beefing Up Performance with Expansion Capabilities
The Xonar Essence ST is not a stand-alone product that will become obsolete with time. In fact, it is designed to be scalable so that users can enjoy fuller sound. With the high fidelity Xonar H6 multi-channel extension board, users can enjoy full 7.1 surround sound. The Xonar H6 is sold separately from the Xonar Essence ST.

Whether it is about wanting that full home theater experience, enjoying the thrills of gaming, or even just listening to music, audio quality has become a defining feature for PC users. So why should you settle for anything less than the crispest, clearest audio to ever come out of a PC?

Specifications

Audio Performance

Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted): - 124dB for Front-out, - 110dB for Headphone-out
Input Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted): 118dB
Output total harmonic distortion + Noise at 1kHz (-3dB): - 0.0003% (-110dB) for Front-out - 0.001% (-100dB) for Headphone-out [/B]
Input total harmonic distortion + Noise at 1kHz (-3 dB): 0.0002% (-113dB) for Line-in

Frequency response (-3 dB, 24-bit / 96 kHz format): <10 Hz to 90KHz
Output/Input full-scale voltage: 2 Vrms (5.65 Vp-p)
Headphone impedance Optimized for 32–600***937;

Bus Compatibility
PCI PCI 2.2 or higher

Main Chipset
Audio Processor: ASUS AV100 High-Definition Sound Processor (Max. 192KHz / 24bit)
24-bit D-A Converter of Digital Sources: Texas Instruments PCM * 1 for Front-Out (127 dB SNR, Max.192kHz / 24bit)
High Fidelity Headphone Amplifier Instruments 2 * 1 (120dB SNR, 100dB THD+N @ Vcc±12 V, RL=600 ***937;, f =1 kHz)
24-bit A-D Converter for Analog Inputs: Cirrus-Logic CS5361 * 1 (114 dB SNR, Max. 192 kHz / 24bit)

Sample Rate and Resolution
Analog playback/ recording, sample sate and resolution 44.1K / 48K / 96K / 192 KHz @ 16/24bit
S/PDIF digital output 44.1K / 48K / 96K/ 192 KHz @ 16/24bit, Dolby Digital

I/O Ports
Analog output jack: RCA jack * 2 (Front R / Front L)
6.30mm jack * 1 (Headphone out)
Analog input jack: 6.30mm jack * 1 (Shared by Line-In / Mic-In)
Digital S/PDIF output: High-bandwidth Coaxial / TOS-Link combo port supports 192KHz / 24bit
Other line-level analog input (for TV Tuner or CD-ROM): Aux-In (4-pin header on the card)
Front panel: Shared by Headphone out / 2 channels out / Microphone in

Driver Features
Operating system Windows Vista® (32 / 64bit) / Windows XP™ (32 / 64bit) / MCE2005
Dolby® technologies Dolby® Digital Live / Dolby® Headphone / Dolby® Virtual Speaker / Dolby® Pro-Logic II
ASIO 2.0 driver support Supports maximum 192KHz @ 24bit with very low latency


Do we have any opinions?

Here lets have a look:


Lets have a look at the card with the H6 DAC expansion board.


For sake of clarity, the H6 DAC Expansion baord will be offered a little later and will not be bundled with the ST on first release.

Last edited by ROBSCIX; 05-19-2009 at 01:57.
   
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Famous627
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Default 05-17-2009, 16:11 | posts: 258 | Location: Erie PA

I do like like the option to upgrade to 7.1 later on. Since this card isn't 7.1 out of the box, will it be priced about the same as the current STX?

This only complicates my new sound card decision.
   
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Default 05-17-2009, 16:30 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

There is no current informaiton related to price. I do know the ST sounds very good and we were very impressed during the testing for the Sneak Peak.
   
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Default 05-17-2009, 16:37 | posts: 1,406 | Location: U.S.

So the ST is a PCI version of the STX ?
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-17-2009, 17:20 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Yes, but there are differences in design.

The ST has a different clocking circuit and the ST has the ability to use the H6 DAC board allowing the card to support full 7.1
   
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Low Jitter ! At last !
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Default Low Jitter ! At last ! - 05-18-2009, 10:18 | posts: 8

I am very interested in this card. I had the STX but the driver didn't allow PCI sharing, or maybe there was another reason.....?....but the card kept crashing. I hope the ST / PCI version will work ! I already made an independent SMPS PSU with Oscon and ZA caps.....

The card sounded great, esp with AD8620BR op amps, and it looked like there was room for improvement by upgrading the 2.7nF caps and op amp sockets, and perhaps the Nichicon FG in the analogue circuit too.

The cap on the optical output looked suspect too.

Jitter seemed to mush the up-sampling however, and I was thinking about re-clocking it with a Vanguard TCXO 1ppm clock. With the ST, I'm gonna have to try to find out what the jitter rating of the clock is to see if a Vanguard will have a major effect. They say 31% better - so if the original was, say, 50ppm, we will have 35ppm, original 100, now 70..... I hope it wasn't over 100 !

The only major downsides were the limited-control/under-developed driver and no digital input.

If you have any more info about this card, please do post it.

Thanks !!

Last edited by Thoppa; 05-18-2009 at 10:26.
   
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live4life
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Default 05-18-2009, 10:40 | posts: 1,501 | Location: Greece/Athens

if this baby comes on PCI-E will be awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(i mean with the h6 expansion card)

Last edited by live4life; 05-18-2009 at 19:54.
   
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Default 05-18-2009, 11:12 | posts: 670 | Location: East Anglia

Hmm.. The distortion levels look very low. I like the design, but I'm sure it will be very over-priced. I would like an optical soundcard -but...
Quote:
Digital S/PDIF output: High-bandwidth Coaxial / TOS-Link combo port supports 192KHz / 24bit
I wonder if that's capable of 5.1 speaker, or even 7.1 @ 24bit.

My Audigy 2 can't do 5.1 digitally @ 24bit.
   
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Default 05-18-2009, 13:20 | posts: 77 | Location: Canada

Looks interesting, but the lack of HDMI (Not that big of a deal for me right now) and it being a PCI card instead of PCI-E do make it a bit of an oddball product.

It would be more interesting if ASUS took the HDAV1.3 Deluxe and upgraded it with higher grade components.

Do we know if the Essence ST supports/will support full rez HD audio over its analog channels when watching a blu-ray/HD DVD movie?
   
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Default 05-18-2009, 14:32 | posts: 557 | Location: Houghton, MI/(Milwaukee, WI)

Can't wait for this card. Kinda wish it had DTS support though.

but other then that, it sounds like the ultimate HTPC card as well, due to the add-on card.

Quote:
The Xonar Essence ST card can also be upgraded to 7.1 channel output with the use of the Xonar H6 multi-channel extension board, which will be sold separately in the near future.
Bah. they should just sell the both of them... but ah well.
   
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Default 05-18-2009, 15:16 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thoppa View Post
I am very interested in this card. I had the STX but the driver didn't allow PCI sharing, or maybe there was another reason.....?....but the card kept crashing. I hope the ST / PCI version will work ! I already made an independent SMPS PSU with Oscon and ZA caps.....

The card sounded great, esp with AD8620BR op amps, and it looked like there was room for improvement by upgrading the 2.7nF caps and op amp sockets, and perhaps the Nichicon FG in the analogue circuit too.

The cap on the optical output looked suspect too.

Jitter seemed to mush the up-sampling however, and I was thinking about re-clocking it with a Vanguard TCXO 1ppm clock. With the ST, I'm gonna have to try to find out what the jitter rating of the clock is to see if a Vanguard will have a major effect. They say 31% better - so if the original was, say, 50ppm, we will have 35ppm, original 100, now 70..... I hope it wasn't over 100 !

The only major downsides were the limited-control/under-developed driver and no digital input.

If you have any more info about this card, please do post it.

Thanks !!
The clocking circuit on the ST is a high end chip and is rated for 1ppm. -IIRC
I havee been testing the ST since the Sneak Peak was released here at Guru3D
If you have any questions let me know..

Last edited by ROBSCIX; 05-18-2009 at 15:53.
   
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Default 05-18-2009, 16:20 | posts: 8

Hi Rob !

Thanks for the reply. I read your sneak preview - you lucky man ! - and the card sounds like a low-jitter PCI version of the STX. I can hardly wait....!!!

Can I ask you a few questions ? Is the driver the same as the stx ? How do you know the xo is 1ppm ? (Do you have a link to a spec sheet or was this info from Asus...).

Are there any other hardware changes other than the xo, clock circuit and PCI-e bridge chip ?

Have Asus or can you predict the availability ?

BTW, have you rolled the op amps ? What's your preference ?

Thank you VERY much !

Tom
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-18-2009, 17:15 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thoppa View Post
Hi Rob !

Thanks for the reply. I read your sneak preview - you lucky man ! - and the card sounds like a low-jitter PCI version of the STX. I can hardly wait....!!!

Can I ask you a few questions ? Is the driver the same as the stx ? How do you know the xo is 1ppm ? (Do you have a link to a spec sheet or was this info from Asus...).

Are there any other hardware changes other than the xo, clock circuit and PCI-e bridge chip ?

Have Asus or can you predict the availability ?

BTW, have you rolled the op amps ? What's your preference ?

Thank you VERY much !

Tom
I read it from the Spec sheet for the clocking chip. I looked through my database and here is the link for the Clock Chip:CS2000

From research I have done, many of my associates say that this clock chip is the next big thing in audio design as it is highly accurate.
The changes from the STX are:

The ST is PCI
The ST has an added clock cleanup chip
The ST has a pin header to allow upgradability to 7.1

For opamp rolling, Yes, I have a large collection of opamps. With the ST there are three opamps per stereo pair. 2 I/V and 1 single end buffer which allows a great deal of "tunability" The H6 DAC board also has 3 opamps per channel.

Last edited by ROBSCIX; 08-25-2009 at 18:12.
   
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TracesofCopper
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Default 05-18-2009, 17:19 | posts: 41 | Location: Between here and there

Ahhh, a new clock! I wish I would have heard more about the clock on the STX before hand. I know It's probably not possible seeing how the STX was made for stereo/HP, but does anyone know if the daughter card will be available for the STX? That's what I thought, can't be done. Not a big deal, I'm not a HTPC geek anyhow, just music.

Last edited by TracesofCopper; 05-18-2009 at 17:22.
   
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Default 05-18-2009, 17:21 | posts: 8

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post
I read it from the Spec sheet for the Clocking chip. I will look aroudn for the info and post it when I find it.
Yes please !!

Actually, I'm not interested in 7.1 ( I only have 2 ears...hehe ) so I'm thinking about this or the Claro Halo, but with a 1ppm clock and the independent power supply, this card wins !

1ppm on a sound card. wow. I'm speechless. A dream has come true....

I bet it sounds delicious !

Thanks again.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-18-2009, 17:30 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

There is a link for the clocking chip breif, in post #13..I edited the post when you were replaying I guess. Anyway, Click here: CS2000

Yes sounds quite nice on my system.

I am pretty sure that ASUS woudl be the first conumser based soundcard designer to concentrate on the clocking circuit to clean up any jitter.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-18-2009, 17:55 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Quote:
Originally Posted by TracesofCopper View Post
Ahhh, a new clock! I wish I would have heard more about the clock on the STX before hand. I know It's probably not possible seeing how the STX was made for stereo/HP, but does anyone know if the daughter card will be available for the STX? That's what I thought, can't be done. Not a big deal, I'm not a HTPC geek anyhow, just music.
The STX doesn't have a bad clock. It is just the ST has a exceptional clocking circuit.

The ST has a in header to allow the H6 DAC board to be connected. The STX does not have this header so conencting the board is impossible.
   
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Thoppa
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Default 05-18-2009, 18:04 | posts: 8

Hi,

Thank you !

It will reduce the jitter before exporting this to the ICs on the card.

Unfortunately, this is not going to be as good as a 1ppm clock....but it will reduce jitter; almost as good ? This is pretty decent and certainly a new standard for sound cards, but not as good as the clocks in my SACD or DAC, which is what my dream is...1 ppm at 44 KHz is about 20 ps I think...

There is better data here :

http://pdf1.alldatasheet.com/datashe...S2000-OTP.html

It says the typical jitter is 70ps rms = 4ppm @ 44Khz....So we have something comparable to a very good CD player ? But the circuit uses 24.576Mhz so ... hmmm.... need a calculator !

So it looks like I might still want a better clock ! Maybe....

Thanks again,

Tom

Last edited by Thoppa; 05-18-2009 at 19:19.
   
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TracesofCopper
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Default 05-18-2009, 18:16 | posts: 41 | Location: Between here and there

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post
The STX doesn't have a bad clock. It is just the ST has a exceptional clocking circuit.
Is that because some people say pcie doesn't handle music data well and pci supposedly does?
   
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Thoppa
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Default 05-18-2009, 18:19 | posts: 8

Quote:
Originally Posted by TracesofCopper View Post
Is that because some people say pcie doesn't handle music data well and pci supposedly does?
No, it's because people post ideas without any evidence of what they are saying - the interface does affect things like power but for things like jitter, this is a fundamental of the XO and is essential for a card that upsamples 44 to 192. Plus the DAC is an oversampling IC, and this also needs low jitter to sing.

Last edited by Thoppa; 05-18-2009 at 18:28.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-18-2009, 20:29 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thoppa View Post
Hi,

Thank you !

It will reduce the jitter before exporting this to the ICs on the card.

Unfortunately, this is not going to be as good as a 1ppm clock....but it will reduce jitter; almost as good ? This is pretty decent and certainly a new standard for sound cards, but not as good as the clocks in my SACD or DAC, which is what my dream is...1 ppm at 44 KHz is about 20 ps I think...

There is better data here :

http://pdf1.alldatasheet.com/datashe...S2000-OTP.html

It says the typical jitter is 70ps rms = 4ppm @ 44Khz....So we have something comparable to a very good CD player ? But the circuit uses 24.576Mhz so ... hmmm.... need a calculator !

So it looks like I might still want a better clock ! Maybe....

Thanks again,

Tom

I have read information on the various chips awhile back and have them in my personal database. IIRC, the CS2000 is the top of the CS2XXX line.

There is info also to suggest the multiplier is highly accurate with less then 1ppm of error when used in high resolution mode so it will clean up the external XO signal quite good before sending the clocking signal to the other IC's.

Typical values are fine to give a idea of operation. but if their was a high degree of circuit tuning then the end results can be highly accurate depending on the supporting circuitry.

This chip can be found in a few high dollar SACD/blu-ray players and high end receivers.
You have to factor the price of the card into the equation when considering the design. This will be possibly a $180 product as that is what the STX is price at..possibly less.

Last edited by ROBSCIX; 05-18-2009 at 20:43.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-18-2009, 20:37 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Quote:
Originally Posted by TracesofCopper View Post
Is that because some people say pcie doesn't handle music data well and pci supposedly does?
No either seem to work equally well from my experience.
   
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TracesofCopper
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Default 05-18-2009, 21:38 | posts: 41 | Location: Between here and there

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thoppa View Post
No, it's because people post ideas without any evidence of what they are saying - the interface does affect things like power but for things like jitter, this is a fundamental of the XO and is essential for a card that upsamples 44 to 192. Plus the DAC is an oversampling IC, and this also needs low jitter to sing.
I wasn't quite sure what they were on about with that Idea? I never got involved in that discussion, It all seemed like nonsense to me. Just wanted to know if there was any validity to the claim.
   
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jamiee
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Default 05-18-2009, 23:22 | posts: 77 | Location: Canada

So ROBSCIX, What do you have the ST hooked up to ?
(Electronics and speakers)
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-19-2009, 00:38 | posts: 16,158 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Just added some pictures. Pretty sure they are from the sneak Peak. I will look through and see if I have some others, that people may be interested in.
   
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