ASUS XONAR Essence STX PCIe Audio Card

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Audio Playback Performance - Speakers

HotHardware Audio Playback Performance

Normally, when calibrating a sound system and speakers for a room, we would set the speakers up in their final positions and then put a mobile spectrum analyzer at the key listening point. We would then attach either a standard gain or boosted gain (for microphone inputs) pink noise generator to a line in and bring the levels up. The EQ would then be adjusted to 0dB all the way across the shown EQ spectrum on the mobile analyzer. This would give us perfectly flat response for the room, meaning it would account for the different surfaces, materials and room acoustics present. Correctly mastered tracks should not need additional equalizing except to adjust for the personal preferences of the listener and the environment.

Since we are doing subjective analysis based on what the typical end user could expect we are doing all this by ear. The speakers wer set up on the opposite side of the room from the listening position, 10 feet apart, at listening height (centered at ear level), and 10" forward from the wall. A brick wall provided the backdrop. The EQ has been adjusted as shown to the right

Alesis M1 Active MKII monitors were chosen as they do not have a prohibitive price but provide specs well within the range of the card tested.

    Alsesis M1 Active II specs (for reference)
  • Frequency response - 45 Hz to 22 khz
  • Dual front ported enclosure
  • Woofer Size - 6.5" non woven carbon filter
  • Tweeter type - 1" silk dome
  • Magnetically shielded
  • Cabinet specs = 8.5x15x9.25 / 21 lbs
  • Dual active "Bi-amplifiers - 75 watt woofer / 25 watt tweeter
All tracks were listened to at "normal" (full gain on the cabinets and 50% volume on the Xonar Controller/Mixer) levels initially. Electronica or "trance" music uses more of the perceivable spectrum than modern Top 40/Rock/Etc. The only equivalent would be classical music but in keeping with its true nature it is mastered to allow the subtle imperfections in very high priced handcrafted instruments known as "character" and reflected as "colour". With our choice of source music every arpeggio, staccato, and effect used was instantly perceived in the manner the producer meant. In other words the reference material was reproduced spot on. Even after pushing the levels to 80% which normally induces distortion on this set of monitors, the high SNR of (measured 116dB) prevailed with even better separation and frankly a little too much bass which was adjusted slightly lower.

We even listened to some tracks that are not typically received as high fidelity, but feature those aforementioned subtle nuances that illicit emotions of a true audiophile as we were not so consumed with frequency response that we ignore simply great music.

Testing Selections:
Andrea Bocelli - Con te partirò in FLAC lossless audio
Andrea's crescendo makes this track powerful and Xonar captured it.

Blur - Song 2 - direct from CD
Great track that was mastered in a grunge style and the sound carries over. The Xonar accurately produced the great "raunchy" feel of this track.

Cold Play - Viva La Vida - 320k/Bits MP3

Great track that covers the spectrum of sound with orchestration and great vocals.

Street Kings - Movie - DVD

Loved the sound Keanu's Dodge Hemi growling in the speakers.

Armin Only:Imagine - Live DJ Concert - DVD

The Xonar definitely enhanced this beautifully mastered recorded performance.

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