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The Official Asus Xonar Essence STX/ST music server

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
Most of the posting on Xonar shows up in the AVS "Home Theater Computers" forum.

But music server is a 2 channel thing and it belongs here.

Newegg shows quite a number of different Xonar cards, ranging from $50 to $240.

I've a Asus Xonar Essence STX ATI-e (1x) and it works great as a 2 channel music server.

Bottom line at this point:

1. The Asus Xonar Essence STX PC sound card (mine is a PCI-e (1x) version; Newegg shows quite a number of different Xonar cards from $50 to $240) is a very very good sound card for a 2 channel music server PC setup.

2. There is a SQ (Sound Quality) difference depending on the card's output used. With the digital coax output providing the best 2 channel SQ. A solid center cable works best in my experience, see www.bluejeanscable.com for digital cables; which is what I'm presently using (Belden 1694A cable with Canare connectors), even though I have more experience with the similar Canare cable.

3. The free EAC ripping software (for CD discs) has shown me why I sometimes get dropouts from some of my audio discs (both CD and hybrid SACD). Solved the problem. It puzzled me for a very long time; drove me crazy at times; tried different things but nothing worked. This alone makes the whole thing worth while.


Cheers


= Edit 1 & 2 (below); July 6, 2010 =

A couple months before this first post, I made the assumption that I had to have a *separate* sound card in my PC in order to output digital from the PC via s/pdif.

Appears that that assumption was not correct, as most (all?) current mobo's have on-board audio circuitry built-in.

What a high end sound card provides is analog sound that is likely better than that of the on-board audio circuitry.

Thanks to those who've posted.

After sleeping on it, I'll leave this thread open.

Currently, I have the STX soundcard pulled out of the computer, but expect to put in back in and revisit the card's analog out L/R sound.
= =
post #2 of 44
I just bought one of these cards (essence pci version) after reading a lot of the reviews online but haven't received it yet

I'm curious as to why you think the coax digital out gives the best sq. one of the best features of this card is the DAC and the output stages to the line out analog output and the headphone amp.

i could be wrong, but wouldn't any sound card with a digital out (coax or optical) give you the same results?
post #3 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wai2sexy View Post

I just bought one of these cards (essence pci version) after reading a lot of the reviews online but haven't received it yet


The review that made me decide to get one was John Atkinson's, see: http://stereophile.com/computeraudio...tx_soundcards/


Quote:
Originally Posted by wai2sexy View Post

I'm curious as to why you think the coax digital out gives the best sq. one of the best features of this card is the DAC and the output stages to the line out analog output and the headphone amp.


It's just my own subjective conclusion. I also have not tried the built in headphone capability.

The only extra work I've done so far, is to actually try 3 different stereo outputs from the card: 1) optical digital (Toslink) cable (ok but not great), 2) coax digital cable which turned out to be great (unexpected pleasant surprise), and 3) the standard analog L/R RCA jacks (the worst sound of the 3 stereo line level outputs).

I've done the bare minimum setting the card up, and am using it for standard red book playback.

FWIW, I had an unused mini-ATX case and 4GB of DDR2 memory, which restricted the mobo choice somewhat. If I were setting up from scratch, I'd still do mini-ATX but with DDR3 memory. The key was that most mini-ATX mobo's have built-in video and I decided to not worry about a separate video board (more noise and more heat). Also I'm using Win XP 32 bit for this machine.

I also searched "STX" in two of the long AVS Xonar threads (in the "Home Theater Computers" forum), but didn't find much in terms of actually using the card. What I did find was the sticky thread on free software: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=399319

...which led to the flac site: http://flac.sourceforge.net/ which got me to try flac and EAC, and the Winamp player (all free).


Quote:
Originally Posted by wai2sexy View Post

i could be wrong, but wouldn't any sound card with a digital out (coax or optical) give you the same results?


You're just playing Devil's advocate, right?

If you do a simple search at Newegg for "xonar" you get 9 results.

The card you just bought is $10 more expensive than my STX, and currently the most expensive of the 9.


Cheers
post #4 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wai2sexy View Post

...i could be wrong, but wouldn't any sound card with a digital out (coax or optical) give you the same results?


I mis-read this earlier, and will try again.

First, I'm not an EE, but to me there's no guarantee that what comes out of the optical digital output is going to be identically the same (the 1s and 0s) as the coax digital output. For one thing there are likely enough circuit differences to guarantee that the output is not identically the same.

Then too, there's the cable used. In a recent Blu-ray thread on Ayre's new player, Charles Hansen (president of Ayre (?)) made a number of highly interesting comments about his views of what goes into good equipment, including that coax digital cables tend to add less jitter than Toslink cables, but that Toslink would isolate the preamp from the noisy (electrically noisy) PC case, which is why I 1st used a Toslink cable, figuring that that made sense.

And please, I don't want to get side-tracked off onto the subject of jitter.

The bottom line is that I don't know why they sound different, just that they do. Keep an open mind and try it yourself. Our two cards (Xonar Essence ST and Xonar Essence STX) are similar enough that I think it's likely you'll notice a difference that favors the coax digital output.

On a related topic, the free EAC software will sometimes be unable to rip a CD disc due to the disc being so flawed that the error correction can't overcome the flaws, which is why I would sometimes get sound dropouts with some of my discs. I don't get sound dropouts with my EAC ripped files.

Bits are ethereal, they are not written in stone.

Cheers
post #5 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wai2sexy View Post

I just bought one of these cards (essence pci version) after reading a lot of the reviews online but haven't received it yet

I'm curious as to why you think the coax digital out gives the best sq. one of the best features of this card is the DAC and the output stages to the line out analog output and the headphone amp.

i could be wrong, but wouldn't any sound card with a digital out (coax or optical) give you the same results?


OK, I've given input and would like some from you.

e.g. are you setting up your PC as a music server?

And when you do get your Asus Xonar Essence ST card,
kindly post what you think of the SQ (Sound Quality)
via the 3 2-channel output options. Thanks in advance.

--- ---

Now that I like the sound and that the small .flac lossless file format has proven itself to my ear, I'm absolutely focused on using this PC strictly as a 2 channel music server, with .flac rips (via EAC) to hard drive. Standard red book format.

Now that I'm sure that I like the sound, my current interest is to move from a single 300GB SATA hard drive to as large as I can reasonably back up. Target is maybe a single 800GB SATA drive. I know I can do 500GB without a sweat, but am uncertain of easily backing up larger single drives.

I've tried RAID and I don't like it for this type application; more drives = more heat and more noise, and RAID = longer boot times and more complexity when things go wrong (which sooner or later they always do).

I do not plan on using more than one hard drive in this PC. Reasons being heat and noise and weight, as well as there's no need to transfer/copy large (greater than 1GB of data) amounts of data which works better when you have 2 separate drives in the PC. This isn't a video machine, it's a music server.


Cheers
post #6 of 44
Just a quick input, I too am using one of these cards (STX version) using the RCA out for the last week, and I've fallen in love with it. Upgraded from a Creative Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro (I love typing that whole thing out).
post #7 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

First, I'm not an EE, but to me there's no guarantee that what comes out of the optical digital output is going to be identically the same (the 1s and 0s) as the coax digital output. For one thing there are likely enough circuit differences to guarantee that the output is not identically the same.

The Toslink Tx module is basically a LED being given the same signal as the coax, so there will be no difference between them.

Using the Xonar board as an SPDIF pass through is a waste of the board's capabilities and you would have to prove it empirically that it was better than a generic motherboard based SPDIF controller.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

Then too, there's the cable used. In a recent Blu-ray thread on Ayre's new player, Charles Hansen (president of Ayre (?)) made a number of highly interesting comments about his views of what goes into good equipment, including that coax digital cables tend to add less jitter than Toslink cables, but that Toslink would isolate the preamp from the noisy (electrically noisy) PC case, which is why I 1st used a Toslink cable, figuring that that made sense.

I've been reading about all the purported noise inside a PC (Atkinson from linked Xonar review: "housed in the hostile RF environment of a personal computer") but it doesn't show up in the measurements on something as sensitive as a SYS2272, so it's a moot point.

I have yet to see a jitter difference measured between the coax and Tos outputs of the same system, but if you have a link, I'd be glad to read it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

The bottom line is that I don't know why they sound different, just that they do. Keep an open mind and try it yourself. Our two cards (Xonar Essence ST and Xonar Essence STX) are similar enough that I think it's likely you'll notice a difference that favors the coax digital output.

If you believe you will, I'm sure you will.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

On a related topic, the free EAC software will sometimes be unable to rip a CD disc due to the disc being so flawed that the error correction can't overcome the flaws

I've been using EAC for several years, and have never found a disc yet it wouldn't read. I had one example of an irreplaceable disc that looked like it had been put on a road face down and a hot shoe shuffle danced on it. It took several hours, but I got an audibly good copy from it that played with no obvious errors. It wouldn't even be recognised in most players before EAC and a re-burn onto a new disc.
post #8 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

...Now that I'm sure that I like the sound, my current interest is to move from a single 300GB SATA hard drive to as large as I can reasonably back up. Target is maybe a single 800GB SATA drive. I know I can do 500GB without a sweat, but am uncertain of easily backing up larger single drives.


Got busy today and made the switch from the 300GB SATA hard drive (3 years old) to a current Samsung 500GB SATA hard drive. 46GB of data cloned in just under 15 minutes, so ~ 3.1GB/minute data transfer rate.

Did some other stuff including switching to a less powerful PSU (350 watt Seasonic vs the Antec 620 watt PSU) simply because I was pretty sure that 350 watts is adequate for this PC, and sure enough it is.

Expanded the XP partition to use up most of the new space, via a partition manager.

Did another clone, this time with the new 500GB Samsung to a new 1TB Western Digital Blue. Same 46GB cloned in just over 7 minutes, so ~ 6.3GB/minute data transfer rate. Which will be adequate for up to maybe 350GB of data on the music server.

PC seems to be stable with the spare SATA cable lying on the case bottom, but I'll say that with more confidence in another couple of weeks. The thing that will take months is whether the more fragile SATA connectors (power and data; on the temporary back up SATA hard drives) will hold up to repeatedly connecting and disconnecting them.

Cheers
post #9 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

I've been reading about all the purported noise inside a PC (Atkinson from linked Xonar review: "housed in the hostile RF environment of a personal computer") but it doesn't show up in the measurements on something as sensitive as a SYS2272, so it's a moot point.

I have yet to see a jitter difference measured between the coax and Tos outputs of the same system, but if you have a link, I'd be glad to read it.


The two worthy AVS people, that have made repeated comments on jitter that I have found most interesting, are Charles Hansen (president of Ayre (I think)) and Amir (tag of: "Semi-retired Digital Media/HD DVD insider (circa fall 2007)" and uses the AVS handle of: amirm)

Amir's jitter comments are spread out; so good luck with that if you want to pursue it.

Hansen's recent jitter comments can easily be found in the Blu-ray player forum in the thread titled "Ayre DX-5 bluray player" at: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1181755

The thread is now some 668 posts long, yet well worth reading for the wide ranging comments by Hansen on audio matters that go well beyond Blu-ray players.

BTW, to me jitter is at most a side issue in this thread on the Essence STX/ST sound card used in a PC as a music server.

The bottom line
The bottom line
The bottom line
(note deliberate repeat)
...is that the Asus Essence sound cards (STX and ST) allow one to set up a cheap small quiet cool light-weight PC with an 800GB hard drive using .flac loss-less audio files as a very very good sounding music server.

I don't own any other recent "high-end" sound cards, so have no idea how any of them might work as the heart of a music server PC.

FWIW, my own inexpensive PC with an Essence STX sound card, has sound quality that compares favorably to my dedicated Harmon Kardon DMC1000 ($3k new) music server. Unfortunately, the DMC1000 is limited to a 200GB hard drive with either .wav files (or lossy .mp3 files). The DMC1000 also has the fault of ripping a disc to the hard drive with occasional audio dropouts.

I took a look at the Olive Opus threads in the CD forum, and am happy that I did not go that route.


Cheers
post #10 of 44
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by OtherSongs:
"On a related topic, the free EAC software will sometimes be unable to rip a CD disc due to the disc being so flawed that the error correction can't overcome the flaws"


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

I've been using EAC for several years, and have never found a disc yet it wouldn't read. I had one example of an irreplaceable disc that looked like it had been put on a road face down and a hot shoe shuffle danced on it. It took several hours, but I got an audibly good copy from it that played with no obvious errors. It wouldn't even be recognised in most players before EAC and a re-burn onto a new disc.


Kindly post any extra thing(s) that you did in order to get a complete and good rip of the CD. Should be helpful for a newbie like me, and likely others also.

The one thing that I did do, was to stop EAC, then open the CD tray and re-center the CD, and then try again one track at a time with the tracks that still hadn't ripped. Most of the time that got me over the flawed parts of marginal discs. But not always.


Cheers
post #11 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

The Toslink Tx module is basically a LED being given the same signal as the coax, so there will be no difference between them.


Seems likely but then again maybe not?


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

Using the Xonar board as an SPDIF pass through is a waste of the board's capabilities and you would have to prove it empirically that it was better than a generic motherboard based SPDIF controller.


I asked Gigabyte their price for the optional S/PDIF In and Out cable.

It's close to 1/2 the motherboard price. Screw that.


Cheers
post #12 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

Kindly post any extra thing(s) that you did in order to get a complete and good rip of the CD. Should be helpful for a newbie like me, and likely others also.

The one thing that I did do, was to stop EAC, then open the CD tray and re-center the CD, and then try again one track at a time with the tracks that still hadn't ripped. Most of the time that got me over the flawed parts of marginal discs. But not always.


Cheers

I don't do anything special to the discs, except to was particularly crappy ones in warm soapy water and dry them with a lint free cloth. My disc drive is a nothing special Sony at the moment and the previous was a Pioneer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

Seems likely but then again maybe not?

It's a simple logic driver with a current limiting resistor and the LED. The driver has vastly more BW than the LED and plastic pipe, but even that has about 10x what is needed for the use.

I've read most of the Ayre thread and whilst there is some info WRT jitter it is nothing I haven't seen before and gives nothing that accounts for actual audibility such as AES papers, so not of much use. However, apart from the justification of a marginally improved BRP for 20x the price, there were a lot of interesting bit'n'bobs of useful info.


Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

I asked Gigabyte their price for the optional S/PDIF In and Out cable.

It's close to 1/2 the motherboard price. Screw that.


Cheers

Well that sucks. Mine is also a Giga MB and it has SPDIF RCA on the back panel. I've never used mine though as I connected to the SPDIF output of the M Audio Audiophile 24192 when I was trying to get it to work under V64 and never changed it out. Don't use it much though as the card is mainly used for measurement work.
post #13 of 44
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by A9X-308:
"The Toslink Tx module is basically a LED being given the same signal as the coax, so there will be no difference between them."

Originally Posted by OtherSongs:
"Seems likely but then again maybe not?"


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

It's a simple logic driver with a current limiting resistor and the LED. The driver has vastly more BW than the LED and plastic pipe, but even that has about 10x what is needed for the use.


What is "BW"?


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

I've read most of the Ayre thread and whilst there is some info WRT jitter it is nothing I haven't seen before and gives nothing that accounts for actual audibility such as AES papers, so not of much use. However, apart from the justification of a marginally improved BRP for 20x the price, there were a lot of interesting bit'n'bobs of useful info.


Hansen has an opinion, states it freely, and often provides insight and/or refs into why he thinks/believes what he does. His frequent posts in that thread make it one of the most interesting threads on AVS, IMO. And while I wouldn't buy a "Ayre DX-5 bluray player" for "20x the price" my own experience with more expensive disc players (CD, SACD, or other) is that they often do offer better SQ (Sound Quality).



Originally Posted by OtherSongs:
"I asked Gigabyte their price for the optional S/PDIF In and Out cable.

It's close to 1/2 the motherboard price. Screw that."


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

Well that sucks. Mine is also a Giga MB and it has SPDIF RCA on the back panel. I've never used mine though as I connected to the SPDIF output of the M Audio Audiophile 24192 when I was trying to get it to work under V64 and never changed it out. Don't use it much though as the card is mainly used for measurement work.


Slept on it and decided to order the part; reason being that I don't have any experience with what current motherboards and/or sound cards can do. I mean, given what I've spent home audio, this past couple years, it's a very minor annoyance.

FWIW, the Gigabyte bracket connector is a single multi electrical wire plug/connector (6 pin with 5 used, in essence: power, 2 digital signal (SPDIF AND SPDIF1), and 2 ground signal wires; the mobo plug is near the bottom/rear of the case; the bracket itself has a short (6"?) multi wire cable from the mobo to the bracket. The bracket has both optical digital in/out and coax digital in/out connectors, so there is clearly some simple circuity at the bracket itself to allow offering both electric and optical digital I/O on the outside back of the bracket.

Using the bracket will necessitate going into the BIOS to activate the onboard audio, and loading the driver. Hopefully I can leave the Xonar board in place; have to try it to find out.

BTW, thank you for the response; and FWIW my land line has been out for 3+ days.

The baby Bells aren't much if any better than the original parent, IMO.


Cheers
post #14 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

What is "BW"?

Bandwidth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

Hansen has an opinion, states it freely, and often provides insight and/or refs into why he thinks/believes what he does. His frequent posts in that thread make it one of the most interesting threads on AVS, IMO.

I found most of what he posted, except some of the HDMI issues rather dull and self serving or simply conversation with his fanboys. Much of the interesting content was provided by others such as Roger Dressler.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

And while I wouldn't buy a "Ayre DX-5 bluray player" for "20x the price" my own experience with more expensive disc players (CD, SACD, or other) is that they often do offer better SQ (Sound Quality).

Mine is that the differences are much, much smaller than they are typically made out to be. I've never seen anyone discern the difference in a double blind test.

I've done enough, designing, building, measuring and listening of analogue signal paths over many years now to have a lot of doubt over the claimed improvements, especially for the cost; here DIY slays giants, but beyond that, as you experiment and find out what's actually in things and what changes sound and by how much, most manufacturer claims automatically start to become questionable. The DACs used internally are good but nothing special and DC performance has been approaching the asymptote for a long time that differences 80+dB down are of questionable merit, let alone audibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

FWIW, the Gigabyte bracket connector is a single multi electrical wire plug/connector (6 pin with 5 used, in essence: power, 2 digital signal (SPDIF AND SPDIF1), and 2 ground signal wires; the mobo plug is near the bottom/rear of the case; the bracket itself has a short (6"?) multi wire cable from the mobo to the bracket. The bracket has both optical digital in/out and coax digital in/out connectors, so there is clearly some simple circuity at the bracket itself to allow offering both electric and optical digital I/O on the outside back of the bracket.

Most likely just a TTL driver, maybe one for each.
post #15 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

...Mine is that the differences are much, much smaller than they are typically made out to be. I've never seen anyone discern the difference in a double blind test.

I've done enough, designing, building, measuring and listening of analogue signal paths over many years now to have a lot of doubt over the claimed improvements, especially for the cost; here DIY slays giants, but beyond that, as you experiment and find out what's actually in things and what changes sound and by how much, most manufacturer claims automatically start to become questionable. The DACs used internally are good but nothing special and DC performance has been approaching the asymptote for a long time that differences 80+dB down are of questionable merit, let alone audibility. ...


Agreed that: "the differences are much, much smaller than they are typically made out to be."

But then, that is the essence of diminishing returns.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

And while we're at the heart of the issue, it seems to me that we are drifting OT from the issue of a decent/cheap 2 channel PC music server.

Again, correct me if I'm wrong.

I'm moving forward (5 1TB SATA hard drives at this point) and will soon post how that improves clone backup speed, which was last at 6.3 GB/min. So far the PC has been stable with the open SATA connector (for clone backup) lying on the bottom of the case.

With regard to SQ (Sound Quality), it's a longer term and very very subjective issue.

Again, my current PC music server setup (Xonar Essence STX) is very close in SQ to my HK DMC1000 music server/standard, which is saying a lot; which is why I started this thread. If my opinion changes, I'll fess up and give details to the extent that I can.

If you do/have a 2 channel music server setup that you think is excellent and low in overall price, kindly state what you do. Thanks in advance.


Cheers
post #16 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

... And while we're at the heart of the issue, it seems to me that we are drifting OT from the issue of a decent/cheap 2 channel PC music server. ...

I'm moving forward (5 1TB SATA hard drives at this point) and will soon post how that improves clone backup speed, which was last at 6.3 GB/min. So far the PC has been stable with the open SATA connector (for clone backup) lying on the bottom of the case.


Data transfer rate increases that I've recently experienced (SATA2; 3 year old 300GB drive vs current .5-to-1TB drives), appear to driven by platter density increases. So although there are some differences between 4 current big name (WD, Hitichi, Samsung, Seagate) 1TB hard drive makers they are maxed at roughly 6GB/min for a clone backup.

Since I see no reason to go larger than 1TB with .flac lossless files, 1TB drives (and their current low prices of $60 to max of $70 (with discount)) certainly look like the better deal than a slightly smaller cost 500/800GB drive.

Of the drives I've tried, Seagate is the slowest and I won't buy any more of them; and WD Black Label (5 year warranty) doesn't seem to be worth the small extra cost; which leaves Hitachi and Samsung and WD Blue Label, flip a coin between them.

For clone backups, booting from a disc like Acronis True Image Home 2010, it my experience one is less likely to wipe out the internal/source hard drive, if one uses hard drives from different manufacturers; say the internal drive is a 1TB Hitachi (my current), and the temp backup drive (external) is either WD or Samsung.


Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

With regard to SQ (Sound Quality), it's a longer term and very very subjective issue.

Again, my current PC music server setup (Xonar Essence STX) is very close in SQ to my HK DMC1000 music server/standard, which is saying a lot; which is why I started this thread. If my opinion changes, I'll fess up and give details to the extent that I can.

If you do/have a 2 channel music server setup that you think is excellent and low in overall price, kindly state what you do. Thanks in advance


FWIW, I'll have the add-on bracket (digital (optical/coax) I/O for my mobo) at the end of next week.

I was also on the web looking at current decent sound cards and turns out that a 3 year old M-Audio sound card that I have appears to still be current. I'll pull it out of the old machine and give it a try in one of my 3 new PC's in the next 2 months.

Also got my 1st wireless USB mouse, which works OK and which should allow me to control the PC sound when I'm sitting in front of the speakers/TV (and not to the side, where the PC is).

Just some random updates on what I'm doing with this 2 channel music server PC setup.

Happy 4th of July!


Cheers
post #17 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

And while we're at the heart of the issue, it seems to me that we are drifting OT from the issue of a decent/cheap 2 channel PC music server.

If you do/have a 2 channel music server setup that you think is excellent and low in overall price, kindly state what you do. Thanks in advance.

I just use my PC with 3 500GB internal and 2 1TB externals, 4G RAM on a Giga mobo with either the analogue out from the Audiophile 24192 or SPDIF to an SRC2496 (rarely as I use it elsewhere most of the time) or the AVR.

The drives are about 18months old and I would get 1TB to replace them, but for FLAC or even uncompressed files it will take a lot to fill the nearly 3TB I have to use.

I have a newer Giga mobo coming from a mate who is a mad gamer and upgrades very often. Not thinking it will give much/any performance difference, but it has a whole bunch more SATA ports and better RAID (according to my mate). Price is free. Thought it might be a good basis for an HTPC and music server with more drives.

I've got JR as the player, and also Squeezecentre for when I use the SB upstairs, but have not experimented much with player SW yet and am looking for the most flexible tagging system as I'd like to be able to use it as a random jukebox player more with my tag choices.

If you're using an external DAC or a good quality internal like your Xonar or my A24192, I really don't think there's much involved in making a decent 2ch player - the processing from the PC is trivial for this application.
post #18 of 44
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by OtherSongs:
"And while we're at the heart of the issue, it seems to me that we are drifting OT from the issue of a decent/cheap 2 channel PC music server.

If you do/have a 2 channel music server setup that you think is excellent and low in overall price, kindly state what you do. Thanks in advance."


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

I just use my PC with 3 500GB internal and 2 1TB externals, 4G RAM on a Giga mobo with either the analogue out from the Audiophile 24192 or SPDIF to an SRC2496 (rarely as I use it elsewhere most of the time) or the AVR.

The drives are about 18months old and I would get 1TB to replace them, but for FLAC or even uncompressed files it will take a lot to fill the nearly 3TB I have to use.

I have a newer Giga mobo coming from a mate who is a mad gamer and upgrades very often. Not thinking it will give much/any performance difference, but it has a whole bunch more SATA ports and better RAID (according to my mate). Price is free. Thought it might be a good basis for an HTPC and music server with more drives.


Why 3 hard drives? i.e. your comment in your 1st paragraph.

On a PC whose primary purpose is 2 channel music server, more than one drive means more noise and more heat. Or are you using the machine for more than just 2 channel music server?


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

I've got JR as the player, and also Squeezecentre for when I use the SB upstairs, but have not experimented much with player SW yet and am looking for the most flexible tagging system as I'd like to be able to use it as a random jukebox player more with my tag choices.


I'm pretty green/new to 2 channel software for a PC music server, so still don't even know what you mean by your "tagging" comment.


Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

If you're using an external DAC or a good quality internal like your Xonar or my A24192, I really don't think there's much involved in making a decent 2ch player - the processing from the PC is trivial for this application.


All my other desktop PC's are multi-purpose and generally noisy to very noisy.

This is my 1st machine that is focused on one thing: a 2 channel music server that is small and quiet and cool-running, so to what extent it is "trivial" or not, remains unclear to me at this point.

When I started this thread (June 10) it had just turned out better than I'd hoped for, and now I've got more than a few questions as to why, and things to try that will take time to sort out.

I mean lots of firsts for me: 1) a small quiet machine, 2) use of lossless audio .flac files, 3) a complete transition to SATA for a) internal HDD and disc player as well as b) the temp external SATA HDD for clone backup, 4) first use of free EAC ripping software for CD discs, 5) first use of various free 2 channel audio players that will play .flac files.

Thanks for the On-Topic response.


Cheers
post #19 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

Why 3 hard drives? i.e. your comment in your 1st paragraph.

Why not? I got it about 12mo ago on special for 1/2 price. Gives me more storage space.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

On a PC whose primary purpose is 2 channel music server, more than one drive means more noise and more heat. Or are you using the machine for more than just 2 channel music server?

Current machine does everything, but will eventually be net/workstation only when I build an HTPC, networked with the other machine.

I've noticed no difference in the temp of the machine and all the drives are quiet, making no more noise accessing than a dedicated CDP track searching. The drives not being accessed make no noise I can discern and when selected, tracks seem to rip from the HDD into RAM and play from there so no noise whilst playing.


Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

I'm pretty green/new to 2 channel software for a PC music server, so still don't even know what you mean by your "tagging" comment.

Tags are metadata that allow storage of other data such as genre that player software can search and index. For example, sometimes in the work vehicles I hear an old song, and when I get home I'd like to be able to play songs from the same period in shuffle, eg 'hits' + '1985' or some other combination as background. Player searches for tags that match and plays the appropriate tracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

All my other desktop PC's are multi-purpose and generally noisy to very noisy.

This is my 1st machine that is focused on one thing: a 2 channel music server that is small and quiet and cool-running, so to what extent it is "trivial" or not, remains unclear to me at this point.

I must be lucky then, because mine is fairly quiet.

However, I have no objection to placing the PC elsewhere and running cabling to the amps, either analogue of SPDIF /whatever for an external DAC. Keeps the costs down as more general parts can be used. I'm also a bit unique in that I have an enclosed under stair area in my apartment. All of the HT gear except speakers, display, keyboard and mouse will be in their. I've already designed the ducting (in and out in a different room to HT), power and lighting for the area, so even a noisy PC will be inaudible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

When I started this thread (June 10) it had just turned out better than I'd hoped for, and now I've got more than a few questions as to why, and things to try that will take time to sort out.

I mean lots of firsts for me: 1) a small quiet machine, 2) use of lossless audio .flac files, 3) a complete transition to SATA for a) internal HDD and disc player as well as b) the temp external SATA HDD for clone backup, 4) first use of free EAC ripping software for CD discs, 5) first use of various free 2 channel audio players that will play .flac files.

There is a sticky thread in the HTPC section that has tons of combinations and variations. Check it out as it will have plenty of info for you.
Guide to Building a HD HTPC
Though it started a couple of years back and is very long, there are some 'Current system' posts in there indexed near the beginning.
post #20 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

The review that made me decide to get one was John Atkinson's, see: http://stereophile.com/computeraudio...tx_soundcards/


Within the above Jan.'10 article on the Asus Xonar Essence sound cards, Atkinson also provides key refs to other Stereophile sound card type write-ups from the last 10 years; imo the key one to read is titled "Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC" (Oct.'08) at: http://www.stereophile.com/computeraudio/1008servers/

The word "server" may be slightly loose as it seems (to me) that also included are stand alone PC's. e.g. in this thread I only intended "server" to mean a stand alone PC.

FWIW, I also added a small edit to my O.P. in this thread.


Cheers
post #21 of 44
I'm contemplating on getting this but I have a couple of questions:

Does someone know how I could get a 2.1 system using this soundcard given the following:

a) my front speakers = Audioengine 2 (self powered and has RCA input but NO outputs)
b) my subwoofer = Velodyne Impact 10

Will the subwoofer out from my motherboard still work simultaneous with this card? Say, I can connect my front speakers on the Asus Xonar STX and my subs to the motherboard's sub out?

Thanks.
post #22 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by joms View Post

I'm contemplating on getting this but I have a couple of questions:


Since I started this thread, I'll offer what I know, which isn't much when it comes to PC sound-cards but is growing.

If this (the STX which is a PCI-e 1x card) is your 1st venture with a PCI-e 1x card, it might be better to by the ST version of the card as it is PCI and gives a much better slot connection. PCI-e 1x is a very flimsy connection.

Meaning that if I were to do it again, I'd buy the ST.

Whether there is/isn't any sound quality difference between the STX/ST is unknown to me (since I only have the STX); but seems unlikely to me, even though I've read through one thread on www.head-fi.org where this belief was strong.

Another issue that I didn't understand is just what is it that a sound-card does?

Turns out that the main things that the STX/ST sound-cards do are 1) convert digital audio into analog for output, and 2) sometimes (but not always) provide robust amplified headphone output (which both STX/ST cards do).

Whether the STX/ST provide any better stereo S/PDIF digital output (coax RCA or Toslink/optical) than what one gets from the mobo itself remains an open question, at least to me.

If excellent stereo S/PDIF digital output (coax RCA or Toslink/optical) is your primary goal with a PC, my current best guess is that much less expensive options (than expensive STX/ST; namely mobo that has a good RCA digital out connector or a less expensive sound-card that has that) are the things to explore.


Quote:
Originally Posted by joms View Post

Does someone know how I could get a 2.1 system using this soundcard given the following:

a) my front speakers = Audioengine 2 (self powered and has RCA input but NO outputs)
b) my subwoofer = Velodyne Impact 10

Will the subwoofer out from my motherboard still work simultaneous with this card? Say, I can connect my front speakers on the Asus Xonar STX and my subs to the motherboard's sub out?

Thanks.


With regard to mainly your last paragraph, having the mobo's "sub out" be an active/working output will require that you have the mobo sound hardware activated (i.e. on) in the computer's CMOS setup (at boot).

AFAIK, you're likely to have an OS conflict by trying to have both the STX/ST card and the mobo sound hardware activated at the same time; namely that if the Asus Xonar Essence sound-card (either STX or ST) is plugged in, then you'll have to have the mobo sound hardware turned off.

If I'm wrong on this, I'm fairly certain that someone else will say something.

--- --- ---

With regard to getting "a 2.1 system" from a STX/ST sound-card, AFAIK it cannot be easily done for a mainly stereo setup, and discussing it in this thread is way over the top. Try opening your own threads on this subject in either this AVS forum, and/or maybe also in the AVS subwoofer forum and/or the AVS Home Theater Computers forum.

Given your sub-woofer (2.1) interest, are you really interested in high sound quality?

My own experience is that those interested in high sound quality do not worry too much about sub woofers; and FWIW I currently have 4 but only currently use 2 with plans to add two to my L/R fronts via Y-connectors; but again it's way way over the top for this thread.


Cheers
post #23 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

... Whether there is/isn't any sound quality difference between the STX/ST is unknown to me (since I only have the STX); but seems unlikely to me, even though I've read through one thread on www.head-fi.org where this belief was strong. ...

One significant difference is jitter reduction.
Whether this is audible is in the ears (sic) of the beholder! .
from http://www.guru3d.com/article/asus-x...eview/10Jitter Reduction
"... This is one of the main variations between the Essence STX and the Essence ST. The ST has precision timing made possible by the CS2000 chip. ..."

iq100
the best way to delete an idea is to post one of your own.
one of perhaps 100 BANNED from J. River's INTERCEPT (sic) forum.
post #24 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by iq100 View Post

One significant difference is jitter reduction.
Whether this is audible is in the ears (sic) of the beholder! .
from http://www.guru3d.com/article/asus-x...eview/10Jitter Reduction
"... This is one of the main variations between the Essence STX and the Essence ST. The ST has precision timing made possible by the CS2000 chip.


Interesting review (ST and the H6 add on board), which may well be what joms wants with his 2.1 interest.

With regard to digital timing/mis-timing, I'll likely e-mail Asus with regard to whether the ST's s/pdif digital out is any better than that of the mobo.


Cheers
post #25 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

Within the above Jan.'10 article on the Asus Xonar Essence sound cards, Atkinson also provides key refs to other Stereophile sound card type write-ups from the last 10 years; imo the key one to read is titled "Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC" (Oct.'08) at: http://www.stereophile.com/computeraudio/1008servers/

The word "server" may be slightly loose as it seems (to me) that also included are stand alone PC's. e.g. in this thread I only intended "server" to mean a stand alone PC.

FWIW, I also added a small edit to my O.P. in this thread.


Cheers

LOL, I love the toilet paper iPod holder.

I am using a New Mac Mini and a PS Audio Link Dac for a music server combo which works very well. I have in the past used PC's with some different software. The Essence STX looks promising.
post #26 of 44
Have this come to some conclusion??

It's been a time since last post and I would also like to know if there are (were?) any audible differences from MB S/PDIF output vs.Xonar SPDIF.

However, in my case, there is something else. I have a P5K Deluxe which has already an S/PDIF output and I am setting my hi fi 2.1 with Integra DTR 40.2, Emotiva XPA-2, The Philharmonics3 and SVS PB13-Ultra.

Integra DTR 40.2 has 'jitter clean' processing according to its specs. (link next post...)

DTR 40.2 and the rest of the gear is planned to arrive next month, but I have no means to find to which level MB bit streams as expected (free from audible artifacts as jitter, buffer overflow, underflow, etc) neither to find out how well DTR 40.2 jitter clean processing works!

Is it yet empirical testing the only way to know how it will behave or have you found anything else to consider which might be more definite?

I wouldn't like to wait until everything is set to discover I have a weak spot in MB S/PDIF through hi fi chain, but also would not like to spend $200,00 on Xonar if it is not needed!!

Would Xonar S/PDIF output be somewhat better than MB S/PDIF, regarding any audible criteria??

What are your thoughts?
post #27 of 44
and the specs.
post #28 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thiagofm View Post

Have this come to some conclusion??



Would Xonar S/PDIF output be somewhat better than MB S/PDIF, regarding any audible criteria??

What are your thoughts?

If you are really demanding for top computer SQ, there are no easy answers.

Anyhow I haven't gotten back to using my ASUS Xonar Essence STX sound card just yet.

I did call ASUS and *beg* them (and offer to pay) for a current install disc for Windows 7.

To my amazement my request a) wasn't available at their on-line store and b) they refused to accommodate on a one time basis for an original owner (me).

Key reasons were that the install disc that came with my card totally froze up my Win7/64 PC and the only way to fix it was to reload Windows from my cloned HDD,
and at the time I only had dial-up internet and downloads from their web site were just too big. So instead I used 3 different Gigabyte/AMD mobo's for their on-board sound chips; didn't like the sound of one but liked the sound of the other two and registered my Win7 with M.S. for those two mobo.

Personally I was already skeptical of their (ASUS) support, and this new negative experience only made me vow to continue avoiding their products in the future.

amirm posts "Problem is, its performance will vary depending on what PC you plug it into." at http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...ar-Essence-STX

I don't know if this is true or not, nor if it is true to what extent. amirm's sound standards and equipment are very high-end as are mine, but I like to reach my own conclusions.

FWIW three of the threads in which I've posted there are:

http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...IF-from-the-MB

http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...o-CD%E2%80%99s

http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...s-have-a-sound

I suggest you read through all 4 of those threads for ideas; some excellent refs/sites are also provided by a wide range of different people.
post #29 of 44
Thanks. Nice info!

I will order an Essence STX in a few days. Since I cannot predict MB output, I will have a home audition (and run a blind test, with a friend exchanging configs) to see if any audible difference. And ASIO comes to be a choice that seems to make more sense when setting a hi fi set.

How did you go with your drivers, btw?
post #30 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thiagofm View Post

Thanks. Nice info!

I will order an Essence STX in a few days.

I think it is a decent sound card, and now that I have broadband internet I can get the latest drivers.

From what I've read, if you've a PCI slot you should consider spending the extra money for the ASUS Xonar Essence ST. At least that's what I'd buy if I were doing it now. Since it's an expensive sound card, be sure to shop around.

FWIW I'm not unhappy that I have an STX card as it is decent and I'll again use it in one of my WinXP/32 PCs in the future.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thiagofm View Post

Since I cannot predict MB output, I will have a home audition (and run a blind test, with a friend exchanging configs) to see if any audible difference.

As I said before, my limited recent experience with decent current MBs (MotherBoards) is that the SQ varies from one to another via the on-board sound chips.

The Xonar Essence ST/STX sound cards have a single combo S/PDIF out plug (which you can run digital output to an external DAC via either optical or coax interconnects. When you run the sound as digital output to an external DAC (solo unit or AVR), be sure that the PC sound volume is at max setting (100%).

SQ differences are sometimes obvious, or sometimes there but subtle. A blind listening test with another person is not likely to ferret out subtle differences due to time limits.

Of the 3 types of digital interconnect cables, optical is the one that comes up short in my own a/b listening comparisons. Coax and USB both give better SQ results.

I've also used the stereo L/R RCA outs from my STX soundcard straight into my home hifi preamp with good results. But I haven't a/b'ed that vs. digital S/PDIF out into my external DAC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thiagofm View Post

And ASIO comes to be a choice that seems to make more sense when setting a hi fi set.

It may surprise you, but I don't know what ASIO is nor what it does. Reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Stream_Input/Output doesn't help much.

With a free PC player like foobar2000 one should be sure to use the WASAPI output option with the player, and also to make sure that Windows does not re-sample the digital sound (say from 16/44.1 to anything else) as that tends to screw SQ up.

The ver. 1.1.9 download (which I'm currently running) also had a separate download of a compatible DLL. I don't see that with the new ver. 1.1.10 at http://www.foobar2000.org/download so maybe it is now included with ver. 1.1.10?

Quote:
Originally Posted by thiagofm View Post

How did you go with your drivers, btw?

Not sure what you mean.

The install disc I got with my STX card worked fine with WinXP/32.
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