|ASUS Xonar Essence STX PCI-E Sound Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Audio|
|Written by Vito Cassisi - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 15 December 2010|
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ASUS Xonar Audio Center Software
ASUS bundled their Xonar Audio Center software with the card. This software is similar across all the Xonar products, with small changes specific to particular models. In this screenshot we have the main screen showing the currently enabled modes, master volume, and frequency bands. There's also the option to change the number of audio channels, sample rate, and the analog output (i.e. 'Headphone', '2 Speakers', or either via the front panel).
Along the bottom of the blue status area are the available Dolby technologies. These include Digital Live, Headphone, Pro Logic IIx, and Virtual Speaker. Digital Live encodes audio into a 5.1 channel 16-bit/48 KHz signal in real-time over S/PDIF. 'Headphone' allows stereo headphones to emulate the positional audio effects of a discrete 5.1 surround sound set up. Pro Logic IIx up-converts stereo or 5.1 channel audio into a 6.1 or 7.1 channel signal. 'Virtual Speaker' is similar to 'Headphone', but is suited to any set of stereo speakers.
The mixer allows the adjustment of the left and right channels. Hitting the 'Record' button gives us further options for MIC, line-in, aux, Mix and Wave volumes.
Environmental effects simulate different sound stages, whilst the equaliser gives us control over the frequency response of the output. The latter is great for compensating for deficiencies you may identify in your audio equipment.
KARAOKE is a set of options to adjust key shifting, vocal cancellation, and microphone echo. These options were not tested, in fear of destroying the delicate STX with horrendously off-pitch vocal attempts.
FlexBass gives you control over the LFE (Low-frequency effect) crossover frequency. Basically, this moves low-frequency (bass) signals from satellite speakers to your subwoofer. This can improve bass quality.
VocalFX gives the user a few options for in-game chat and VOIP. VoiceEX can be enabled for the former (which adds EAX effects), and the latter has options to annoy people with 'ChatEX' environmental effects and 'Magic Voice' voice alterations.
Evidently, ASUS have produced a respectable software solution for their Xonar range of cards. The aesthetically pleasing style and functionality make it a valuable asset. It does have some quirks, such as the volume dial which is counterproductive for interaction via a cursor, but that's being a tad pedantic. On the other hand, the five small preset buttons to the right make it super easy to quickly swap between modes such as Hi-Fi and gaming. If only they had associated keyboard shortcuts!