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Decisions - Xonar Essence STX or Xfi titanium HD

post #1 of 27
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Hello,

I've read some other threads on this, but none addressed my specific needs (or perhaps lack of needs) so here goes:

Asus Xonar Essence STX or Creative X-Fi Titanium HD

I am hoping to get some input as to what others thing would be the best card to fit my needs. I recently decided to upgrade my audio as I am currently using Logitech x-530 with onboard sound. I also have a logitech G35 and a Senheisser pc161. About 70% of the time I'm using speakers. I bought Corsair sp2500 2.1 to replace the logitechs and will get new headphones later if pc161 are not adequate (suggestions welcome here.)

I listen to music more than I game, but I value sound and positional qualities in game more (as I'm normally multi tasking when I'm listening to music anyway- when I game, I focus 100% on the game and I place very high value on immersion).

I originally ordered an Essence STX ( just arrived- haven't installed yet, and I'm still waiting on speakers anyway), but after an excessive amount of reading, I'm wondering if this may not be the best card for my needs. I consider myself more an an average joe who likes good quality than an audiophile.

My primary listening comes from sources like pandora and grooveshark, along with my CD collection- most of which have been ripped to 128k and 192k mp3s. Is the Essence STX TOO MUCH sound card for my hardware and needs based on sources I'm listening to?

I have read that if your music has flaws, it will really bring out those flaws. I don't want realistic audio, I want GOOD/GREAT audio . I understand that this card is probably overkill in any case. I'm okay with that, and there is very high chance of me getting better quality headphones / speakers later. If audio is going to sound worse because of bad sources- then there isn't much point for me to have this card!

Which brings me Titan HD. I ran across this card after I'd already ordered the STX. I had originally ignored Creative completely as a rule as I had a lot of problems with drivers and vista support a few years back with one of their cards. After reading some of the reviews I am intrigued, however.

Better audio in games and better support for older games (which I have quite a few of) are definite plus. Crystallizer to boost compressed audio sounds intriuging too. I am very much a skeptic of Creative's software, but reviews I've found say titanium hd is supposed to be much better on Win7.

Are there any quirks with one of the other that might help me make a decision (for example I read Titan hd won't let you switch between headphone out and rca out on the back...that you have to physically unplug headphones and reboot each time you want to swap back to speaker...this would probably be a deal breaker for me)

I'm leaning toward titan HD although I'll probably just try both as sound is so subjective anyway- but I'd love any additional input.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 27
Honestly, stay the **** away from Creative. Their drivers are absolute ****. I had to return my X-Fi Fatal1ty Pro today because I couldn't get windows to recognize it. You don't want that headache. I loved Creative, but it's the worst quality control job I've ever seen. I'm never buying a Creative card again. If you can get it to work, their brilliant, but then again so is the Xonar.

I'm not much of an audiophile though, so I'll let someone else swing you either way.
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post #3 of 27
I'll will provide some experience with my Creative X-Fi Titanium HD. I am officially an audiophile person. :]

I am moving from an integrated sound card and I couldn't be any happier. Uninstalled Realtek drivers, disabled the audio from BIOS (This is the step mainstream decide to avoid, which means sound card may potentially not be detected) Installed the card, installed the drivers. No problems (Don't know what bloatware people are talking about. I never install anything beside the drivers, so I am good.)

Initially, I possessed Sennheiser HD212 pro headphones. After I installed the sound card, I immediately noticed I can hear more of the music that I am listening. (Even the music that is 128/160/ kbps sounded decent.) Obviously, anything 256/320kbps is just something that you have to hear to know it. Not to mention lossless audio. The music is just more open and nothing is bloated together, but rather audible as separate channels, so to speak. It's as if everything sounds open and clear. Anyway, after listening to music with those headphones, I began to notice that they do not sound as clear as I thought.

Then arrived my Sennheiser HD598s and I plugged them in and it all changed once again. All I heard was extraordinarily crisp, clear, very detailed and open sound. The soundstage is amazing! You feel as if you're there on the stage with a singer. The lows, mids and highs are very balanced. Bass is not overwhelming like on the HD212 pros, but very responsive and accurate. (Quick review of the headphones, I suppose)

The Titanium X-Fi HD is capable of achieving very good sound quality with audiophile components. I am extremely satisfied with the Titanium HD. I haven't tested anything else, so can't compare it to rival offerings.

Note, I bought this card without researching much. I only began researching (I know the rule: research, then buy) about it because I've read bad things about Creative's previous offerings, but nothing about this one, since it's relatively new. In any event, this is what Guru3d.com thought about the card.
Quote:
The Titanium HD has a big powerful sound, offering tight articulate bass, balanced midrange and crispy highs. We would go as far to say this card produces music and not just audio and is one of the best sounding sources we have had in the Guru3D Audio Lab.
Full Review of X-Fi Titanium HD

Finally, I've had this card for about a week and I couldn't be more satisfied with the collection of music I have. I am a casual gamer and I know that X-Fi/E.A.X features offer very good gaming experience, so that's great.

I am satisfied and that's what matters for me. I just couldn't believe what a difference dedicated sound card and audiophile headphones make. After I haven't used HD 212 pros for few days, I decided to try them. Believe me, it's like the music is dull. Not clear at all. Couple days ago, I've tried my friends $15 Panasonic headphones and boy they sound cr*p. Can't believe someone would listen to music with those...

Although I must say that to take the full advantage/potential of the card, you'll need quality audiophile headphones or good sound system.

As for me, I am never going back to integrated sound card and would stick with Creative cards even though they weren't the best cards few years back. With SB X-Fi Titanium HD, I think they nailed it for sure.

Regards,

EDIT: Above thoughts are subjective due to my first impressions of a dedicated sound card. Now that I own Xonar STX, I can say that STX produces clearer sound than Titanium HD.
Edited by voxox - 3/21/11 at 9:44pm
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post #4 of 27
STX is the way to go. However it is dependent how much money each costs. Get whichever is the cheapest. I've also had the pc161 for a while. I've had both of these sound cards too. One of the problems xfi has is after your comp has been on for a long time the sound may turn corrupt. A restart fixes it.
    
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post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by yellowtoblerone View Post
STX is the way to go. However it is dependent how much money each costs. Get whichever is the cheapest. I've also had the pc161 for a while. I've had both of these sound cards too. One of the problems xfi has is after your comp has been on for a long time the sound may turn corrupt. A restart fixes it.
I have never had the sound "turn corrupt" as the poster above says. This may have happened with older X-FIs, but not with the Titanium HD. I am still running with the drivers off the original CD and have had no need to update them since installation four months ago.

My motherboard and his may differ, but I have not had a single lockup or problem related to sound playback.
post #6 of 27
I've loved every second of owning my HD. Absolutely no driver issues and the output over analog (as well as digital) is simply spectacular.

(Especially since I went from Logitech Z2300 to my receiver/NHT setup...it's been nothing short of ear awakening)

I highly recommend the HD.
post #7 of 27
Creative did pretty well on the Titanium HD compared to their other pieces of trash. I would give Creative a chance but currently, the STX is in second right behind the ST.
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post #8 of 27
If you use either of your cards, they will bring flaws out of any low-quality music files you have.

While i have not used or heard an X-Fi HD, i stepped up to my Essence from an X-Fi platinum and i very much prefer the Essence. Listening to music (especially FLAC) on the Essence is amazing and sometimes i find myself listening with my eyes closed so i can enjoy the crispness, separation, and soundstage. Its gotten to the point that i'm looking into a portable USB DAC for my laptop because i don't like listening to its onboard sound.

It is primarily a music card, and handles it amazingly, but it also games very well too. Don't let EAX play a part in your decision because its an outdated feature at this point and any game since vista doesn't have it.

I'll respond more in depth later.
    
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post #9 of 27
Honestly, there is no point in buying a high end sound card if you don't have high end speakers or headphones. High end would be either $300 for headphones, or at least $300 for pair of bookshelf speakers.
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post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantom123 View Post
Honestly, there is no point in buying a high end sound card if you don't have high end speakers or headphones. High end would be either $300 for headphones, or at least $300 for pair of bookshelf speakers.
Here's sadly your most helpful post so far.

With the speakers/headphones you currently have you won't be benefiting at all from the STX, so there's no point in recommending it to you. The big deal about the STX is that it has a built in headphone amplifier for hard to drive headphones which you don't have.

Asus is generally much better for music than gaming, but still does a good job for gaming.

The Titanium HD is great for gaming and 5.1 movie and can still hold it's own in the music department, just not as great as Asus.

For that reason I would say grab the Titanium HD. It suits your needs the best unless you're trying to save money. If so, then just grab a DX or something. Asus product, great for music, cheaper, still good for gaming.

If you don't care about saving the...50 dollars or whatever, then go with the Titanium HD. Better for gaming, still good for music.
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