In a market flooded with muddy onboard audio codecs and laughable "multi-core" DSP effects devoid of actual audio fidelity, ASUS is thankfully one of those companies who have invested quality engineering with the intent of the faithful reproduction of PC audio. Today we take a look at their flagship S$699 sound card – the Xonar Essence One USB DAC & headphone amplifier.
Aesthetics and Connectivity
The Xonar Essence One has a brushed metal faceplate with blue LED indicators, silver push buttons (power, upsampling, input selection and mute) and large rheostats/knobs (headphone and speaker volume) at the front. There is also a 1/4" headphone out jack which when plugged can still be driven simultaneously with the speakers.
At the back, we see a variety of input and output options. Besides the usual RCA L/R outputs to connect to 2.0/2.1 speakers, the box also includes balanced XLR connectors which allows for extended cabling distances. In additional to the computer USB input, there is the capability to handle Coxial S/PDIF and TOSLINK digital links. A 115/230v voltage selection switch (why no auto switching?) is also present and the Xonar One takes a ubiquitous C14 power inlet.
Four small rubber feets at the bottom to keep the box grounded during a user-induced earthquake..
On top of the Essense One, we see the iconic gold "Chime of Tiger" totem which also appears on the other Xonar family of sound cards.
Blue LEDs when switched on. Note that it does take up a considerable amount of space on most desks (261.33 x 230 x 60.65 mm).
Accessories and documentation included with the DAC (USB cable not in picture). Being positioned as an audiophile class product, ASUS could have bundled a thicker power cord with a better AWG rating as audio purists will testify the effects of resistance on the "energy" of the sound output.