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Thread: Upgrading an Asus Essence STX II with Burson Audio Supreme Sound V6 Vivid opamps

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse, France

    Posts: 5,678
    I'm Kevin.

    Default Upgrading an Asus Essence STX II with Burson Audio Supreme Sound V6 Vivid opamps

    As promised, here is a small thread about upgrading an Asus Essence STX II sound card with the Burson Audio Supreme Sound V6 Vivid opamps.

    In my recent journey into digital audio, I came across a bargain sound sound on Amazon on one of their offer days. The Asus Essence STX II. This is a highly regarded sound card over on HeadFi, so I thought I would take the plunge.



    The Asus STX II.


    The tech specs:
    Audio Interface - PCI Express

    Audio Performance: Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted): 124 dB
    Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted) (Headphone-out) : 120 dB
    Input Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted) : 118 dB
    Output THD+N at 1kHz (Front-out) :>0.0003 %(-110 dB)
    Output THD+N at 1kHz (Headphone-out) : >0.001 %(-100 dB)
    Frequency Response (-3dB, 16bit/44.1KHz input) : 10 Hz to 90 KHz
    Output/Input Full-Scale Voltage : Line output (RCA, 3.5) : 2 Vrms (5.65 Vp-p)
    Headphone output : 7 Vrms ( Vp-p)
    Chipset
    Audio Processor :24-bit D-A Converter of Digital Sources: TI Burr-Brown PCM1796 (123dB SNR)
    Digital-to-analog Converter(DAC) TI Bur-Brown PCM1792A
    Sample Rate and Resolution
    Analog Playback Sample Rate and Resolution : 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16bit/24bit
    Analog Recording Sample Rate and Resolution : 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16bit/24bit
    S/PDIF Digital Output :44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16bit/24bit
    ASIO Driver Support : 44.1K/48K/88.2K/96K/176.4K/192KHz @ 16bit/24bit
    Connectivity
    Analog Output
    1 x 6.3 mm jack (1/4") Headphone out
    2 x RCA (Un-Balanced)
    Analog Input
    1 x 6.3 mm jack (1/4") (Line-in/ Mic-in combo)
    Digital
    1 x S/PDIF out (1 x Coaxial)
    1 x Front-Panel Header
    Special Features - Dolby® Technologies : Dolby® Digital Live/Dolby® Headphone /Dolby® Virtual Speaker /Dolby® Pro-Logic II


    A very good specification for a sound card I thought.

    So I bought it, and it arrived quickly. I then did a comparison with my Caiman SEG with linear PSU, and decided that for the difference in price, I was very happy with the Asus Essence - (thread can be found here https://theartofsound.net/forum/show...ality-from-USB

    A few weeks passed, and I was enjoying the convenience of digital audio, with quality sound. I started opamp rolling (different opamps are supplied with the card, with the tools to change them) and remembered a company called Burson Audio that did some nice opamps for Audio purposes. I contacted Charles, and he suggested that I tried the Supreme Sound V6 Vivid in my card. I ordered the three needed, and sat back waiting for the delivery. Deliverey was really quick and they arrived very well packaged.




    All that was left to do was to install them.
    Before ordering them, I had done a quick measurement to see if they would fit (as can be seen in the photo, they are quite tall) and from a rough measurement it seemed like it would be a tight fit, but should be ok.
    I whipped the sound card out of my PC, and removed four screws to allow access to the Opamps.



    Back of the card, showing the screws to be removed.

    This gave me access to the Opamps.



    The original Opamps can be seen in the upper left part of the card.
    I removed these with the pliers supplied with the sound card, and fitted the V6 Vivid Opamps.



    The big red blocks are the Opamps.
    I fitted the sound card back into my PC and it was a tight fit. A bit too much pressure was being but on the PCB as I had a minor clearance issue of a couple of millimetres.
    As it was in, I fired up the PC, and played some FLAC files and it was an immediate improvement in the sound. I was extremely happy with the sound, but not too happy I had not measured the clearance properly.

    As the music server is in an old PC case, I modified the case to provide better clearance by cutting a hole in the bottom of the case.


    The actual case I want to use has the PSU in this position, so I will be unable to do this, so I either need to change the motherboard on my old PC (if I can find a suitable one on eBay at a sensible price) or order a set of extenders from Charles, as this will resolve the issue by allowing me to relocate the Opamps.

    As for the sound, well it became obvious that there was more clarity. This allowed the detail to be communicated easily to the listener. The sound became more open. There was more of a 3D image to it. I enjoy the music more, as it seems more real. It does seem to be improving slightly as time goes on. I probably have about 50 hours on the Opamps and I am happy. They probably need quite a few more hours to bed it properly (or is it me that needs the hours?) and I will then rerun the comparison with my SEG to see if this lifts the overall quality of the sound. For this, I will order the SEG30 firmware, and I will contemplate purchasing the Dorado PSU.


    On a final note, these Opamps lifted the sound quality and my enjoyment of the music.
    I thoroughly recommend them, and I am currently thinking about modifying my PD-S703 with some Supreme Sound Opamps.
    Kevin

    Too busy enjoying the music....

    European loan coordinator for Graham Slee HiFi system components..

  2. #2
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse, France

    Posts: 5,678
    I'm Kevin.

    Default Saturday night....

    Well, Saturday night is here.
    I am still ripping my CD collection to FLAC, and in between discs I am sat back listening to various tunes.
    I can’t believe how good this sounds with a good FLAC file. Sat here, with a whisky in one hand, and the iPad acting as a remote not far away is simply bliss.

    The resolution available is incredible, it is thoroughly involving. The slight nuances in the music are easily detected. Feeding the optical out to my Caiman SEG makes very little difference. I need to try the coax next. I have contacted Stan to order the latest SEG firmware, as I really hope that the SEG being fed by this card will give me more of what I am enjoying right now....
    Kevin

    Too busy enjoying the music....

    European loan coordinator for Graham Slee HiFi system components..

  3. #3
    Join Date: Oct 2008

    Location: Glasgowshire

    Posts: 8,978
    I'm Gary.

    Default

    Big fan of Asus soundcards, used to use them in my Korus servers.
    Never modded them, sounded great as is can only get better with choice component upgrades.
    "Whats your vector Victor...?"

  4. #4
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse, France

    Posts: 5,678
    I'm Kevin.

    Default

    I did some more listening to the SEG being fed from the Soundcard and the Soundcard direct to the preamp. To my ears, the small gap that was there before with the SEG being better has been closed, and in my opinion the upgraded sound card is better now.

    I am tempted to upgrade the SEG to the latest standard, just to see what that will bring to the party.
    Kevin

    Too busy enjoying the music....

    European loan coordinator for Graham Slee HiFi system components..

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse, France

    Posts: 5,678
    I'm Kevin.

    Default

    A friend came round last night, and we had a bit of a listening session.
    He could not believe that the music was being fed from a sound card directly into the preamplifier. He had to physically check. I did explain it was marketed as a HiFi sound card, and the Opamps had been upgraded. He was impressed with the overall sound quality of the system. I know my system is not the best, but it my listening room it sounds very good to my ears.

    The Opamps seem to be settling down nicely now. I am tempted to order the Dorado and SEG30 after the positive reports on here, as in my opinion if I feed the SEG a quality signal, it should be better?
    Kevin

    Too busy enjoying the music....

    European loan coordinator for Graham Slee HiFi system components..

  6. #6
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Warrington

    Posts: 3,458
    I'm Neil.

    Default

    Think about it, Asus are used to working with multi GHz processors and extremely complex multi layer PCB layouts. In comparison, audio is a piece of cake for them, with the superior grounding and noise isolation techniques of computer hardware trickling down into audio.
    Mana Acoustics Racks / Bright Star IsoNodes Decoupling >> Allo DigiOne Player >> Pedja Rogic's Audial Model S DAC + Pioneer PL-71 turntable / Vista Audio phono-1 mk II / Denon PCL-5 headshell / Reson Reca >> LFD DLS >> LFD PA2M (SE) >> Royd RR3s.

  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse, France

    Posts: 5,678
    I'm Kevin.

    Default

    Yes, they have always built good PCBs.
    I still have not fitted a decent PSU to the PC yet, and I am looking at a linear PSU to power the card directly through the molex connector.
    Kevin

    Too busy enjoying the music....

    European loan coordinator for Graham Slee HiFi system components..

  8. #8
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Warrington

    Posts: 3,458
    I'm Neil.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by CageyH View Post
    Yes, they have always built good PCBs.
    I still have not fitted a decent PSU to the PC yet, and I am looking at a linear PSU to power the card directly through the molex connector.
    Will be interesting to try, the card has such high PSRR & SNR that I wonder if it'd even be necessary, but the proof is in the listening, and the comparing.
    Mana Acoustics Racks / Bright Star IsoNodes Decoupling >> Allo DigiOne Player >> Pedja Rogic's Audial Model S DAC + Pioneer PL-71 turntable / Vista Audio phono-1 mk II / Denon PCL-5 headshell / Reson Reca >> LFD DLS >> LFD PA2M (SE) >> Royd RR3s.

  9. #9
    Join Date: May 2012

    Location: Toulouse, France

    Posts: 5,678
    I'm Kevin.

    Default

    More time spent listening to tunes this afternoon.
    I am impressed with this upgrade. There is a second level of detail that I have always struggled to hear with digital audio from my PC. This combination digs it all out, and lays it out in front of you. It really is superb for the money.
    Kevin

    Too busy enjoying the music....

    European loan coordinator for Graham Slee HiFi system components..

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