Sound Advice: Xonar Essence One

July 25th, 2011 in .Products .Sound
Matt Black
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Sound cards are almost exclusively internal affairs. You never see them except for the short time between opening the Xonar box and sourcing a PCI or PCI-Express slot deep within the confides of your PC case. This mechanism is expected.

Except, no longer. The Essence One is an external ‘sound card’ in its fullest capacity.

The new Xonar Essence One

The new Xonar Essence One

On receiving the box you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s more metal than music generator (you could literally use it to bench-press), internally it’s design is to process USB or other digital sound signals and convert them into high fidelity heaven.

In actual fact, the truth is, many, many moons ago I once owned a Creative Exitgy: a ‘sound card’ of a similar, external concept, although much smaller and more basic in its sound capacity. As such, I have re-discovered the appeal of owning an external box as the benefit of having knobs and buttons to hand is very understated. It’s not just the convenience factor but also the cold, sharp aluminum touch that adds to the premium experience.

The new Xonar Essence One

The Tiger Motif. Please excuse my finger marks, this model has been well handled.

That premium touch is extended throughout the Essence One; the shell is a solid tube of aluminum, while the front has been gently brushed before being bolted in. Those familiar with the Essence brand will recognize the gold tiger totem on top as well.

On the front there is a range of controls, including input select (USB from PC, Toslink, Coaxial), an upsampling button and separate volume knobs for master and headphones. There’s also an indicator to display the bitrate of sound the Essence One is currently processing: from lowly CD quality 44.1KHz all the way up to bit perfect reproduction from Blu-ray media.

At the back there’s the USB-B connector, Toslink and Coaxial digital inputs, two XLR connectors (lowest signal loss over long cables) and stereo, coaxial analogue outputs.

The new Xonar Essence One: Outputs

The outputs

For techies, here is some of the Essence One’s spec list (more details will follow in media reviews):

Balanced XLR output option;

120dB SNR;

Texas Instruments PCM1795 192kHz/ 24bit DAC (one DAC per channel);

32-bit symmetrical upsampling;

Powerful headphone amp (up to 600 Ohms) with two sets of swappable OpAmps per channel;

Full OpAmp interchangability;

The Essence One is due soon, but in the meantime let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

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