Asus Xonar Essence One Muses Edition – Review
After I’ve reviewed Asus Xonar Essence STU, I was looking forward to review one of it’s bigger brothers, the Xonar Essence One Muses Edition, so here we are.
I love the fact that Asus got into this field and I hope they will continue working on creating better products. They have the power of achieving greatness and because of their large manufacturing capabilities, they could also do it at reasonable price, if they want to.
All they need is a bunch of engineers that are also audiophiles.
This being said, they have a great start until now, and I’ve been impressed by both STU and Essence One Muses Edition.
Looks, Build Quality and Specs
The first time I’ve seen it, I was really surprised by the build quality and looks. When I held it in my hands I observed that it was really heavy and the metal is very thick and has very good finish.
Actually, a very large part of the case is made from one strong and sturdy piece of aluminum.
I really like the design and the build quality of this product, as I’ve rarely seen this performance at this price point and even higher.
When looking inside the unit, I’ve observed that it has a clean design just as the STU with good components as well. Also, a toroidal transformer got my attention as no entry level product has that.
Let’s take a closer look to the specs.
I will not repeat myself, as some of them are quite similar to Xonar Essence STU. So I’m only going to mention what caught my attention.
A very important aspect is that Xonar One Muses has balanced DAC outputs, and it has two BurrBrown PCM1795 dac chips of 32 bit /192 that promise 123dB of dynamic range.
It also has “world’s first 8x symmetrical upsampling” that means that 44.1kHz-based sampling rates are converted to 352.8kHz, and 48kHz-based rates to 384kHz.
The headphone output has the impedance of 10 ohms, so it would fit better with higher impedance headphones.
Xonar One uses a C-Media CMI6632 usb processor with 32 bit /192 khz capability, an akm ak4113 S/PDIF receiver that manages the coaxial and optical inputs at 24/192 and for DSP it uses an Analog Devices ADSP-21 261 (150MHz SIMD SHARC Core, 900MFLOPS)
Asus Essence One has swappable op-amps for those who want to take the performance to another level, like Asus did with the Essence One Muses edition.
Actually I first thought that the review unit is the normal Essence One, but I was wrong. This is actually the Muses Edition. The only visual difference between the two is the color of the Qing tiger, which on Muses is painted in black instead of yellow.
The Muses OP-amps are made by New Radio Japan, a company specialized in audiophile grade components, and their muses line is very popular. Every little Muses Op-Amp costs 50$, and because you need 6, that would make a total of 300$.
- asynchronous usb 32 bit / 192 khz
- 2 x S/PDIF in (1 x Optical (Toslink)/1 x Coaxial)
- 1 x 6.3 mm jack (1/4″) Headphone out
- 2 x RCA (Un-Balanced)
- 2 x 3 pin XLR (Balanced)
Tests and Listening Impressions
One of the first things that I tried was pushing the upsampling button. It was quite a pleasant surprise, as the sound really improved, becoming more fluent, detailed and the extension of the instruments was fuller.
As stated before, I’ve also tested Essence One Muses with low impedance headphones : Focal Spirit Classic and Audeze LCD-X. While the sound lost easily at transparency and details against Conductor, I am not sure it is a fair comparison between the two.
In the end I found it to be a decent match for both of them, but I liked it much more with Sennheiser HD800 which even impressed me on some songs.
In conclusion, most of the tests were done with HD800.
During testing I was trying to use the asio driver from asus in foobar and I have received a blue screen in windows, crashin the operating system.
The guitars were presented in a musical way and within a large soundstage. The extension of the guitars and the attack on the plucks were quite good. I felt like the sound was flowing away in a relaxing and musical manner.
The guitar plucks from the beginning of the song were sparkly and enjoyable. I found the soundstage to be spacious and the voice was loosing itself in a echo that left the impression of an even larger soundstage. Also, the voice was clean and fluent.
I was quite impressed with the instrument separation on Essence One. The voice, guitars, drums were very well layered and did not blend in a generous soundstage again. The voice if not very detailed, it was very clean and enjoyable.
I really, really enjoyed this song on Essence One. The layering is impressive again, the piano and all the instruments in the back are presented very well and I can even say that they have good extension and details. The voice is very musical and again very clean. I loved this song on Xonar One.
I enjoy very much the way essence one reproduces voices. They have a very nice fluency and are very clean. The guitars behind the voice are dancing in a very musical way . Actually the whole song just floated away in a very musical manner.
The trumpets and the guitars from the beginning made a grand entrance into the song. Again, I found the soundstage very generous and quite holographic. When the passage got crowded, the song poured musically and very well layered with no instruments blending in together.
The drums entered strong near the holographic guitars from the beginning, then the clean voice on a completely different layer and then it started to rock. The drums are punchy and the rhythm is engaging and energetic. This Muses One knows how to rock.
The bass has a good and clean punch and the song presented itself with a very good PRAT. Even if the song was energetic, essence one has a special way of making the sound relaxed and easy flowing in the same time.
Essence one has a deep bass with a strong and clean punch. It lacks some of the control that makes Burson Soloist great, but overall a good performer in it’s category.
The midrange is sweet, musical and with very enjoyable clean voices.
The treble has a very enjoyable sparkle and is extended, but in a relaxed, non fatiguing way.
Instrument Separation, Layering & Soundstage
I’ve been quite impressed by this chapter with essence one muses. The soundstage was quite generous and sometimes even holographic. The instruments were very well separated even on very crowded passages.
Relaxed, Effortless presentation
I feel like the sound plays in a relaxed, effortless mode that is very pleasant to the ear and can make long listening sessions possible.
I’ve read on many occasions that Essence One is lacking details. I haven’t heard the basic Essence One yet, but I feel that on it’s own Essence One Muses has decent details, at least it did with HD800 ( I think with high impedance headphones in general) and especially with up-sampling activated.
I found the Asus Essence Xonar One Muses Edition to be a very good unit for the money and a very good match for my HD800 and I think with high impedance headphones in general.
With low impedance headphones like Focal Spirit Classic it is a decent performer, but it slightly takes away from transparency and details, and I think that is why people tend to say that Essence One lacks details. From my point of view, with the right headphones it had good details and transparency, especially with the upsampling turned on.
When I first wrote the review I thought this was the standard edition, and I was really impressed with it’s performance considering the price. When I found out it is the Muses Edition it made more sense, and actually I still consider it to be a very good value for the money.
The One Muses has a very interesting way of reproducing the music as it gives it a relaxed, effortless and musical presentation that makes it very enjoyable, fun and well suited for long listening sessions.
Overall, I consider the Essence One Muses Edition to be a very strong player at this price point as it has some very interesting features, very appealing design, build quality and very good sound in its category.
- Excellent build quality and appealing design
- Good async usb input
- Balanced DAC outputs
- Sparkly, extended but relaxed treble
- Sweet midrange
- Relaxed and effortless sound that leads to good musicality
- Good details with the right headphones
- Upsampling does a great job in making the sounds more fluent, extended and more detailed
- Punchy and deep bass
- 10 ohms output impedance makes it less transparent and detailed with lower impedance headphones
- unstable asio drivers