ASUS has announced a new Plus Edition version of its Xonar Essence One external digital-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier that offers audio lovers even more control over the sound they hear. The only real change to the setup is the addition of an op-amp swap kit that gives users another five unique tonal customization options.
Launched in August 2011 and attracting enough attention at CES 2012 to be selected as an Innovations Award honoree in the Audio Components category, the Xonar Essence One features competition-beating 32-bit 8x symmetrical upsampling capabilities and a 120dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). The unit combines a Hi-Fi DAC for computers and CD/DVD players and an audiophile-class headphone amp capable of powering cans with impedance up to 600 ohms, and of upsampling 44.1/88.2/176.4kHz source audio to 352.8kHz and 48/96/192kHz input to 384kHz for audiophile-pleasing results.
The specs list a total harmonic distortion of just 0.000316 percent at 1kHz and frequency response of 10Hz - 48kHz, a USB-B connector, Toslink and Coaxial digital inputs, two XLR connectors and stereo, coaxial analog outputs, asynchronous data transfer to eliminate jitter and a dedicated power supply to help ensure that clean power is delivered.
At the heart of the unit are eleven Texas Instruments TI-NE5532 operational amplifiers (op-amps), which amplify the analog signal and determine tone and timbre characteristics (such as darkness or brightness of sound or the overall sound image). The Xonar Essence One makes every one of its op-amps swappable to allow users to fully customize the sound to individual taste.
Now ASUS is launching a new Xonar Essence One Plus Edition that's bundled with an op-amp swap kit. Checking for a wide tuning range has led ASUS engineers to extensively test over 100 different op-amps and they've chosen the six deemed most unique in their impact on sound character for the Plus Edition bundle. The four TI-OPA2132PA op-amps and two NS-LM4562NA can be installed without the need to brush up on your soldering skills, and the kit comes with an IC clamp, a screw driver, and an op-amp swap guide.
ASUS has also integrated a premium WIMA capacitor that's said to offer a warmer, cleaner, and more balanced sound image and claims its Hyper Grounding technology separates analog and digital signals for reduced EMI and even purer sound.
At the time of writing, there's no word on when the new edition will be available or how much it will cost. As soon as we find out, we'll let you know.