The Asus DAC: Xonar Essence One -update with Muses Edition-

Disclaimer: Asus Indonesia asked me to do this review. The Fostex HP-A7 and Violectric V800/V200 are the Headfonia Store demo units. You can find the updated impression with the Xonar Essence One Muses edition at the end of the article, just before the pictures gallery.

 

The desktop DAC/Amp from Asus comes with surprises on a few level. First it was bigger than how I see it in pictures. Rather than the size of say a Dr. DAC DX2, it was close to the footprint of a Burson Conductor (just as wide, slightly less deep). Second, the build was  surprisingly beefy for a product with an Asus name on it. Maybe I’m just discriminating against the Taiwanese based maker here, but Asus products don’t usually come with a high quality build (I own an Asus laptop and a tablet). The Xonar Essence One however is an extremely well built product and had they designed the product with a more square-minimalist shape, it could easily pass on as a Musical Fidelity or Cambridge Audio product. The casing is thick and solid and though it doesn’t feature a 10mm thick panel like Burson’s Conductor, doesn’t look at all flimsy next to the likes of the Burson Conductor, Violectric’s V200/V800 combo, or even Bakoon’s SCA-7511Mk3. Third, the DAC quality is (again I didn’t expect it to be this good) very good, competing with the likes of the Fostex HP-A7, the Violectric V800, and the Burson Conductor.

 

DAC Sound Quality

The highlight of the Xonar is definitely on the DAC quality. Two TI PCM1795 chips are used to handle the D/A conversion, with an AKM 4113 S/PDIF receiver, a CMI6631 USB receiver and an ADI ADSP-21261 DSP chip aiding the job. Windows user need to install an ASIO driver which allows for a bit-perfect transfer (supposedly the driver is very good though I didn’t try it), while Mac users can plug in the DAC directly without needing to install anything (I used a Mac).

I don’t have the Centrance Dacmini around (which is a close competitor in terms of price) so I really can’t talk about technicalities comparison to the Centrance, but one thing I can say is that the Xonar is warmer than the Centrance.

The XEO gained my respect after I did the Fostex HP-A7 vs XEO comparison. The A7 used to be their flagship prior to the release of the mighty A8. The A7 by itself is no slouch and being the HP-A3’s bigger brother, is an extremely good mid-line DAC with the typical Fostex clean and smooth sound (Fostex owners know what I’m talking about). The Xonar however manages to better the A7 in soundstage depth, detail and resolution, while the Fostex gives a cleaner, wider, and smoother sound.

Next up is a comparison to the Burson Conductor DAC and the Violectric V800 DAC. Against these two more expensive units, the Asus certainly has an edge in the DAC resolution, only losing in the amplifier department to the mighty Conductor amp and the Violectric V200. Still, standing at a price significantly less of the stand alone Violectric amp, I really couldn’t complain at the performance of the XEO’s built in amp.

Though the sound wasn’t particularly wide (the Vio was the widest, the Burson being second), the Xonar clearly resolves micro detail more effortlessly, portraying ambience with greater resolution. The Violectric DAC was the smoothest of the three while the Burson DAC was the most articulate. Soundstage depth and layering is the best on the Xonar.

The music is rendered with a good analog tone and without the slightest hint of a digital sound. Even though the Violectric V800 was smoother sounding and has a beefier low end, at the end the Asus sounded more natural and more coherent than the more wide panned-out sound of the Vio. The Burson resolves detail better than the Violectric and is also more articulate on fast-passages, but again the Asus is more effortless in its detail retrieval.

Initially I was bitten by the sound quality of the V800. The wide, laid back and beefy lows provided by the Vio DAC clearly hits my sound preference right. However later on my ears leaned more and more to the sound of the Xonar. It even bested the Fostex HP-A7 DAC though I’m quite a fan of the extremely smooth and clean Fostex house sound. Despite the clean sound, the Fostex is simply out-resolved by the Xonar, and the lack of a proper ambiance reproduction in the Fostex again tilts my preference toward the Asus. With an amp that significantly boosts the low end like the Bakoon, the Xonar makes for a much better DAC than the Vio as I no longer miss the low end body of the Violectric DAC.
Headphone Amplifier

To hear all the resolution that the Xonar has, the built in headphone jack is the best output to use as you get the shortest signal path that way. By itself the headphone amp is pretty good and with plenty amount of voltage swing that drives the HE-400 and HE-500 to a good volume level quite effortlessly though quite far from the level of impact of the Violectric, Burson or Bakoon amps. The Xonar also provides a monster op-amp rollable solution with two rollable op-amp for the headphone out, and with a total of 11 rollable op-amps in the whole board this is truly an op-amp modder’s birthday wish.

I tried the Xonar mainly with big headphones (HE-400, HE-500, LCD-2, HD650, and Smeggy’s Thunderpants), however I also wanted to know how it performs with IEMs and so I tried a bunch of popular IEMs with it including the Sennheiser IE800 and the AKG K3003 and was pleased to hear a clean sound with no hiss (even when the case is off!) and a good amount of volume control range.

 

Features and Connectivity

The availability of S/PDIF and USB digital inputs and both unbalanced and balanced analog outputs make this box super versatile to use. The analog outs are volume controlled through the main volume knob (centre knob), making it a good companion for active speakers both consumer (RCA) and pro grade (XLR). What else can I ask for? Let’s not forget the handy sample rate indicator that confirms the sample rate of the incoming signal. The up sampling button next to the power button intelligently does an even-order multiplication for the up-sampling to either 352.8kHz or 384kHz depending on the rate of the original signal (i.e 44.1 to 352.8 while 96 goes to 384). Just for the record the majority of DACs upsample blindly to either 96kHz, 192kHz or 384kHz with no regard to the original sample rate, while even-order upsampling has often been recommended for better audio quality.

 

End Words

It really surprises me that the Asus was able to perform this well in the comparison with big names like Burson, Fostex, and Violectric. I know that Asus is a much bigger company with a huge amount of engineering know-how, but it’s just that they haven’t been particularly focused to the Hi-Fi segment hence I find it surprising that they were able to achieve that sort of a sound quality with the Xonar Essence One. For the ~$600 price that it’s being offered for, this box is an extremely good value. Sans for the inferior DAC resolution, the Xonar Essence One certainly makes for a more complete one-box DAC/Amp solution than even my highly esteemed Fostex HP-A8 (no balanced out!). We don’t give out star ratings but if we do it’s definitely a full 5 stars.

The performance is there, but the big question is how the market will respond to an audio product with the Asus name on it. Is a strong brand, but one that’s never been associated with high end audio products. Even with a review as positive as this, I’m still crossing my finger if the enthusiasts will pick it up. Maybe they should’ve done what iRiver did, creating a new name for their audiophile product line (Astell & Kern), but who knows for sure? Do you think they should’ve gone with a new brand name for the Xonar Essence One? Let me know in the comments.

 

 — update Asus Xonar Essence One Muses Edition — 

The Muses Edition is here and the only thing that tells it apart from the standard version is the black color of the lion graphics on the top of the enclosure. Sound improvements of the Muses edition, however, is not subtle as it clearly trounced the standard edition with its vastly more spacious sound to become perhaps the most spacious sounding DAC I’ve heard in the $1K mark. Along with the more expansive soundstage you also get a flatter frequency response especially to the stock unit. What I didn’t hear is an improved black background and a cleaner sound with less grain: the Muses edition is still guilty of these two offenses. Thanks to Asus Indonesia for providing the sample units.

 

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The Asus DAC: Xonar Essence One -update with Muses Edition-
3.5 (70%) 8 votes

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102 Comments

  • Reply June 13, 2013

    dalethorn

    This enthusiast certainly gets the picture. I couldn’t wish for a more clear description of the sound and function.

    • Reply June 13, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks Dale.

    • Reply June 13, 2013

      George Lai

      Hear Hear

  • Reply June 13, 2013

    grizley

    Is it “as good” as also generally praised (though not reviewed at headfonia) universal BD player from the same manufacturer, that was named a “piece of high-end gear” for 200$ and it turned out to be a “piece of s…” in my hands? Barely reading discs, constantly freezing and loosing network connection with ridiculously stupid and slow user interface?

    Maybe I am getting off the topic, but recently I am very sensitive to the reviews praising every single item. And the reviewers hearing “tremendous” sound differences between the headphone cables, though not being able to pick them up in this “stupid scientific blind-tests”. Whatever decent argumentation appears on the forum, the posts get deleted (too offensive) or the topic is cut as the very logical opponent is called “self-contradictory”.

    Always liked this website, still a good source of info about “head-fi” gear, but sorry to say that, I find it difficult to handle your bullshitting Mike. I do not mean this Asus being a bad product BTW. Not at all, I have not heard it yet. But I refer in general to the process of reviewing the gear hear. And the way the discussion is moderated: stating ridiculous opinions, providing not really the best arguments in favour and in the end cutting the discussion after one of the logically thinking and educated readers can not handle these bullshit statements any more and calls them as they should be called. Then the SOP is to call this person as offensive and “close-minded” and cut it off.

    • Reply June 13, 2013

      Mike

      Don’t worry I’ll delete your comment and put you on the blacklist once I get to my computer.

      • Reply June 13, 2013

        grizley

        Pls do so… anyway I am not up for posting anything here any more. To be honest, I did not expect anything else than deleting the post. Goes hand in hand with your style of reviewing different products. Learn what “scepticism” and “critical approach” really mean.

        • Reply June 13, 2013

          Mike

          My wifi is down. Did you hack it?

  • Reply June 13, 2013

    donunus

    I’m confused about the DAC resolution. On the description at the top of the review you said that the dac was its main highlight yet at the conclusion you said that the dac lacks resolution. Is there a correction here to be made or is there something I am not understanding?

    • Reply June 13, 2013

      Mike

      Donunus,
      In comparison to the dac of the A8.

      • Reply June 13, 2013

        donunus

        ahh ok thanks

  • Reply June 13, 2013

    DMax

    There is a channel imbalance problem with the E1 with low impedance headphones

    • Reply June 13, 2013

      Mike

      E1?

      • Reply June 13, 2013

        DMax

        Lol… E1 stands for Essence one ;p

        • Reply June 13, 2013

          Mike

          Didn’t find any imbalance with IEMs.

          • Reply June 13, 2013

            DMax

            At low volumes? Hmm… Interesting.. I’ll have to try it with my IEMs tomorrow… But it is a problem with my low impedance headphones… I know there are others on other forum have the same problem… And there’s no gain setting to fix it…. Btw…the one you reviewed on.. Was it a basic model or the MUSES model?

            • Reply June 13, 2013

              Mike

              Yes no problem from volume zero. Thing is imbalance problem with analog pots are common so maybe I just happen to get a good unit

              • Reply June 14, 2013

                Gandah

                All Essence one Standard Edition with the B10K taiwan alpha potentiometer are imbalanced, if your unit has the new A10K pots your ok. This imbalance problem has been described many times on the Essence One thread on head-fi.org

                • Reply June 14, 2013

                  Mike

                  Thanks

                • Reply June 14, 2013

                  DMax

                  Dang it… I must have gotten the older version then… Hopefully my replacement unit will have the newer pots 😉 thanks!

                • Reply June 15, 2013

                  Leonarfd

                  When was the new pot included? Mine is from february and has zero imbalance, this is stock version not muses. Checked with headphone out, xlr and rca. And yes it is from zero volume and up.

                  • Reply June 15, 2013

                    Gandah

                    I’m not sure when asus made the change to the new A10k pots, if you have no imbalance problems than you have the A10K pots or your run high impedance HPs and can’t hear it or you are the first person I know of who’s unit is freakishly channel balanced

                    • June 15, 2013

                      Leonarfd

                      Actually I have tested with the 1 iem my wife got Klipsch x10, Still no imbalance. How to check what potentiometer you have? I mentioned this aswell on head-fi some time back.

                    • June 16, 2013

                      Gandah

                      Just open your unit and look at both volume potentiometers on them you will see A10k or B10k

  • Reply June 14, 2013

    PacoNavarro

    Wow! I never thought Asus would be part of the high quality audio market.

  • Reply June 14, 2013

    derbii

    I dont think you’re right when you say that Asus doesn’t have a good reputation when it comes to audio. Maybe amongst brand snobs, but if you go to head-fi for example, or any other pc audio forum, you will see how much respect the E1 has, and even more so the internal soundcard ST and STX, which far surpass the performance of ANY DAC anywhere near the price. I have Asus Xonar ST, Musical Fidelity M1DAC and Nuforce HDP. I can say that MF and Nuforce are literally outclassed by ST in terms of sound quality. None of them are nearly as transparent, they both color the sound in comparison, lack sound separation, and overall sound resolution and detail compared to the ST. AND, the ST has a far better headphone output than the Nuforce HDP for example, with more power (1,2 watts at 32 ohms, 10 ohm output impedance). Not to even begin about the features of the card which are various dolby effects and virtual surround sound modes…which greatly increase performance in multichannel audio SACD’s or games/movies.

    They are great products that with the build quality, component quality, performance and price can give many much more famous products a run for their money, sadly, most people dont ever even try them, because they have preconceived notion that something without a 2000$ price tag and somethings that built by some guys in a basement and branded as high end will be any good. Tried many amps, dacs and amp/dac combos, including the M1DAC which I use in a speaker setup, M1HPA, V-CANII, V-DACII, Teac UDH01, CA Dacmagic Plus, Nuforce HDP which I use with a laptop only on the go,….but none of them match the performance, just sheer performance regardless of price, of the ST. And when we put the price into the equations…we have a winner. Headphones used by the way are K701’s, T90’s, HD650’s, DT770/880/990, so plenty of transparency to show differences.

    • Reply June 14, 2013

      dalethorn

      I read a lengthy report by Archmago that may partly explain how Asus is perceived among audiophiles. Sound cards that are strictly internal computer boards could qualify as audiophile I suppose, but that’s not one of the first things I think of when it comes to audiophile components. Maybe this Xonar box will change things for Asus, but they will have to answer those questions, and it doesn’t look like they’re anxious to do that.

    • Reply June 14, 2013

      Mike

      I know they make sound cards, still if you talk to the average hifi guy, Asus is not a hifi brand to them.

  • Reply June 14, 2013

    Turok Rock

    The Muses opamps (Asus Muses version) have taken it to a completely different level!

    • Reply June 14, 2013

      Gandah

      Absolutely the sound quality between the standard and Muses edition is like chalk and cheese. Mike you should roll to Muses01 and say goodbye to the A8

      • Reply June 14, 2013

        Mike

        Thanks, yes they told me the Muses is coming as well.

        • Reply June 14, 2013

          DMax

          Cheaper way to roll to the muses is to get some from aliexpress… You can find some at very very good value… I have eight coming my way… 😉

          • Reply June 22, 2013

            DMax

            I’ve just received my replacement unit this week and listening to it for the first time now I can confirm that this replacement unit has NO channel imbalance problem! Now I am happy! 😉

            • Reply June 22, 2013

              Mike

              Good to hear that. Ive received the Muses version and indeed it is better. Will update the article next week

              • Reply June 22, 2013

                DMax

                Really? Haha… I have received my 6 Muses01 op amp early this week too. I plan to put them in and replace the stock ones after about 2 weeks time. I want to give the stock one some listening time so I can compare them. I must say buying the basic version and then roll them with muses01 op amp is a much cheaper way to improve the sound 😉

                Anyways.. I’m looking forward to your review on the Muse version soon. Good work 😉

    • Reply June 15, 2013

      Mike

      Good news I’m getting the Muses version as well

      • Reply June 17, 2013

        Turok Rock

        Will there be an update or a continue for the above review?

        • Reply June 17, 2013

          Mike

          Most probably just an update.

  • Reply June 14, 2013

    atitsbest

    Hi Mike,

    thanks for this review.
    I have one question: How does the Essence One compare to the Alo PanAm in terms of sound quality (DAC and amp combined)?

    Thank you.

    • Reply June 14, 2013

      Mike

      Amp quality is better on the PanAm. Dac on the Xonar.

      • Reply June 15, 2013

        atitsbest

        Thanks Mike! That helps.

        Also thanks for this site of yours and your work.

    • Reply June 14, 2013

      Mike

      Sorry I couldn’t answer your question as a one unit sound quality. Plus minuses, basically.

  • Reply June 17, 2013

    ROBIN TANUDJAJA

    Where can u find this in jakarta?

    • Reply June 17, 2013

      Mike

      Ummm… stop by my store?
      headfonia.com/store

      • Reply June 28, 2013

        ROBIN TANUDJAJA

        Mike, I just bought the Muse. Can recommend what speaker & headphone that is good for this?
        For speaker I was thinking: Swans M200 Mk III or Aktimate Mini+
        For headphone: DT 880 600 ohms or HD 700/800

        • Reply June 28, 2013

          Mike

          It would depend on the music and the sound that you’re looking for. The HD700 is an easier headphone to enjoy than the 800.

          • Reply June 28, 2013

            ROBIN TANUDJAJA

            Music is Audiophile Jazz and acoustic piano with sometimes Pop…Tried HD700 but sometimes I wanted more treble as I couldnt hear the recording ambiance clearly. Tried HD 800 but I wanted to tone down some upper treble a bit and for glasses user like me it’s not as comfy as HD 800….

            • Reply June 28, 2013

              Mike

              The ears tend to adjust to a dark sound so if you find it lacking treble after a while it would sound just fine. On the other hand it’s hard to adjust to excessive treble.

              • Reply June 28, 2013

                ROBIN TANUDJAJA

                Good point. Thanks for the valuable advise!

                • Reply July 6, 2013

                  ROBIN TANUDJAJA

                  Hi Mike. Just bought the HD 700 and very satisfied with it. Just wondering, you think it’s best to pair it with E1 original or Muse as my Muse order will only come in 2 weeks time so maybe I can cancel.

                  • Reply July 9, 2013

                    Mike

                    I’d go with the Muses.

                    And a big huge tube amp. 😉

                    • July 9, 2013

                      ROBIN TANUDJAJA

                      Thanks Mike. I will keep the order then. I was thinking the muse can lower the bass as i tried it with ie80 and the bass became less. And as it is, i am fine with hd700 bass. Anyway, i will trust your taste :). Thanks.

                    • July 9, 2013

                      Mike

                      Yes there is less bass with the Muse. I didn’t realize it was going to be an issue with you.

                      Oh well…

                    • July 9, 2013

                      ROBIN TANUDJAJA

                      Never try with hd700. But ie80 from bassy became balance. So? 🙂

                    • July 11, 2013

                      Mike

                      If you like the IE80’s balance then the HD650 is the one.

  • Reply June 18, 2013

    Dean Lu

    Would this be better than a schiit bifrost and asgard 2?

  • Reply July 10, 2013

    Sam

    The Teac UD-501 seems to directly compete with the Xonar Essence (Muses) in terms of price and functionality. Any chance you could get your hands on the Teac for a comparison? Thanks!

    • Reply July 11, 2013

      Mike

      I really don’t have source for TEAC gear right now but previous TEACs have been underwhelmingly digital. The UD-501, I’ll keep an eye for it.

  • Reply July 18, 2013

    Dave Ulrich

    The HP-A7 isn’t really sold anymore, is it?

    • Reply July 18, 2013

      Mike

      A7 is Japan market only and has always been that way.

      • Reply July 18, 2013

        Dave Ulrich

        Too bad. I was kind of interested in that one.

  • Reply July 20, 2013

    rich

    Hi Mike, I wonder if you can further elaborate on the grain and a not so dark background in your review on the Asus Muses edition. I rest mine on a sold foundation made from marble and uses after market power cords and interconnects from Audioquest. I use the AT 3000ANV as well as the T1. I am a new to this hobby and just like to know what plague this dac/ amp in terms of a lack of a dark background and some gains in the sound. How do you overcome these problems. I also purchased the Vioelectric 200 which is on the way. Thank you.

    • Reply July 20, 2013

      Mike

      Well the Asus E1s both standard and Muses are grainy and the background is not so dark. The HP-A8 is blacker and less grainy and so is the Neko D100 which is the blackest and the most grain free of the three. Usually these sound characteristics are built in to the design I don’t think you can take out grain and add blacker background using different components. Better quality transport help by not adding more grain to the sound but you can’t take out the grain you get from the DAC.

      • Reply January 23, 2016

        Raul Trifan

        Hi Mike, I was able to make the Essence Muses less grainy by replacing internal power regulators, ading more filtering capacitors and also by adding a dedicate linear PSU for the 2 x PCM1795 DACs (need to cut PCB traces and add a small cable as well, so not for everyone). Also, to get the background a little bit blacker I installed an EMI/RFI filter on mains input and I also shielded the transformer with steel sheet (GOSS). Regards!

  • Reply July 20, 2013

    rich

    Also the Ops amp “Muses” is used in the new (2013) PassLab’s XP-30 preamp which sells for US$16,500. PassLab is a well respected US hifi manufacturer best known for making the best component hifi gears. Analogue devices ADSP-21261 is used to handle up sampling and with a pair of Texas Instrument’s Burr Brown PCM 1795 32/192 chips as the dac. “Jitters”, the bug bear of digital transmission should be inaudible in this Muses set up. Besides the “muses op amps”, I wonder if the dac chips are user replaceable ? If Asus’s intention is to enable the joy/ fun of op amps rolling, I hope they can make the dac chips user replaceable too.

    • Reply July 20, 2013

      Mike

      I don’t know of any DAC chips that are replaceable.

  • Reply July 20, 2013

    rich

    Thanks Mike for your advices. I wonder if you heard of iFi products ie iCan, iDac and a iUsb power conditioner and their amazing ” twin head “Gemini usb cables. Absolute Sound US which is the high lama of all high fidelity magazines, in it’s latest issue an article by Mr. Steven Stone gave a glowing report on these British designed cans but made in the PRC. There are many other favourable reviews as well. There are so much buzz in the web on these amazing products. All very positive.

    Maybe, you may want to grab them as sole agent and distributor in Indonesia.

  • Reply July 23, 2013

    rich

    After burn in for 7 days continually playing burn in CD by Sheffield Lab in repeat mode, the sound and resolution is super fine and amazing. A day vs night difference. My discovery, this set up requires serious prolong period of burn in. I am very satisfied with the sound now with my new Vio 200. The later don’t requires any burn in. It sounds good out of the box. The Muses Edition is a steal comparatively speaking.

    • Reply July 23, 2013

      Mike

      It’s extremely detailed, yes.

  • Reply July 24, 2013

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Regarding the swappage of opamps. http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/analog-line-level/191389-swapping-op-amps-you-have-checked-see-its-stable-havent-you.html

    At the moment I’m wrestling with a high bandwidth buffer oscillating at megaherz frequencies. Completely inaudible until it bakes itself and trips the thermo-protection.

  • Reply July 25, 2013

    rich

    Mike can you please explain what is it all about the “jumper” in the Asus Muses latest edition ? If this jumper is about increasing and decreasing the gain, then there must be a button to select this on the front or at the back of the unit. But I saw that this on a photo posted at Headfi and this is near to the volume control port on the circuit box itself.
    Further, the older ones without the jumper and old volume port is said to sound better. I purchase the Muses recently and don’t even know which unit
    i.e. new ones or the old ones without the jumper , that I bought ? How do I know which is which ?
    Sorry to take away your valuable time in your busy schedule. Thank you.

  • Reply July 29, 2013

    KS

    Is it possible to swap op amps on the basic Asus Essence One
    (the first model released in 2010)? And that too without using any soldering?

    If yes, can anyone suggest an op amp, more warmish/tubish kind for vocal
    jazz?

    • Reply August 28, 2013

      rich

      You can email to the manufacturer in Taiwan. They can give you the right answers. Not many people owns this set let alone the Muse Edition which I own. In the Muse edition, the Ops amp namely Muse 01 can be swapped. But why swap the Muse 01 unless there is an improved Muse such as a Muse 01A improved edition.

      There are several problems to swap Ops amps. The authorised reseller often has no stock (read Head Fi ). Next, there are many op amps which are not genuine parts. Lastly, one has no resources to know how the new ops amps will sounds like. It can be based on what other individuals said on the web. But their opinions are varied and are personal taste. Notion of what constitute good balance of musical nuances may not be to your liking.

      Just buy the Muse Edition and stays with this. I can assure you that the Muse Edition after burn in, can take on any dac/ amplifier.

      It is a very good buy. For the sound and the amount of flexibilities, it is a real bargain. If some one else other than Asus made this, it may cost 2 to 3 times more.

      I have been an audiophile for 35 years and I learn’t a lot from others, through trail and error, some self analysis and contemplation.

      • Reply August 29, 2013

        Mike

        Good points, rich.

        • Reply August 30, 2013

          rich

          Tks Mike. Have a nice weekend.

  • Reply October 6, 2013

    Aakshey Talwar

    How does this compare to Schiit Bifrost? Am looking for an articulate sound which is crisp and clean. Are they comparable? Or which of the two is better?

    Thank You

    Aakshey

    • Reply October 7, 2013

      Mike

      The Bifrost is more articulate and crisp. The Asus is warmer and has a better depth.

      • Reply October 8, 2013

        Aakshey Talwar

        And if you compare the Muses edition? How does that compare to the Bifrost Uber?
        Are they in a similar performance league considering the nearly double price?

        Thank You so much!

        Aakshey

        • Reply October 9, 2013

          Mike

          Hi Aakshey,
          I haven’t listened to the Bifrost Uber. The Muses is a good upgrade though.

          • Reply October 9, 2013

            Aakshey Talwar

            Is the Muses better than Bifrost (regular)? Is it a definite step up since the price is more than double?

            Thank You so much.

            Aakshey

            • Reply October 11, 2013

              Mike

              It’s in a different class than the regular Bifrost.

              The Biforst is good, detailed and articulate, though lacking depth and three dimensionality. The Muses is not only more spacious but excellent at depth and layering. One reader even thinks it ranks at the same level as the Fostex HP-A8. While I don’t think that the Muses is at that level, that does show the kind of playing field the Muses is being put at.

              • Reply October 11, 2013

                Aakshey Talwar

                Thank you so much! 🙂

              • Reply October 11, 2013

                Aakshey Talwar

                How does the Muses compare to other expensive dacs (forget about the amp section) like:
                Schiit Gungnir
                Arcam irDAC
                MF M1DAC

                And how does the amp only compare to other amps like:
                Asgard 2
                Matrix M Stage
                Graham Slee Novo

                Thank You so much. I really appreciate it 🙂

                Thanks a lot! 🙂

                Aakshey

                • Reply October 11, 2013

                  Aakshey Talwar

                  Hi Mike

                  I just researched further and learned:

                  1. Violectric V800 beats Gungnir according to Headfi. Right?

                  2. According to your article, Muses is better than V800. Right?

                  Does that mean Muses is at least in the same league as Gungnir, M1DAC and Arcam irDAC, if not better? Am I correct in stating that? 🙂

                  Also, what about the amp section?

                  Thank You so much, thanks!

                  Aakshey

                  • Reply October 14, 2013

                    Mike

                    Aakshey,
                    Comparing DACs is not like Lion > Cat, Cat > Mouse so Lion > Mouse

                    You need to read for reviews that give a good idea of what gear PAIRS well with what.

                    • October 17, 2013

                      Aakshey Talwar

                      I have the choice between Bifrost Uber USB for $550 or Muses edition for $800.
                      Bifrost only US warranty
                      Muses local warranty for me since I live in India, with bill and warranty.
                      Which is a better deal?

                      I will use as a DAC for my Aktimate Mini+ speakers and HD 650, amp/preamp Project Ember

                    • October 17, 2013

                      Mike

                      I’ve only listened to the standard Bifrost as they are not that popular here.. The Muses trumps the standard Bifrost.

                    • October 17, 2013

                      Aakshey Talwar

                      Thank You

                • Reply October 14, 2013

                  Mike

                  Maybe one day I’ll answer that.

  • Reply October 27, 2013

    Aakshey Talwar

    Thank You Mike so much for all your help so far. Just another quick few questions 🙂
    1. I know the muses has a better dac than the standard edition. But is the amp the same or does the muses have a better amp as well?
    2. Since muses amp and dac is $900. How does the single unit compare overall to Burson Soloist, HA-160D and Woo WA7? I am not talking of just the amp but the entire unit overall. Since they are all priced pretty close.
    The only headphones I care about are HD 650 and HD 800. I don’t want to know with respect to any other headphone,
    Thank You so much Mike for being such a great help 🙂
    Aakshey

    • Reply October 31, 2013

      Mike

      1. I think the amp should be the same, but please double check on that. I didn’t notice any difference in the amp.
      2. Long story please read the reviews for them.

      • Reply October 31, 2013

        Aakshey Talwar

        I can’t find any review comparing the AMP section of HA-160D or Soloist or WA7 to Muses edition amp and dac section combined. You have only compared the DAC sections with higher end DACs. 🙂

  • Reply January 5, 2014

    rich

    ( This is a belated response as I chanced to see this recently )

    With reference to the last few posts, are we missing something here ?

    The Asus Muse Edition amplifier section is driven by the Muse 01 operational amplifiers chips and are different from the rest.

    However, the DAC chip used here in the Muse edition is the same as the lower and cheaper Asus Xonar siblings.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • Reply April 1, 2014

    Gonçalo Dourado

    Hello, how are you?
    How does this compare to the HP-A4?

    Cheers!

  • Reply December 14, 2015

    Aakshey

    How does the amp section of E1/Muses compare with O2 or Asgard(1/2) or other sub $300 standalone amps?

    • Reply January 23, 2016

      Raul Trifan

      It’s an amp based on LME49720+LME49600 OPAMPs, without caps in signal path, but with DC servo buit in. Feel free to read TI’s datasheets for LME49600 and you’ll see the schematic of this headamp in the datasheet; the only thing that differs is an output resistance of about 10 ohms or so.

      The sound is very neutral, bass is powerful enough and perhaps a little bit on the warm side, but quite detailed and non fatiguing.

      It has more power than O2, though max. output voltage is about the same (around 6.7-7V RMS, but with a continous 250mA and a max. of 450mA, so it can drive most headphones out there). Theoretically, Essence’s amp can dissipate a max. power of 1.86W vs. 0.65W for O2, so for 32ohms headphones Essence can drive 32ohms headphones up to about 7V (internal gain is the limiting factor to get a higher output voltage) vs. 4.5V on the O2 headamp.

      • Reply May 12, 2016

        Aakshey

        Thank You.

  • Reply February 25, 2016

    Aakshey

    Hi Mike, I have the Asus Essence One Muses Edition. Is it still the best DAC under 1K USD? How does it compare to the likes of IFi Micro iDSD, Chord Mojo, Grace m903, Grace m9xx? What about the Element, Geek Out V2 etc?

    • Reply May 21, 2016

      Aakshey

      Can you reply Mike? How does it compare to Mojo, iDSD and Gumby/Bimby?

    • Reply May 21, 2016

      Aakshey

      Also, is the Muses brighter than the regular E1? Which of the two is warmer and less fatiguing?

    • Reply October 29, 2016

      RAUL TRIFAN

      Hi again,

      As this is an EndOfLife product, most likely Mike is not gonna answer right now. 🙂
      Anyway, I’ve replaced the LowPassFilter and VoltageGain opamps with 4 x BURSON SolidStateV5i opamps and I got an increase in soundstage and more impact on the bass department, also final sound is way more musical now…really improvement and very pleased with the upgrade. I strongly recommend SS V5i in LPF and VAS for the ASUS Essence One DAC and MUSES01 for I/V stage. In the output buffer stage you could upgrade default opamps with MUSES8820 or…why not SS V5i.

      Regards!

      P.S.: MUSES01 are not brighter than default opamps when used in I/V stage, just get the MUSES01!

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