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Pros: Industry-leading software interface
In my opinion the best sound quality for internal sound cards at this price range
While not mentioned, the PCB looks like ASUS Auto-Extreme manufacturing as the soldering is smooth and nearly flawless
6-pin PCI-E power connector instead of molex
ESS Sabre DAC
Cons: More expensive than European price if you convert currency
Owl eye isn't really visible when installed
Looks somewhat gimmicky
Other Thoughts: I'm a computer geek and love trying new gadgets, so when I saw the Strix Soar finally available on some jungle-themed shopping site I decided to take a leap into the unknown. I chose the cheapest variant of the three cards since I didn't want to risk wasting a large sum and not getting any results. If I lose, I wouldn't be losing too much.
I am happy to report that this card has exceeded all my expectations, especially considering the fact that I'm coming from Essence STX II card with three Muses 01 Op Amps. For those of you unfamiliar with the jibberish I just mentioned, that's the top audiophile card from ASUS with Japanese Operation Amplifiers from New Japan Radio. Each little amplifier costs you a whopping $50 USD, on top of the $240+ sound card.
So how does this $99 card fare against its upgraded $400+ cousin? It actually doesn't sound all that different and even manage to beat the Essence in some areas!
The first thing that came to my mind was how beautiful and intuitive the software is. The interface presents you with all the available options in a single page. Everything is nicely laid out and customizing the card to your liking is a breeze. This contrasts very much with ASUS' older software featuring bland/stale looks and spartan feature sets. Creative also lose out as their software is full of fluff and useless options.
I'm not going to discuss the gamer-oriented features as I don't play much FPS to make any use of them. While I haven't tested the positional performance in FPS titles, I can tell you that the stereo separation of the card is phenomenal from playing some MMOs and listening to music. You can clearly hear the direction/position the sound is coming from, whether it be environmental noise or another player's footsteps. For those of you wondering what speakers I'm using - I'm sporting a pair of JBL LSR 305 studio monitors.
Now on to the most important thing: sound quality. I buy sound cards to listen to music primarily and will judge them based on this criteria most heavily. While I can't attest to the accuracy of the sound coming out of this card without a live source for comparison, I can say for sure that the sound quality won't disappoint.
The sound card features a somewhat V shaped sound signature, with a bit more emphasis towards highs and lows. I think ASUS did a great job with this as the mids don't feel recessed at all. The sound signature is very lively and "fun" without getting tiresome. If you're upgrading from motherboard audio, you're going to hear details you've never heard before provided you have a decent set of speakers at your disposal.
Compared to my Essence STX II, John Powell & Gavin Greenaway's "Coming Back Around" from How to Train Your Dragon sounded much more exciting and engaging, with slightly more artificial highs and fuller lows in comparison. While you do lose a small bit of detail and realism, the trade-off is in my opinion is well worth it given the price difference.
Some of you might wonder if Soundblaster Z could do the same since it's in the same price range. I'm going to tell you no... This card curbstomps SBZ... SBZ hisses and sounds metallic at highs, it's booming and unnatural at lows, the "crystallizer" in my opinion should be named "music/ear killer". Just get this card instead and thank me later.
Anyways, to sum things up - I am flabbergasted by the price/performance ratio of this sound card and feel a bit upset even as I write this message. While the Essence STX II sounded pretty freaking good and in some cases more natural compared to the Strix, at 1/4 the cost the Strix's got about 90% of the performance of the upgraded STX II while packing significantly more features. I'm not going to pull out the Muses Amps... I don't want to compare stock STX II to this card. I basically paid a 300% difference in price and received 10% back in performance... ASUS - if you guys are reading this - you're welcome to update the software on STX II... Give me something prettier to look at at least please?
For those of you on a very tight budget - I would recommend you spend your money on better speakers first. That would affect your sound much more than any sound card would. After that, get this card. I don't think anything can touch it at its price range as of today.
This review is from: MSI GeForce GTX 980TI LIGHTNING LE
Pros: great OC potential, competitive pricing, great build quality
Cons: seriously bulky
Other Thoughts: this is a great card. I push the core +300 Mhz and the memory +500 Mhz without increasing voltage and the card runs stable. It also remains under 65 degrees Celsius while making absolutely no noises whatsoever.
My EVGA Kingpin can't even touch this card in performance.
I've owned many MSI graphics cards and I can say with confidence you will not be disappointed with this brand.
I've had ASUS, EVGA, and MSI cards and I would pick MSI over the other two usually.
I can't say anything about the customer service quality as I've yet to run into any issues, but count me as a customer for life if the CS quality is as good as the products they sell.
Pros: Great card, stable and fast
Great people to work with.
The customer service reps feel "human". They understand your problems/concerns and are willing to go around the guidelines to ensure your satisfaction.
Cons: Too bad my first card was defective, but I felt valued as a customer following my RMA experience and will buy more EVGA products as a result.
Other Thoughts: Erin Washington & Brandon Slaney are great people to work with.
Erin - she was very understanding and issued me a return label as well as processed my RMA on our very first interaction.
Brandon - great guy, he went through some troubleshooting steps with me and pre-approved my RMA that came a month later. He was also responsible for setting me up with a new replacement product because I expressed concerns with refurbs.
Brandon went as far as asking their shipping department to hold the package for me at an UPS depot because I could not stay home to sign for it.
My new card - no issues, no buzzing, all ports work fine, 6 degrees cooler than the defective one. I'm happy. :)
My favorite thing about EVGA is the people. These guys treat you with respect and feel human during interactions. They are very sympathetic and understand my troubles/woes and went out of their way to make sure I'm happy. They provided me services and support they weren't required to give just to make sure I was taken care of and I'm very thankful for their help.
I will buy EVGA products in the future just for the customer service alone. Thank you guys for being awesome. :)
If I could retract my 3 egg review I would. I would still dock an egg for the defective though. ;)