Asus Singapore recently held its Essence of Sound audio event where both media and power users from the local hardware scene were introduced to Asus’ lineup of audio devices which included its latest DAC, the Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition. Kenneth Wong was on site to take a listen to the “MUSE Powered” DAC based on their popular Xonar Essence One series.
On first look, the MUSES Edition looks very similar to the standard and plus version of the Xonar Essence One with no outstanding markings or indication that this piece of black device holds very special internals. Not that it matters though as my audiophile friend puts it as most of the time you are listening rather than looking. Being someone who bothers to make sure the colour of his RAMs match the motherboard, it made me give the roll eyes look.
Moving onto the controls itself, I would say that if you ever used any device that has nobs and can read english, you will not have any problems figuring out how to use the Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition (or any other Xonar Essence One). In an age where somehow electronic devices makers go for “the more buttons, the more impressive it looks”, it is good to see Asus stick with something straight forward which also gets the job done.
Even for someone still learning his way in the world of expensive audio equipment, I had no issues getting the Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition to work. From adjusting the volume to adjusting the input and even trying out the upsampling function, everything came naturally as I adjusted the settings.
But of course what really matters is the insides and how using the MUSE01 opamps would make that added price difference justifiable compared to the other Xonar Essence One DACs. Trying out the provided music at the event, I would say even to the untrained ears of mine, classical pieces sound very good. I do wonder if using the provided Sennheiser HD700 did help as I am quite a fan of open can headphones using the Audio Technica AD700 myself. In fact I kinda regret not bringing my David Garrett (whome I’m became a fan of after meeting him in Singapore) pieces to try out.
The next test on my list was to try out other genre of music and I was thankful my friend brought along his FLAC collection of the Gundam Unicorn soundtrack. My favorite is track 2, “Unicorn”, for its emotional instrumental mood the composer brings. Playing the track through the DAC, somehow something seemed different. Wondering if it is just me, I tried out the same track on the non MUSES edition of the Xonar Essence One and somehow it seemed better. Upon further investigation, it seems that the the MUSES opamps had a part in this.
Now don’t get me wrong, not that the MUSES edition is inferior to the non MUSES edition but rather how the characteristics of the opamps inside are more suited for one genre of music. If you are the type that loves sitting back and enjoying classical music where there is one main instrument like the violin, the MUSES edition would be the one to go for.
This in itself is also the target audience I am guessing ASUS is looking out for with the Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition. Music can be quite a personal taste with different people preferring different genre of music (like how every member of POPCulture Online has a preference) and it is good to see ASUS catering for this group.
For myself, while I don’t think the MUSES edition is for me with my Spotify playlist full of pop, rock and a bit of trance on the side, the DAC still came across as an impressive piece of audio hardware with its ease of use and impressive sounds with the right genre of music. While I don’t see myself getting the MUSES edition due to my preference of music, I definitely will encourage friends into classic music to give it a try.
For more information on the Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition, you can check out the product page over here.
© POPCulture Online 2013