Question Asus Xonar Essence STX or HDMI ARC?


Oct 16, 2007
It's been a short while and I need some refreshing on my tech knowledge...

Years ago, prior to turning my gaming rig into my mediacenter, I had an Asus Xonar Essence STX soundcard running audio through SPDIF (TOSLINK) to my Sony STR-DN1050 receiver (which supports 7.1 audio). That being said, I'm only running a 5.1 speaker setup. (This is important info for the people that can accurately answer this question.)

Once my system became a mediaserver, I removed the Xonar soundcard. The A/V signal path now looks like this:
Win10 -> nVidia RTX 2070Super -> HDMI 2.1 cable -> HDMI ARC port on receiver --> Receiver HDMI out to FHD projector.

Now here comes the million dollar question: If I reinstall the soundcard, will I realize any benefit from trying to route audio through the Asus instead of letting it simply go through the HDMI ARC? Based on this Tom's Guide article, I'm led to believe that there will be no tangible benefits to putting the soundcard back in the system based on the following:
  • the audio is being generated by Windows, passed through the video card, and onto the receiver where it is decoded.
    • Is the mobo's onboard audio chipset even being used? Or is it completely bypassed? (I suppose I could test that by disabling it in UEFI 🤔)
  • SPDIF/TOSLINK only supports up to 5.1 audio streams, same as HDMI ARC
Would the Xonar do anything different? Wouldn't it simply be sending the signals from Windows across the TOSLINK and not doing any audio processing prior to the signal reaching the receiver? I'm thinking the Xonar is simply a passive device that does nothing more pass the raw audio signal across a TOSLINK connection to the receiver. The same thing the video card is doing with the raw audio signal, except that it's passing it across HDMI ARC.

Experts, set me straight.

Scutu Mix

Mar 26, 2015
I'm not an expert but...

When using the HDMI connection the sound is coming digital from your PC windows / software, straight to your AV which will do both decoding if surround and digital to analog conversion. - This is best for 5.1 (or more) surround sound (games and movies) with awesome home theater sound system.

When using the Toslink from your sound card STX, the sound is still digital but STX will do the Dolby Digital Live Compression if 5.1 or Uncompressed if Stereo. (Toslink Optical cable band-with is the only limit here) Then your AV receiver will uncompress if DDL then Digital to Analog Conversion. - This works best for Music or Stereo Sound.

Personally I will just use the HDMI and let the AV receiver do everything since is outside your PC and usually better quality sound components than many sound cards. If wanna do recordings or play with your hardware use the STX optical as well as the RCA Analog Stereo output to compare the STX sound quality vs your AV, etc. :)

Hope it helps,
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