You can find below a comparison between the classic version of Essence One & the new Muses Edition model. The accent will be set strictly on the sound differences of the two, because from hardware point of view, the two products are very much the same. For a complete review of the Essence One classical model, I recommend this article.
Not long ago, Asus decided to launch a special edition of the most advanced audio solution of their range, thus the sound passionate lovers got a new model, named Xonar Essence One Muses Edition. The first question that pops up in the mind of every sound passionate is: What is the difference between this special edition and the classical model? The answer is very simple to get, the new version has as a standard the operational amplifiers of high performance – Muses 01, made by the Nippon company New Radio Japan Co.
For those of you not so deep into audio phenomena it is worth talking a bit on this subject. New Radio Japan is a company specialized in audiophile grade components and their Muses line is one very well sought after. For example, the most bestowed preamplifier made by Pass Labs, the amazing XP-30 (with a retail price of 18.000€) uses the new NJR Muses IC 72320. This is an electronic volume controller on two channels, with a ladder type internal resistance, optimized for low noise & high fidelity sound. If the products made by New Radio Japan have convinced the audiophile guru Nelson Pass –well known for his purist conceptions- to implement them in his signature creations, it means they deserve our entire focus.
Out of sheer curiosity I’ve checked the retail price for a Muses 01 opamp, this one being very expensive – 50$ apiece. Quality has never been cheap.
There is also a small difference between the classic model & the Muses Edition, the fact that Asus had implemented a jumper which one can control the gain. Without modifying the sound print, this jumper has been added for those who wish to use IEMs with high efficiency along with Essence One. (LE: It seems that Asus has removed from the final version that jumper. The review was made on a prototype model.)
The only visual difference between the two models is the color of the Qing tiger, on Muses Edition model this is painted in black.
I’ve decided to use speakers & headphones, high quality hardware, able to make a clear difference (if that exists) between the two versions of Essence One. Even if the hardware seems a bit exaggerated for testing a product in this price range, high fidelity systems have made our life easier, being very sensitive to any kind of difference between the models.
– Audeze LCD2/LCD3, Sennheiser HD800, AKG Q701
– Creek Destiny 2 amplifier & Dynaudio Focus 160 speakers.
– Combo made of pre-power Bladelius & Dynaudio Confidence C2 Signature speakers.
– Primare i32 amplifier & Dali Ikon 6.
Muses Edition offers to the audience an increasingly enhanced scene, its width & depth being also present on less academic hardware systems. The differences dial well with the value of the system used, thus combined with Dynaudio Confidence C2 they are more than obvious. Very good separation of the instruments in a rapid play like Monty Alexander – Sweet Georgia Brown shows the true value of the difference between a regular opamp & one specially crafted for high tech gear.
Along with a better soundstage, I’ve also sensed a stereo image more 3D & better positioned in space. Now it’s easier to grasp all the musical instruments floating in midair & focus on them, the curtain clouding the music being completely gone. Because of the enhanced & enlarged stereo image coming from all directions, the clutter effect or the sound collision effect have vanished almost completely. The new model now sounds more relaxed, more delicate & in the same time having the same alert & dynamic sound.
More information on the sound, enhanced resolution
We have here the greatest differences between the two models of this review. If the original Essence One can give us a decent level of details, Muses Edition outbid its brother here & brought a complete new level of listening.
Nils Lofgren – Keith don’t go, Yann Tiersen – j’ai suis jamais alle offer very much to the listener because of the enhanced sound information, the sound being crystal clear, open, joyful like I knew it had to be on a good quality convertor. Both Nils Lofgren’s’ guitar & Yann Tiersen’ violin really become alive, having that delicate, palatable sound that every audiophile craves for.
Bass, a little less deep, but better controlled
The quality of the bass is what mostly defines a system, being one of the chapters with the greatest effect on the eardrums. Here things are a bit different between the two models. The original Essence One had one deep bass, well controlled, but a bit slower, lazier. Muses Edition gave up the deepness a bit and it shows up an appreciable speed & control. I personally prefer the second option, but I don’t rule out the possibility that some people, especially ones using audio systems less prone to bass, to choose the first option.
After extensive testing, I’ve felt that the bass in the original model was a bit loose, lazier & the impact was suffering, having a one-note bass, long & bloated. On the new model we have a bass that doesn’t go down as much, but it’s much quicker, the punch is more precise & it lets the impression that there are more levels of bass, definitely the double drum is more well defined & heard right now.
Dire Straits – Money for Nothing , Marcus Miller – Red Baron or Ataraxia – Parti de mal have benefited fully from the better control & speed of the low frequencies, offered by Muses Edition.
Another improvement that’s worth mentioning is the background noise. Tunes that were having a bit of a noise in the original version sound much cleaner with the Muses 01 opamps, this being an important note to make, especially for those that have sensitive sound to certain frequencies.
Finally, there is a good tonal equilibrium.
The original Essence One had a bloated & grandiose sound, but uncontrolled, the medium frequencies being brought a bit to front, but high pitched frequencies were left with a big hole, being inaudible on some tunes. This dark spot in frequency has been corrected in the new version, now the sound is more spacious, high sounds are better delimited & overall the sound has become more real & more natural, the tonal equilibrium being better.
Muses Edition is without a doubt a better model than the original version of Essence One, offering an excellent sound, way above any other rival Asus has in the area of great PC components producers. This is an important step made by Asus, Muses 01 opamps highlighting the real potential of this model, enhancing even further the difference between Asus & the competition on this market segment. I sincerely say that I didn’t expect that the new opamps generate such a big difference between the two versions.
The only real problem of Essence One Muses Edition is the price. Without having an official confirmation, it appears that the price will be set around 800€, and on this level, the new model crosses into a complicated territory, that of hi-fi specialized producers, having big names & years of experience as their leverage. Only time can tell us if Muses Edition is only a marketing gimmick or Asus is aiming higher, into the high-end audiophile segment.