ESI Julia Soundcard Review; Turn Your HTPC into a High End Home Theater Computer

The ESI Julia soundcard (otherwise known as the Juli@) is a nice digital solution to a computer audio problem

I have been looking for a high performance digital interface for my music system since I found the motherboard on my HTPC could not pass an 88.2Khz signal. esi-julia-soundcard

I ran across the ESI Julia soundcard AKA; ESI Juli@ while searching for the replacement.

I wanted to output 88.2 KHz because the media player that I use (J River Media Player review) can up sample to 88.2 KHz from 44.1 KHz which is the most efficient way to up-sample Redbook CD.

You could also go up to 176.4 KHz as well but my Echo Audiofire 8 sound card cannot process these signals. I will need to upgrade that piece of hardware as well if I ever decide it is necessary.

The good news is that the ESI Juli@ card can output the 176.4 KHz signal when I am ready for it.

Why do I use 2 Soundcards?

I use a computer based speaker crossover system. I route digital audio from one sound card to the next so that I can implement room correction, speaker crossovers, and other effects.

The ESI Juli@

The ESI Julia soundcard is pretty straight forward in my opinion.

It has 2 digital inputs and outputs.

and 2 analog inputs and outputs.

When I first plugged it into the PCI slot and powered on the PC I had trouble getting my computer to recognize it.

So I went to the ESI website and downloaded the latest driver for the Juli@. Once I finished the new hardware wizard install the card was recognized just fine and has worked without any glitches since installation.

I had one other issue that wasn’t ESI’s fault but my own inability to follow instructions.

Initially, I could not get any audio to play until I read in the manual about assigning the digital outputs as channel 3,4 instead of what I assumed would be 1,2. As soon as I set it up correctly I had signal and all was well. Guess I should have read the manual first.

For playback software the J River Media Player review is an excellent choice.

Setup and cables

I used both the fiber optic Toslink cable and RCA coax digital cables in my review. I have read elsewhere that these two types of digital connections will yield different audible results. I have not experienced this yet.

The ESI Julia soundcard, to my ears sounded identical through both Toslink and Coax connections. My Echo Audiofire allows me to switch these two connections on the fly. So, I was able to literally throw a software switch to compare the two. They sounded identical to me.

I did settle on the Coax connections. Not because of any audible difference but because I use a WBT Nexgen connector on my Coax cables that literally clamp onto the RCA connector. And my Toslink connector kept falling out of the Echo Audiofire 8, so that was the end of that.

When signal is present at the inputs of the Juli@ it auto sets the sampling rate and bit depth. No need to do anything here, this was nice. If you are having trouble getting signal to other programs just double check that you are getting signal at the Juli@ interface in your task bar. If not, check your playback software settings.

Sound of the Juli@ digital sound card

I don’t have a lot to say about the sonics of this card. There certainly is nothing to complain about. It sounded rock solid, imaging is awesome, and so is everything else.

I basically used the Juli@ to allow me to use the PC as a transport on my home theater computer.

I used the Juli@ to output the digital signal (flawlessly) to my Echo firewire interface and then back into the PC.

And it sounded noticeably better than the onboard RealTek ALC889 audio card that was built into my motherboard. It is fair to note that the ALC889 is no slouch. But it didn’t hold a candle to the Juli@.

The Juli@ sounded cleaner, more dynamic and alive.

You could even use the Juli@ to output digital signal into an audiophile DAC such as the Weiss DAC202, which is arguably a state of the art DAC solution.

This would give you a way to use your PC or HTPC and also use a super high end DAC on your home stereo system. Using the PC as a transport makes so much sense today because you can take advantage of high resolution downloads and upsampling programs such as the J River Media player can do.

I for one am very glad that I bought the ESI Juli@. If I had it to do over again, I would have bought it again, even if it was 50% higher in price.

It’s a fine, fine, audio product that just so happens to make the PC/HTPC solution even better.
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ESI Julia soundcard page also known as ESI Juli@ soundcard.