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ASUS Xonar DX  (Source: ASUS)
New ASUS Xonar DX offers more than the competition for less money

ASUS announced its new ASUS Xonar DX PCI Express 7.1 Audio Card earlier this year. The company claims that the new sound card delivers 35 times cleaner audio compared to onboard audio built into your mainboard.

The new Xonar DX card is tuned for audio quality with 116dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and features other sound enhancing technologies like Dolby Home Theater and DS3D GX. To compare ASUS says that the typical on-board audio solution has 85dB SNR.

The Xonar DX uses the CirrusLogics CS4398 audio DAC that is typically used in Hi-Fi devices. The card is also able to take advantage of the latest DirectSound and EAX 5.0 sound effects in PC games for Windows Vista. ASUS also integrates its VocalFX technology that allows for users voices to be integrated into games via VoiceEX and to emulate background scenes in online chats (ChatEX).

Other features include support for Dolby Digital Live, Dolby Headphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker, and Dolby Pro Logix IIx. The audio processor used for the card is the ASUS AV100 High-Definition Sound Processor. The analog playback sample rate and resolution s 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz at 16/24 bits. The analog recording sample rate and resolution is the same. A digital S/PDIF Digital Output is featured as well with Dolby Digital and DTS.

The best news for PC users that like the specifications of the Xonar DX is that the card will retail for only $89. The new Xonar DX will fit into the ASUS line alongside the previously announced Xonar sound cards including the Xonar U1 external audio processor, Xonar D2 and the Xonar D2K.

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Analog, your grandfather's audio connection
By mcnabney on 3/20/2008 4:52:18 PM , Rating: 1
This is only important to people that are running the analog outputs to their speakers.

If you want to just get the digital signal out of the computer there is no reason at all for this. I imagine that ASUS will charge a fair bit more for their upcoming HDMI cards...

RE: Analog, your grandfather's audio connection
By hellokeith on 3/20/2008 5:03:19 PM , Rating: 3
The vast majority of PC users also use PC speakers.

And if you want the best audio fidelity + not having to deal with lossy codecs, jitter, and HDCP handshaking, then analog is still king.

By lexluthermiester on 3/20/2008 5:18:19 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. And most people that use pc speakers use crappy ones. But for anyone who wants clear, crisp, warm sound from their PC, uses a premium sound card of some type. This ASUS card is a good card for that purpose. The Creative X-Fi is better, and I wouldn't trade mine for anything, but ASUS has produced a winner with this card.

RE: Analog, your grandfather's audio connection
By Hare on 3/21/2008 3:13:38 AM , Rating: 2
but ASUS has produced a winner with this card.
What makes you think so? There's no info about the quality of the analog outputs, op amps etc.

About the PCI version of Xonor.

"The RMAA results of the Xonar is certainly disappointing compared to the rest of the cards tested" - VR-Zone

By lexluthermiester on 3/21/2008 6:33:00 AM , Rating: 2
Notice in that review they didn't compare any onboard sound solutions. I also have to question the the testing methods. They used a loopback pci card instead of using an external audio analyzer. There are inherent problems with that kind of set up, ones that VR-Zone failed to take into account, or even comment on. Of course, thats assuming they knew.

But even by those results, the Xonar still faired better on a sound reproduction level than ANY onboard sound chipset[the only exceptions being the very few Turtle Beach and Creative Labs chipsets that are used buy a few manufacturers]. Even the newest onboard sound sets, pale in comparison to quality discreet sound cards.

So my previous statement stands as valid.

By Orbs on 3/21/2008 6:42:30 PM , Rating: 2
That is not the same card. The D2 doesn't do EAX (according to the VR-Zone article) and the DX does.

By 325hhee on 3/21/2008 1:36:43 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, I'm not giving up my Z-5300 that I paid $200 bucks for, and it doesn't have digital out. And I really can't afford to throw away a set of $200 speakers, nor do I have the room to use regular sized non computer speakers.

I'll be on analog for a very long time, and these new drivers Creative just released still hits me with some BSoD. On XP and Vista, Creative sucks now, they used to be good, about 8 years ago.

RE: Analog, your grandfather's audio connection
By MrTeal on 3/20/2008 7:07:13 PM , Rating: 2
I've never really understood the desire to buy a soundcard. Granted, the DACs on a card like this are better than the onboard hardware, but it's still an incredibly noisy environment for low level signals.

You'd be much better off just using the digital out on your motherboard and buying an external DAC or preamp.

RE: Analog, your grandfather's audio connection
By goku on 3/21/2008 2:36:28 AM , Rating: 2
You're probably right, unfortunately there are two problems with this: 1. Using audio out will hurt performance unless you can prove otherwise, mostly because the information is formed on the CPU then sent to the preamp and not offloaded in some manner then sent to the DSP. 2. Using the audio out on a creative card gives only PCM 2.0 unless playing a dvd movie, basically creative doesn't have a driver that forms DSP compatible signals, using audio out on another brand may work but then you've got the CPU penalty.

What we really need is an Soundstorm solution that offloads some of the work onto the sound card, then allows for Digital Out. Soundstorm is the only soultion that I know of that actually took in game audio and made it into a DD Live signal.

RE: Analog, your grandfather's audio connection
By Hare on 3/21/2008 4:13:02 AM , Rating: 2
What we really need is an Soundstorm solution that offloads some of the work onto the sound card, then allows for Digital Out. Soundstorm is the only soultion that I know of that actually took in game audio and made it into a DD Live signal.

Soundstorm (MCP-T) was nothing more than a Dolby Digital Live encoder. Basically most motherboards today support the same thing. My old Abit AB9 has a realtek chip and has absolutely no problems encoding all multichannel stuff to Dolby Digital.

Before Core 2 Duo era, Soundstorm was pretty much the only solution. Nowadays there are plenty of DD live capable motherboards and sound cards.

By goku on 3/21/2008 5:32:17 AM , Rating: 2
I've read that the solutions today still don't match soundstorm in terms of performance, cpu utilization and reliability.

By lexluthermiester on 3/21/2008 6:52:09 AM , Rating: 2
Yet another example of a quality sound card trumping onboard sound.

Your Realtek chip maybe able to do DDL output, but ALL of the sound processing/encoding happens on the CPU, which negatively affects overall performance. That chip acts as nothing more than a specialized data pathway, not a sound processor itself. Even with analog out, the chip does nothing but convert a digital input to analog. All of the channel separation, frequency calculations, waveform production, and environmental effects are processed by the CPU. If you had a quality sound card most[if not all] of those would happen card side instead of CPU side.

RE: Analog, your grandfather's audio connection
By BansheeX on 3/21/2008 9:28:31 AM , Rating: 2
CPUs have gotten so powerful that the benefit of having hardware processing for audio is no longer worth the added cost or complexity.

By lexluthermiester on 3/21/2008 8:46:48 PM , Rating: 2
So you're not a gamer then? Because I've run these tests myself. I've run game benchmarks with my X-Fi and then without, using the onboard sound. The difference was very noticeable, drastically with a few games. Doom 3 and Quake 4 dropped 7%. Quake Wars had a difference of 12%. Crysis was an astonishing 19%! C&C3 was a little more difficult be cause of the 30FPS cap, but the minimums dropped 8% to 10%. And those are just the game that I personally own. Granted, I'm not as much of a gamer as I used to be, but those numbers, to me at least, justify the $100 I spent on my X-Fi. By way of further comparison, I measured the difference between my Audigy2 and onboard sound the numbers were similar, in the same order listed above, 5%, 11%, 15% and 7%. And those are just frame rate numbers. If you want to talk about how much better the sound is... I could speak volumes about how much better the Audigy2 and X-Fi sound over onboard, but it is enough to say that both are superior, whether you use analog or digital connections.

So my point is, yes CPU's have become very powerful, but your overall system performance is still going to take a hit by using onboard sound, and in some cases[like Crysis and Oblivion which are very CPU dependent games] a serious hit. And my system spec are above average. Core2 2.93GHZ, 3GB of Kingston 1066 DDR2, MSI 8800GTS 320MB and Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6. Now can you imagine what the test result numbers if I were using a more average system?...

By mcnabney on 3/25/2008 4:09:11 PM , Rating: 2
Fine. But I imagine if you added the cost of a X-FI soundcard ($150) to your CPU budget you would buy more than the lost performance in CPU power and that power could also be used for other things as well.

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