ASUS Xonar DG Review
A long while ago when PCs were still very much something that was relegated to offices, they were able to produce a beep and that was the limit of the aural experience.
Eventually companies such as Turtle Beach and SoundBlaster gave us cards that could produce MIDI notes and therefore allowed Commander Keen to seem like the most exciting game around.
It was about this point that CDs were developed and the futurists were proclaiming that personal computers would quickly be an integral part of everyones home. Of course anyone still waiting for their 'silver space-suit' and 'meal in a pill' to arrive know how futurists don't always get things exactly spot on.
However in the last few years the multi-media capabilities of PCs, coupled to some truly amazing quality soundcards has meant that many of us have a computer in the main family room now.
However having the PC in the main room means that a larger and larger proportion of us are taking to wearing headphones rather than having the speaker setups of old. Enter the Asus Xonar DG soundcard, a 5.1 card with a headphone amplifier, designed specifically for this purpose.
Buying a soundcard is almost counter-intuative nowadays. Whereas once it was an absolute must purchase, the quality of on-board sound solutions has relegated it to an expensive extra for all but the most dedicated audiophile. Not so here though as the DG, by far the bargain basement Xonar model, retails for under £30. Assuming it's not woeful it could be exceptional value for money.
So how is it possible that Asus have taken the a range of cards that has won more awards than Ben Hur, Titanic and Avatar combined, and brought it in for less than a Chinese Take-Away?
A quick glance at the specifications table shows that rather than the standard Xonar Audio Processor, we have a C-Media CMI8786 chip and Cirrus Logic converter beating away at the heart of the DG. Although the 150 Ohm headphone support most definitely shows where the main budget for the card has gone. This is absolutely something for the ear muff brigade.
|Audio Performance||Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted):|
Input Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted):
Output THD+N at 1kHz:
Input THD+N at 1kHz:
Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/96kHz input):
<10Hz to 48kHz
Output/Input Full-Scale Voltage
PCI v2.2 or above bus compatible
|Main Chipset||Audio Processor:|
C-Media CMI8786 High-Definition Sound Processor (Max. 96KHz/24bit)
24-bit D-A Converter of Digital Sources:
Cirrus Logic CS4245*1 (104dB DNR, Max. 192KHz/24bit) / Cirrus Logic CS4361*1 (103dB DNR, Max. 192KHz/24bit)
24-bit A-D Converter for Analog Inputs:
Cirrus Logic CS4245*1 (104dB DNR, Max. 192KHz/24bit)
High Fidelity Headphone Amplifier:
Optimized for 32~150Ω
|Sample Rate and Resolution||Analog Playback Sample Rate and Resolution:|
44.1K/48K/96KHz @ 16/24bit for all channels
Analog Recording Sample Rate and Resolution:
44.1K/48K/96KHz @ 16/24bit
S/PDIF Digital Output:
44.1K/48K/96KHz @ 16/24bit, Dolby Digital, DTS, WMA-Pro
ASIO 2.0 Driver Support:
44.1K/48K/96KHz @ 16/24bit
|I/O Ports||Analog Output Jack:|
3.50mm mini jack *3 (Front/Side/Center-Subwoofer)
Analog Input Jack:
3.50mm mini jack *1 (Line-In/Mic-In)
Other line-level analog input (for CD-IN/TV Tuner):
Aux-In (4-pin header on the card)
Digital S/PDIF Output:
High-bandwidth Optical Connector supports 96KHz/24bit
-additional SPDIF-out header for HDMI audio output
Supports headphone jack-detection, automatically switch audio output from back-panel to front
Let's see what we're getting for our money.