ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 PCI-E Sound Card

Asus Xonar DXAsus have long been a leader in producing high quality, reliable hardware and components. Testament to this fact is that Asus are a ‘Tier 1’ manufacturer for Intel’s current chipset/motherboard offerings are also among the top manufacturers of both ATI and Nvidia based graphics cards along with their own brand of Notebooks and multimedia. Why then have Asus, up until recently, declined to enter into the soundcard sector, a market previously dominated by a one company – Creative? Only Asus can answer that question I’m afraid but I suspect it comes down to the number of people who value a soundcard over the on-board alternatives most motherboards supply today. Much to my dismay, Creative had the soundcard market all but wrapped up and despite their X-FI range impressing it was sadly let down with poor driver support. Those who were early adopters of Windows Vista will testify that using vista along with an X-FI card was a very frustrating time. Anyone wishing to purchase a card had very limited choices available to them but times have now changed with the advent of relative newcomers such as Auzentech (based on Creative’s X-FI chipset), Razer and C-Media based offerings from Terratec and now Asus, the market is once more alive with choice, not only of manufacturers but of chipset based cards.
Towards the end of last year Asus released a high-end card that was a very viable alternative to X-FI in the DX2. While it didn’t have the X-FI chipset, it did have full EAX support up to level 5 through emulation and it impressed with its excellent gaming performance and audio processing. The plethora of bundled accessories and software was a welcome addition too but the package came in at a hefty price and as such would only be bought by those looking for a luxury, top-end product with little regard of budget. Asus have since realised this and have unleashed a cut-down version of the DX2 in the form of the Xonar DX. With the card coming in at half the price as well as being half the size, have Asus managed to trim some fat away from the DX’s bigger brother without sacrificing the power the flagship card offers – is this simply a fad diet that will be forgotten next week or technological progress that will be the mainstay audio solution in any budget minded gamers PC build? Read on….
Specifications are taken directly from ASUSTeK Computer Inc.
Audio Performance
Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted):
116 dB for Front-out
112dB for other channels

Input Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted):

Output Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz (-3dB) :
0.00056% (-105dB) for Front-out

Input Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz (-3dB) :
0.0004% (-108dB) for Line-in

Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/96kHz format):

Output/Input Full-Scale Voltage
2 Vrms (5.65 Vp-p)

Bus Compatibility
PCI Express
-PCI Express Rev.1.0a specification compatible
-Max. full 2.5Gbps bandwidth per direction and optimized latency for high-definition audio processing
-Compatible with X1, X4, X8, X16 PCI Express slots
Main Chipset
Audio Processor
ASUS AV100 High-Definition Sound Processor (Max. 192KHz/24bit)

24-bit D-A Converter of Digital Sources:
Cirrus-Logic CS4398*1 for Front-Out (120dB SNR, Max. 192kHz/24bit)
Cirrus-Logic CS4362A*1 for other 6 channels (114dB SNR, Max. 192kHz/24bit)

24-bit A-D Converter for Analog Inputs:
Cirrus-Logic CS5361* 1 (114dB SNR, Max. 192kHz/24bit)

Sample Rate and Resolution
Analog Playback Sample Rate and Resolution
44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit

Analog Recording Sample Rate and Resolution
44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit

S/PDIF Digital Output
44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit, Dolby Digital, DTS

I/O Ports
Analog Output Jack:
3.50mm mini jack *4 (Front/Side/Center-Subwoofer/Back)

Analog Input Jack:
3.50mm mini jack *1 (Shared by Line-In/Mic-In)

Other line-level analog input (for TV Tuner or CD-ROM):
Aux-In (4-pin header on the card)

Digital S/PDIF Output
High-bandwidth TOS-Link optical transmitter (shared with Line-In/Mic-In jack) supports 192KHz/24bit

Front Panel Header
Headphone / Stereo Speaker Out
Microphone In

Driver Features
Operation System
Windows Vista(32/64bit)/XP(32/64bit)/MCE2005

Dolby® Digital Live
Dolby Digital Live encodes any audio signal on PC in real-time to Dolby Digital (AC3) 5.1 surround sounds to your home theater environment through one single S/PDIF connection

Dolby® Headphone
Dolby Headphone technology allows users to listen to music, watch movies, or play games with the dramatic 5.1-channel surround or realistic 3D spacious effects through any set of stereo headphones.

Dolby® Virtual Speaker
Dolby Virtual Speaker technology simulates a highly realistic 5.1-speaker surround sound listening environment from as few as two speakers.

Dolby® Pro-Logic IIx
Dolby Pro-Logic II is the well-known technology to process any native stereo or 5.1-channel audio into a 6.1- or 7.1- channel output, creating a seamless, natural surround soundfield.

DS3D GX 2.0
-DS3D GX 1.0 supports EAX gaming sound effects and DirectSound 3D hardware enhanced functions on Windows Vista. (DirectX/DirectSound 3D compatible)

Xonar DX provides VocalFX, the latest vocal effect technologies for gaming and VoIP, including: -VoiceEX: produces vivid environmental reverberation for your voice in EAX games -ChatEX: emulates different background environment effects when you chat online -Magic Voice: changes your voice pitch to different types (Monster/Cartoon…) for disguising your real voice or just for fun in online chatting

Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC)
Provides advanced Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC, eliminates up-to-40dB speaker echo return) and noise suppression technologies for best voice communication quality in VOIP applications or online gaming

Smart Volume Normalizerâ„¢
Normalizes the volume of all audio sources into a constant level and also enhances your 3D sound listening range and advantages in gaming

Karaoke Functions
Music Key-Shifting and Microphone Echo effects like professional Karaoke machine

Professional Bass Management/Enhancement system

Xear 3Dâ„¢ Virtual Speaker Shifter
Virtual 7.1 speaker positioning

Other Effects
10-band Equalier/27 Environment Effects

3D Gaming Sound Engines/APIs
DirectSound3D® GX 2.0 & 1.0, EAX®2.0&1.0, DirectSound® HW, DirectSound SW, A3D®1.0, OpenAL generic modes, 128 3D sounds processing capability

ASIO 2.0 Driver Support:
Supports 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @16/24bit with very low latency

Bundled Software Utility
Portable Music Processor Lite utility
Converts digital music content or CD audio into regular MP3/WMA files with Dolby Headphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker (w/ Pro-Logic II), and Smart Volume Normalization processing (Windows Media Player 10 or above is required)

MCE Software Kit
Software kit with 10-ft GUI for Windows Media Center Edition

RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0.6
Easy but powerful software intended for testing the quality of audio equipments

As you can see the specification is very impressive. Briefly, the main notable differences in specification between the DX and the DX2 are as follows:
DX vs DX2 Table