Most helpful positive review
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Some technical skills required...
on 11 December 2012
I'd bought a decent set headphones and thought they sounded a bit 'woolly' with the onboard VIA sound chip that came with my ASUS motherboard.
After doing a round of Internet reviews, I settled on the Asus Xonar DX as an attractively priced sound card where the sound quality was compared to products costing far more. A review at techreport.com from 2008 was the best review I found (it's old but sound card technology improves at a much slower pace).
From reading the user reviews however, it became apparent that many people were having technical difficulties installing the card so I made sure I was well prepared before starting the installation:
1. Disable onboard sound
To avoid conflicts, it is good practice to disable the onboard sound first. To do this, boot into the operating system and remove all the existing audio software especially the driver/codec.
Reboot the computer into BIOS setup and disable the onboard sound (on my ASUS motherboard, this was called 'HDA' for High Definition Audio).
Boot into the operating system to check that no sound components are discovered (if all is well, the loudspeaker icon on the task bar will have a red cross over it).
Shutdown the computer.
2. Physical Installation
The card has a PCIe x1 connector which is very short and therefore it's easy to pull the card out of the socket when tightening the screw holding the adapter plate. On my installation I found that it helped to loosen the two small screws securing the adapter plate to the card and gently pulling the top of the adapter plate away from the card before re-tightening the screws. This helped the adapter seat better in the socket.
To provide the Xonar with clean power, the card requires a four pin power connector normally used to power a floppy disk drive. Fortunately the card comes with an 4" long adapter cable that lets you use a regular molex power connector from a IDE hard disk drive. Make sure you have a spare molex that can reach the sound card before starting.
Don't use the ASUS CD supplied with the card!
Boot into the operating system, cancel any driver installation instigated by Windows. In device manager check that the sound card has been discovered (it will have a yellow exclamation mark against it).
I downloaded third party drivers created by someone called 'Daniel K', these are highly recommended and easy to find on his blog site.
I ran the simple installer and rebooted when prompted (the Xonar made some 'clicking' noises during the installation which is normal). Once the reboot has completed you should now have a Xonar icon in the system tray and the red cross over the loudspeaker icon will have disappeared.
The installation is now complete.
Using the Xonar, I immediately noticed the difference in quality to the onboard sound using my Shure SRH440 headphones. The sound was noticeably more detailed and there was no 'hiss' at higher volume levels. There are lots of sound processing controls on the control panel which allow you to configure the sound to your personal taste.
I think the quality difference more than justifies the cost and makes this card great value for money. If you are using low quality headphones or speakers however, you might struggle to notice a difference in quality over onboard sound.
I've given the card 5 stars because I had a trouble free installation thanks to prior research. I can see why people could easily come unstuck during the installation and give lower scores. It seems incredible that the manufacturer doesn't supply decent drivers for their own product but thanks to the efforts of some generous people this doesn't cause a problem. ASUS are not alone in producing poor quality drivers for audio hardware btw.
I'll update when I've gained more experience of the card.