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Customer Review

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bar a minor gripe or two, just the best sound I've ever heard from a computer, 7 Oct. 2010
For the last few years (mostly due to financial restrictions), I've made do with onboard sound for my computers. It's free, it's usually adequate (especially now that most onboard solutions ship with optical outs), and for the budget conscious, we're happy to make do...

...HOWEVER: After using this sound card for just a couple of weeks, I have completely changed my tune (so to speak)! The quality of sound produced by this card isn't just good for computer sound, it's good, full stop! I felt guilty for about 2 days after shelling out about £135 on this, and that guilt alleviated the moment I heard it in operation. It's truly that good.

I should qualify my hyperbole by explaining a few things. First of all, I consider myself a bit of an audiophile. I'm not entirely a nutcase when it comes to sound, but I would certainly consider myself someone with a more discerning ear than the average user. Secondly, I was looking for a sound card that would give me two things in particular: excellent stereo sound, and excellent headphone usage. This sound card has dedicated hardware designed for headphones, and one can tell. It is simply the best headphone sound I've ever come across. Admittedly, if you purchased a top-end amplifier, some sound engineer somewhere will probably claim it is better, but for the money and its intended use you aren't going to beat this sound card for headphone usage. This sound card destroys the 'competition'.

When not using headphones, my sound card is plugged into a dedicated amplifier with good quality separate speakers. Again, in the domain of sound card solutions, this is the best sound I've ever heard produced from a computer, however I do wonder how noticeable the quality improvement would be if you aren't using at least decent speakers. From this point of view, I'd hesitate to suggest recommending this card to anyone who uses standard computer speakers (unless they were a heavy headphone user, of course).

One of the reasons why this sound card rinses the rest of the field for quality is the hardware employed. I won't go into the technical nitty gritty (google the card to find numerous reviews on this), but I think it suffices to say that any sound card that requires a dedicated power supply shows you that it's not your average card!

My only minor quibble is the same as the previous reviewer: the software isn't the best. It's a *bit* clunky, and changing between speakers and headphones is a little annoying, but even so, overall I forgive Asus.

This card does have an optical out, so will pass through surround sound streams, but I'm unable to comment on this as I prefer a stereo set up.

Overall, one of the best purchases I've ever made.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Dec 2010, 19:05:07 GMT
L T says:
Nice and concise review there, accurate too. I tested this card myself before being put away for Christmas and I can say the quality even on decent headphones is very good, I can't imagine how good it'll be with a more expensive great pair of headphones and an extended listen as the components all settle in. The most immediately noticeable thing about this card's sound, for me, was the tiny details buried in the mix are immediately much more noticeable and attention grabbing whereas before they went totally unnoticed.

Top quality sound for a top quality card not to mention at a top quality price all things considered. £135 in quality audio component land just is not expensive but it certainly improves things to no end compared to the basic free stuff or cheap crap.

Posted on 9 Dec 2012, 14:09:31 GMT
Edgarstrong says:
Thanks for your review Could you please also share what speakers and amp you are using? I wanted to buy this soundcard but I am having a problem finding speakers that would use the full potential of this Xonar.

I was thinking about
but I keep reading that the only way to get a good sound is to buy non-powered speakers + stereo amp. I am just not sure how much of a difference I will notice between the two.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Dec 2012, 06:38:42 GMT

To be honest, I don't know what the make and model of my amplifier is, other than it being a Yamaha. I bought it second hand. I know it's an excellent quality amp, though (roughly 180W per channel). Frankly I was lucky to get it for a song.

I paired it with some solid floor standing speakers. I could have probably spent more on the speakers, but I was hamstrung by money at the time. They were just under £200.

It's hard for me to judge the speakers you've highlighted - I've never heard them, and when all said and done that's the important thing!

What I would say is that I wouldn't spent over £100 on a soundcard if you're not prepared to pay into very good quality speakers. I just don't think it'll be worth it, unless you are a big headphone user (and have a decent pair). That might just persuade me.

Asustek Xonar DX/XD PCI-E Low Profile Sound Card
Asus Xonar DS Internal Sound Card (PCI, EAX 5.0)

I would consider either one of these as alternatives. I bought the second one for my brother. It's still a massive step up from onboard sound - all those irritating ticks and noises that escape through onboard sound are instantly gone.



In reply to an earlier post on 7 Feb 2013, 00:37:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Feb 2013, 02:51:23 GMT
Wordsworth says:
"...but I keep reading that the only way to get a good sound is to buy non-powered speakers + stereo amp..."

I'd completely disagree with that myself (sounds like misinformation to me or perhaps from a specific context) its all about YOUR needs NOT someone else's! If you look at professional studio monitors (from around £200 to literally £1000's) they are generally always powered (described as 'active' as opposed to 'passive') the advantage is that the developers of the monitor have integrated bespoke amplifiers to get the most out of the monitors design. This is in addition to the pure usefulness of owning powered monitors (plug in and go) which usually provide a variety of inputs (XLR/RCA/Balanced/Unbalanced etc) and sound tailoring too (frequency cut/boost to match your room characteristics).

If you choose 'passive' speakers then your adding additional cost/research as you're going to have to make sure that the amp/speaker combination are suitably matched (both sonically and performance wise) however this will provide you with the opportunity to tailor your own 'ideal' sound. In my own opinion this is unnecessary with regard to your intended use (from reading the above) which is essentially for a good quality computer music setup; but its all down to what you want it for - and that is what you need to ask yourself!? People buy amp/speaker setups because they have particular needs!

Passive Speakers & Amps Vs. Studio Monitors:
Basically normal speakers (i.e. not monitors) don't merely represent the source sound - they intentionally enhance it by boosting the frequency range in different areas to produce a very vibrant and sonically maximised output. By the same token, amplifiers don't just amplify a source sound they deliberately color it subject to the types of technology they use (input/output stage/power supply/capacitors etc etc) in this way they can be thought to produce a tailored sound (i.e. some have a 'warming' affect on the source sound through the use of valve technology etc etc). So now you can understand that through selectively choosing a specific amp and some specific speakers you can create a very particular type of bespoke sound (which can be very expensive and usually is but audiophiles lust these characteristics :). The difference with a 'monitor' is that it tries to do the opposite in that it is engineered to produce a clinically accurate representation of the source sound that is as uncoloured and honest as possible (pronouncing every detail not hiding/masking or boosting). This is important for critical listening applications (i.e. media production) as you want to hear what is going on rather than what your system is doing to the sound. As such you get a very pristine clarity of sound but also a critically honest one, high quality audio will sound lush/amazing, poor audio will be exposed! Naturally this is a quick explanation and only my humble opinion but hopefully this should give you a heads up and some direction!

I don't own this sound card as I use various external soundcards for music production (PreSonus, Native Instruments et al) but from reading the technical information it sounds utterly awesome and I would definitely grab one if the need arose - I've grown to love ASUS and I have much respect for them taking on Creative (hiss) who lets face it are the bill gates of the sound card world! My own advice to you would be to consider a pair of active monitors as the cheapest approach of getting the most out of the potential of this soundcard (based on my own experience as an electronic musician/multimedia developer type thing)! nb. Just remember that if you purchase 'nearfield monitors' they are designed for listening in relative close proximity (i.e. typically either side of your computer) and you need to ideally be sat in the middle of them to experience the best possible representation (i.e. referred to as the sweet spot)!

Try doing a search for 'active monitors' as this will give you an idea of what is hip and around name wise/price wise etc, some examples of popular budget monitors are KRK, M-Audio, Behringer, Mackie etc. Hope this helps and happy tech hunting!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Feb 2013, 03:46:47 GMT
Thank you for adding more information on this subject. I couldn't possibly hope to match you for knowledge, and the better the information, the better the decision for prospective buyers!

From my (admittedly layman) point of view, I can hear the improvement in this setup, and I have yet to hear better PC sound, so for the moment that is as much as I'm prepared to say. The only real point I was trying to emphasise was that I don't think it's worth buying this sound card unless you're prepared to also invest (at least moderately) in good quality headphones/speakers.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Feb 2013, 12:40:49 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Feb 2013, 14:40:45 GMT
Wordsworth says:
Thanks you for your kind words, I'm afraid I'm just a babbling tech geek with way too much time on my hands ha ha! ;) But I agree with you totally, its awesome to have vibrant discussion to help buyers out there and also a real shame to own a sound card with such potential and not invest in some decent speakers considering you've already spent circa £120 on the card itself!

A really good point for emphasizing 'quality headphones' as an alternative to speakers/monitors too (i.e. I totally forgot about that option - my bad ;). This makes for an even cheaper route to getting a pristine audio setup together and when it comes to headphones - the skies the limit for choice (budget wise)! I have to admit that I spend most of my PC listening time these days inside a good set of monitoring headphones by Beyer Dynamic (i.e. headphones come in monitoring strains too) primarily as they completely attenuate external noise, sound gorgeous and are some of the best designed/engineered headphones I have ever known (nb. Beyer's are well respected and a good choice)!

Beyerdynamic DT250 Headset - 80 OHM:
Beyerdynamic DT250 Headset - 80 OHM

Well there's plenty of food for thought for you Edgar (et al) Happy hunting :p

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Feb 2013, 03:13:02 GMT
Jason says:
I bought a pair of those speakers,for what they are you cant fault them.But i wanted a more.For this sound card i advise amp/speaker separates.Thats what ive done,but iam using the Xonar dx.Hope this helps

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2013, 06:00:50 BST
I would recommend Grado PS1000's, expensive, but the sound is sublime , sell the wife to get them if you must !

Got them after "'er indoors" persuaded me to get rid of my beloved Hi-FI and buy a Bose Waveform, what a heap of junk !. SO my music is computer based now, I am at present using a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty soundcard and Harmon Kardon Soundstick speakers (which I will probably updrade) and the sound is excellent .

I am eagerly waiting for my Xonar card to arrive, albeit a tad apprehensive about how to fit it to the computer supply.

All the best everyone.


In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2013, 10:46:12 BST
Fitting the card is dead simple. It will fit into any PCIe socket available (x1, x4 or x8/x16). So don't fret that the connection is very short if you fit it into one of the longer x16 sockets. After that, just don't forget to plug in the HDD-style power connector from your PSU. It's one that has four prongs in a line - there's only one type that'll work so you can't easily mess this up either.

Hope you enjoy it! My sound card is almost three years old now, and it still amazes me.
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