ASUS finally antes up to the bang-for-the-buck table with a value-priced product in their Xonar family of performance audio cards. It’s got a solid feature set, and debuts with ASUS’ new DS3D GX 2.0 environmental DSP, but does it break new ground in the price/performance department?
From my testing, it’s clear to see that ASUS’ Xonar DX pushes the performance envelope for a value-oriented card, offering most but not all of the performance of the audiophile-quality Xonar D2 and D2X cards – call it Xonar Lite, if you will. ASUS has trimmed the fat from the high-end Xonar cards, making all the right performance tradeoffs to compete in this crowded product category.
The product makes quite a bit of sense for ASUS at this point – after having made their statement with the reference-level Xonar D2 card last September, they’ve fine-tuned the formula to create a product that’s more accessible to consumers who were turned off by the high price of the Xonar D2 and D2X.
There’s no PCI version of the DX card available, which shows that ASUS is willing to lead the way in leaving the aging PCI bus behind for good and pushing the technology transition to PCI-Express at last. It’s my hope that other manufacturers will pay attention and follow ASUS’ lead in transitioning their product lines to PCI-Express as well.
The ASUS Xonar DX performed well in the audio loopback test, as well as in the subjective music and movie listening tests, delivering performance that, while it wasn’t quite on the level of the more expensive Xonar D2 and D2X cards, still proved the Xonar DX a worthy contender in the $100 price category, trouncing the Creative Sound-Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty XtremeGamer Professional Edition in the loopback test with significantly lower noise levels and distortion.
Home theater enthusiasts will be won over by the Xonar DX’s optical digital output, as well as its wealth of Dolby DSP processing features and low profile design, while music lovers will appreciate its clarity, dynamic range, and low distortion. The card’s software drivers still need some polish, however, as some issues still exist between DS3D GX 2.0 and specific games.
So, who should buy the ASUS Xonar DX? If you’re building a home theater PC, or if you’re simply looking for impressive high-fidelity performance on a real-world budget, and don’t mind that you’re missing the added punch, vibe, and transparency of the Xonar D2 or D2X, then the Xonar DX is a perfect choice for you.
On the other hand, if you’re using your PC as the hub of a home studio, or if you’re looking for the ultimate in audio performance from your sound card, you’ll still be better off with the reference-quality D2 and D2X cards. If gaming is your thing, and you’re concerned about the impact that the Xonar DX may or may not have on your frame rates, you’ll likely be better served by Creative’s X-Fi XtremeGamer cards.
With the ASUS Xonar DX, ASUS ups the ante considerably in the contest for the ultimate bang-for-the-buck PC audio solution for music lovers and home theater enthusiasts. I’m pleased to award the ASUS Xonar DX sound card a Techgage score of 8/10. For the price, it’s tough to beat, and it’s likely to be a major thorn in Creative’s side for some time to come.
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