Asus Xonar D1 PCI 7.1 Sound Card Review


Good sound quality is the essence of a pleasurable home theater experience, but what about gaming? If you pair the right speakers with the right sound card you gain a competitive edge over your competition. Being able to pinpoint the exact location of everyone around you just by ear can mean the difference between virtual life and death. The Asus Xonar D1 PCI 7.1 Sound Card boasts a load of extras, but is it really that much better than onboard memory? And what about creative they are the kings of PC audio well we will see how well the Xonar performs, but first let’s get a closer look at the card and contents:

Provided by: Asus

Closer Look:

The packaging for the Asus Xonar D1 PCI 7.1 Sound Card is very well designed with a load of information on the product. You would be hard pressed to not find the information you are looking for on this box. There is so much info the included a flap to the packaging that has even more in-depth specifications and features listed within.

Along with the Asus Xonar D1 PCI 7.1 Sound Card come the manual, driver disk, low profile adapter and optical output adapter.

The card itself is very well designed, the addition of a front panel input is a nice touch my Creative Fatal1ty Pro Gamer Sound Card didn’t have. Also included on the Xonar is an s/pdif port for sending audio signal to your VGA card for HDMI audio and video for your home theater system. Another nice bonus is the low profile face plate for smaller htpc applications.

Let’s get to the specifications and features:

Specifications and Features:

Complete Dolby Home Theater technologies
Inheriting from DX and D2X, Xonar D1 also provides complete valuable Dolby Home Theater technologies for games and all home entertainments:

Dolby Digital Live:
Real-time 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound encoders

Dolby Pro-Logic IIx:
Converts stereo or 5.1 sounds to seamless 7.1 surround soundfield

Dolby Headphone:
Delivers a realistic and spacious 2-to-5.1 surround or 3D positional soundfield over any set of stereo headphones

Dolby Virtual Speaker:
Simulates a highly realistic 5.1-speaker surround sound listening environment from as few as two speakers

Supports latest DS3D GX 2.0 for gaming on Vista & XP
DS3D GX 2.0 not only revives EAX and DirectSound effects in games on Windows Vista as GX 1.0, but also incorporates Dolby Home Theater Technologies (Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone, Dolby Digital Live, Dolby PrologicIIX) to provide best gaming audio experience.

Innovative VocalFX makes gaming and online chat more lively and attractive
VocalFX is an innovative voice processing technology to let your voice get into the realistic game landscape (VoiceEX) or to emulate the background scenes in online chat (ChatEX). It also allows you to change your voice pitch to disguise who you are (Magic Voice). These features dramatically increase the fun for voice communication on PC.

Delivers about 35 times cleaner audio quality (116dB SNR) than most motherboard audio (85dB SNR)
The noise on Xonar D1 audio card is only 1/35 (2.8%) of the noise level from most motherboard onboard audio. In addition, Xonar D1 also produces as little as 1/32 (-105dB) of the total harmonics distortion from motherboard audio does (-75dB).

S/PDIF header for combining audio with video through a VGA card’s HDMI output
The new S/PDIF header allows connectivity with supporting VGA cards, facilitating merged output of audio and video through a VGA card’s HDMI port. This provides a clean, simple solution for Home Theater PC builders.

Package Contents

  •  Xonar D1 7.1 Channel PCI Audio Card
  •  Driver CD (including RMAA V6.0.6 utilities)
  •  Low-profile bracket
  •  S/PDIF TOSLINK optical adaptors *1
  •  Quick Start Guide
  •  Driver CD (including RMAA V6.0.6 utilities)

System Requirements

  •  One PCI slot for the audio card
  •  Microsoft® Windows® Vista(32/64bit)/XP(32/64bit)/MCE2005
  •  Intel® Pentium®4 1.4GHz or AMD Athlon 1400 CPU or faster CPU
  •  >256 MB DRAM system memory
  •  >60 MB available HDD space for driver installation package
  •  CD-ROM drive (or DVD-ROM drive) for software installation
  •  High-quality headphones, powered analog speakers, or a Dolby Digital or DTS decoder, to enjoy the ultra-high fidelity sounds of the card
 
Let’s  get to the testing:Testing Setup

 

  • CPU – Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
  • Motherboard – Asus P5B
  • RAM – 2GB Kingston PC2-5300
  • Video Card – Asus EAH 4850
  • Power Supply – 500w
  • OS – Windows XP Pro SP3

Testing:

For testing we will start off by showing you in video form some of the features of the software. After that we will be seeing how well the card did with gaming, movies, and music. For each section I will be giving a score out of 10 and making a few comparisons to my Creative Fatal1ty Pro Gamer sound card.

Software Walkthrough:

Gaming:

9/10

Even though most game experiences only improve with quality sound, the for front of sound technology is geared toward FPS gaming because no other gaming genres need such a taxing amount of sound rendering to keep up with the fast paced game play. You need to stay on top of your teammates and opponents positions when you are in a fast paced FPS. If you have a poor set of speakers or bad sound card it will be much more difficult to pinpoint where the shots whizzing by your head are coming from.

The Creative Fatal1ty has always done an amazing job tracking opponents and team mates but it is time for a new contender and the Xonar d1 did a fantastic job and in my opinion had a much crisper out put then the Fatal1ty. When I switched to headphone mode and tested the fatal1ty headset the Xonars really shined using the echo canceling really brought our crisp precise sounds that the Creative sound card could not achieve.

Movies:

9.5/10

Movies are the number one reason in my opinion to invest in a higher end sound card. When I first used my Creative Fatal1ty to watch a movie it made the experience better by 100 fold. That being said my Creative Sound Card was benched. The Xonar virtual 7.1 experience was incredible the ability to move the virtual speakers in and out as well as where ever I wanted the positioned was impressive. I do regret not being able to test the in a fully 7.1 setting but even my 5.1 system performed very well under the Asus Xonar D1 PCI 7.1 Sound Card’s virtual 7.1 conditions. I am sure a lot has changed for creative since the Fatal1ty X-fi series but this is the only card I had to test against the Xonar so for all intents and purposes the Xonar won hands down.

The sounds quality was clean and precise and all of the explosions guns shots and even whispers came out with the most clarity I have ever heard from my pc. When I switched to headphones for the movie both cards performed very well and very pleasing but again the dolby headphone setting and virtual 7.1 rang true again using the Xonar. The Creatives couldn’t keep up when it comes to movies.

Music:

10/10

 

I used a wide range of genres to test the Xonar and I was impressed with every one. The ability to tweak the virtual room size and echo effects added some amazing listening experience to the listening sessions I enjoyed. I loves all of the concert styled effects but when I switched to directly hi-fi mode the sound was bang on when I switched over to my more quality speaker set the edifier M3300’s I was supremely impressed with the room filling clear sound I enjoyed.

Switching to headphones in hi-fi mode was incredible, I went through all of my headphones and IEM’s on my shelf (I have a very extensive collection) and I was impressed every time with the bright trebles and nice bass clarity the Xonar achieves. I consider myself an audiophile so the fact that Xonar uses gold plating for its connectors speaks to my audio soul. Asus has another audio card with specific designs for the audiophile headphone lovers out there, so I cannot wait to try those out. The Xonar is by far the best audio card I have ever used.

 

Let’s see the final thought:

Conclusion:

Anyone that tells you one sound card is as good as another doesn’t know what they are talking about. A sound card how ever is the ideal gimmick item if you were going to make a shoddy product and try to get big bucks for it because a large majority of users wouldn’t notice a difference at first listen. It isn’t until you use a product day in day out for at least a week that you get a feel for it then when you are shown a better or worse product you can pick out the differences. The Asus Xonar D1 PCI 7.1 Sound Card is no gimmick I am very impressed with the amount of effort the people at Asus put into this product and it shows through with the quality software and sound quality it achieves.

I think it is safe to say I don’t have to ask the question I normally do of whether I recommend this product or not. The review speaks for itself if you are in the market for a sound card….scratch that if you don’t have anything over integrated audio you ARE or at  least should be in the market for a high end sound card and my personal suggestion would be one of the Xonar series cards from Asus.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Quality
  • Software
  • Front Panel Input
  • HDMI Compatible
  • Virtual 7.1
  • Virtual Room Size and Environment Effects
  • Low Profile Adapter
  • Gold Plated Connectors

Cons:

  • I Would Personally Wish it had a Front Panel  Drive Bay Panel Like Higher End X-fi Products.

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