ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 PCI-E Sound Card

Gaming, Music & Movie Results

Before the games testing phase begins I feel it’s best to explain one of the key features of Xonar range, the GX 2.0 and the history behind it. In 2005 Creative introduced its X-FI chip and was rightly applauded for this as it was a leap in technology. EAX (environmental audio extensions) was based around the effects engine of sound blaster lives’ EMU10K1 chip. EAX versions tend to coincide with increases of simultaneous voices processed in hardware by the audio chip with the original EAX supporting up to 8 voices through to EAX 5.0 which allows up to 128 voices with an additional 4 effects applied to each! Creative have kept a tight lid on EAX effects since 2.0 and have not licensed this X-FI based chipset to any other manufacturer bar Auzentech. So where does Asus and GX 2.0 figure into this? Well although Asus don’t claim to support EAX 5.0 directly, what it does do is emulate (very efficiently I might add) EAX 5.0 via software. Creative were also stumped with the advent of Vista and have since responded to the eradication of D3D by also using software based emulation (Alchemy) which utilises OpenAL to mimic the D3D of old so both Creative and Asus are now using, in one state or another, emulation and I would challenge anyone to be able to tell the difference between the two. Even Windows cannot distinguish between an X-FI chipset (EAX 5.0) and the AV100/200 (GX 2.0) as all the games tested presented the option to enable EAX.

If you are still with me then please sit back while I finally crack on with some testing.

For this test I intend to use the following games:

• Battlefield 2
• Call of Duty 4
• Enemy Territory : Quake Wars

I originally planned to use Bioshock for this review due to its EAX 5.0 capabilities but sadly the game simply refused to play with EAX enabled. There is apparently a fix available consisting of a .dll file (available via email from Asus) but I felt it was only fair to test the card ‘out of the box’ as a consumer would find it.

Obviously the listening tests are very subjective and heavily dependent on personal preference, I will however attempt to present my unbiased opinions here.

Each test was run 5 times over 60 seconds in 7.1 speaker configuration and the FPS was recorded via Fraps. The highest and lowest scores were withdrawn with the average being calculated over the remaining 3 tests.

Battlefield 2
BF2 is an EAX 3.0 enabled game which sure enough, once the GX and game settings were chosen in the Xonar Audio Center, I could set the Audio functions to ‘Creative X-FI’(which gave me a giggle) and High settings (ultra is also available through config settings):
BF2 Settings

The EAX effects were clear and no crackling and popping could be heard which has been reported occasionally with Creative’s own X-FI based cards. Positional audio was sublime and no doubt would give the players a competitive edge in this game with a 7.1 card. I had played this game previously with an extreme music X-FI card and honestly cannot tell the difference between the two cards audio qualities. At a push, I would say the Xonar had the edge in terms of reverb effects such as those on Kubra Dam. The Realtec offering sadly didn’t fair too well as although the sound was crisp it was left lacking with regard to the EAX additions of the Xonar.

Asus Xonar DX - BF2

Call of Duty 4
Currently my most played game and despite a lack of EAX I was intrigued to see how this would fair against the on-board sound I was currently using. It took some time to configure exactly how I liked the sound as when I first started playing the game I was appalled at the quality – I then realised my mistake (I hadn’t enabled the game setting in the Xonar Audio Control) but once rectified and I had it how I preferred, I was impressed with the clarity of the vocals and weapon sounds. I found myself testing out new weapons just to see what they sounded like on this card! The Realtec offering, while sounding fine before I tested the Xonar was put into its place sadly and once more left kicking it’s heels behind the PCIe card. I was surprised to see that COD 4 seemed to favour the Realtec device but 5fps is a small price to pay for the realism the Xonar offers.
Asus Xonar DX - COD4
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
This game is locked to multiples of 30FPS so I had to tweak the config which allowed the fps to be unlocked. I tested the game in single player mode and once more could not fault the Realtec on board sound solution. I then I tried out the Xonar. Yet again the positional audio was precise and with clarity. The weapons seemed clearer, especially in the distance compared to the onboard solution. Vehicle sounds were deeper and appeared to sound more realistic on the Xonar. There is little to separate the two as previously but the Xonar just edged it in terms of FPS and sound quality.
Asus Xonar DX - Quake

For the music test I listened to a range of tastes in both CD and mp3 quality:
• Depeche mode - Enjoy the Silence
• Chemical Brothers – Galvanise
• Wu-Tang Clan – Tearz
• Del Amitri – Spit in the Rain
• Mozart 7th Symphony
This card simply loves playing music is all I can really say. Bass was deeper, treble was crisp not ‘tinny’ and the vocals were very impressive throughout. Choose your track, choose your environment effect with the DSP mode set to music and you have your very own concert environment. The sound reproduction of CD format was excellent as you would expect and even the mp3 quality was simply a pleasure to listen to with the music seemingly given a new lease of life. I am no audiophile but thus far this is as close as you are going to get to perfection from a PC based sound solution.

With the card shining in the previous tests I was expecting big things from this card in the movie test and it didn’t disappoint. Once I had positioned my speakers correctly and adjusted the virtual speaker shifter in the Audio Center I sat down and watched some clips from my favourite films via DVD.

• Saving Private Ryan (Omaha Beach)
• Star Wars: A New Hope (Death Star Attack)
• Top Gun: (Flat Spin)
• The Matrix: (He’s beginning to Believe)

The Omaha beach scene from Saving Private Ryan never ceases to amaze me and this time was no different. The explosions, gunshots whizzing over your shoulder, ricochets off metal, screams etc were enough to make you feel part of the action. The surround sound qualities of Top Gun also impressed and as ever, that classic scene from Star Wars never fails to disappoint with laser fire and ‘roaring’ Tie Fighters taking full advantage of the Xonar DX surround sound capabilities.
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Most Recent Comments

06-05-2008, 06:44:51

With the Xonar DX 7.1 soundcard, have Asus managed to trim the excess fat from it's bigger brother without sacrificing perofrmance? Or have they put the DX on a diet so harsh it can't hold it's own weight with the new influx of audio solutions...

Asus Xonar DX ReviewQuote

06-05-2008, 07:03:23

Nice review webbo.

Good move by Asus tbh, but they need to be on top of the driver support!

Creative could slip further down the pan.Quote

06-05-2008, 07:23:26

Nice review, good to see some soundcard action.

Manufs need to make these cards with; front panel support; connection for internal HMDI support; low profile; solid drivers for XP/Vista 32/64bit - as almost a standard.

Asus are not particularly some1 I`m wanting to either look for support or driver upd8s. They`re are exactly Creative in that department, but they don`t personally fill me with enthusiasm either. That`s just me, I don`t buy their products when there`s a viable alternative for just that reason.

£60 is an ~ok~ price for me. I`d be happier if it settled around £40-£50, but that`ll take some time.

Like to have a comparison playoff with ASUS, Auzen, Creative - and let`s say an Abit IP35 Pro onboard, as a look into the qualities, drivers, performance and price.

For the +/- using Vista 64bit and these choices, I`m edging towards taking the soundcards out of the systems tbh.Quote

06-05-2008, 08:32:30

I was a little hesitant about the price too but when you consider you are virtually getting a D2X (minus the frills) for half the price then it works out at a half decent price point. What most should consider I guess is the need for high performing audio over 'adequate' onboard solutions. IF all you do is surf the net then I guess onboard is fine but if your PC is a multimedia gateway then a dedicated solution is much better imo.

I am also concerned about driver support but we can only hope Asus keep on the ball with this one, either way it surely can't be as bad as Creative.Quote

07-05-2008, 15:26:15

Excellent Review, much respect webbo: Wu-Tang Clan FTW!! I have a cheapo soundcard right now but if I'm looking to upgrade I'll definatley consider this, but tbh I don't know how much benefit I'd get running through the Aux on my 2.1 system, I wish 2.1 was listed as an option on my sound control panel but sadly I'm stuck with 2.0 or virtual 5.1 Quote

07-05-2008, 17:11:01

good review

looks like a niceish card actually

and as for the comment about all the connectors being gold, you make a good point, but on the alternative side, green, pink and blue looks rather tacky ...

gold looks profesional, even if you dont know where to plug your wire Quote

08-05-2008, 04:30:48

Originally Posted by name='Kerotan'
Excellent Review, much respect webbo: Wu-Tang Clan FTW!! I have a cheapo soundcard right now but if I'm looking to upgrade I'll definatley consider this, but tbh I don't know how much benefit I'd get running through the Aux on my 2.1 system, I wish 2.1 was listed as an option on my sound control panel but sadly I'm stuck with 2.0 or virtual 5.1
Do you use headphones at all m8? If so then I'd says it's worth it.

Originally Posted by name='ionicle'
good review

looks like a niceish card actually

and as for the comment about all the connectors being gold, you make a good point, but on the alternative side, green, pink and blue looks rather tacky ...

gold looks profesional, even if you dont know where to plug your wire
Yeah I agree gold looks better(and results in a better connection) and I didn't actually have any trouble connecting the audio up but I could forsee that in the average Joe setup with his case sat in the shade below a desk it would be nigh on impossible to get the right connector in the right hole (!) ahem. It would have been nice of Asus to include the led port lights its bigger brother has. Asus arn't the only ones guilty of this and although it's only a minor point, I thought it was a point worth making nonetheless.

Thx for your kind comments guys - my first review (of many hopefully) on OC3DQuote

08-05-2008, 06:26:58

ne1 recommend any DTS enabled cards?Quote

08-05-2008, 06:47:42

Xonar D2X?Quote

16-05-2008, 21:42:56

Cool review, interested in the newest model. Always nice to have alternatives from the Creative crap... Well, not crap. Hardware is ok, but software/drivers suck. I think Auzentech has a great card which is based on the Creative chip, but costs just as much as the most expensive one too.Quote

03-01-2009, 16:37:40

I know this is reviving an old review/thread but i have been wondering for a while now if yall had to do anything special to get the certain sound settings in BF2 while using this card I've never been able to get them with out an error.Its never let me choose x-fi and ultra.

Reading this review when it came out helped persude me to choose this card instead of a xtreme gamer, I've just never been able to get the Bf2 settings right with any option config.Quote

04-01-2009, 11:33:11

Change the settings in BF2 config. It's the only way you get Ultra settings to work but I have my doubts whether it actually does anything anyhow as I couldn't tell the difference between ultra and highQuote

05-01-2009, 14:48:16

Do you mean in the config files themselves or in the BF2 menu, because when I try the xfi option it just tells me I don't have one. Ty for replying.Quote

05-01-2009, 17:32:27

You wont get ultra settings on any card as it can only be enabled via the config files.

Your soundcard however should be recognised as an XFI, the review sample was.Quote

05-01-2009, 18:17:19

Yeah, that's the problem mine dosent get recognized as an xfi with or with out the gx enabled on the asus control panel, I don't know if its the card itself or what its currently set at hardware and high in the BF2 menu, is there a big change between that and xfi mode with the EAX enabled? Thanks againQuote

06-01-2009, 05:36:48

What operating system are you using?

EAX can only be emulated in vista thorugh Alchemy software and the Asus exquivelant. The sounds are pretty much the same. Perhaps the easiest place to test it is in two areas.

Kubra dam - go into one of the tunnels and everything should echo/reverb.

Karkhand - Iirc you can here the occassional dog barking and a bell occassionally ringing.

The main effects though are the echo's that I could discern and a clearer more 'atmospheric' sound. There is little to choose between the XFI EAX and Xonar GX though so I wouldn;t lose sleep over it, especially as BF2 is now an aging game by todays standards anyway.Quote

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