ASUS Xonar DG Review
As this is designed primarily as a headphone soundcard, this will be how we are testing it today. We'll be using the Roccat Kave 5.1 headset for surround work, and some Dolby hi-fi headphones for the spacial tests.
Installation is very simple, just plug the DG into a spare PCI slot, of which most of us have a few these days, and install the drivers. Certainly a far cry from the days of setting up soundcards prior to DirectSound.
Speaking of DirectSound the Xonar DG comes with Xonar GX2.5, which is similar to Creative Alchemy in that it allows the use of EAX extensions in Vista and Windows 7.
Testing was carried out on our X58 Windows 7 machine using a variety of general entertainment tasks from gaming, movies and, of course, music.
Starting with music the DG is very similar to the ALC889 on-board sound we're all used to. Of course a large part of the audio quality comes from the headphones that you use, and here the ability of the Xonar DG to support up to 150 Ohm headphones is a boon because you can really use some very high-quality headphones indeed. In the same way that a Pathos amplifier would sound rubbish through cheap headphones, here the Xonar has plenty of punch through a good pair of headphones.
In both gaming and movies with the 5.1 headphones plugged in the surround effect was everything we could hope for. As a native 5.1 card the channels are clearly defined and there is a nice clarity through the cans, especially for a product of such value.
With Dolby headphones plugged in the psuedo-surround effect is surprisingly robust and the combination between the Dolby support and the GX2.5 really makes stereo headphones a viable choice.
All in all the Xonar DG is surprising. Whilst our initial impressions were that at sub-£30, and minus the outstanding Xonar processor, this would be on a par with the great on-board sound we have these days, actually it's a lot better than that.
Sure it can't compete with the Xonar Essence or Creative Titanium, but it's not priced to do so. It's a stripped-down dedicated headphone soundcard and for that it does its job far better than it has any right to.
If you are the type with a huge set of speakers, then the Xonar DG isn't for you. You really need the extra quality that the higher models like a D2X provide.
But if you're a headphone user, and want something that is better than your onboard sound, will save you a few CPU cycles and definitely wont break the bank, you can do a lot worse than the Xonar DG.
If you've ever wondered if a soundcard really can be better than your onboard sound, give the Xonar DG a shot. You'll be pleasantly surprised.