ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 PCI-E Sound Card

A Closer Look

A Closer Look
The first thing that jumps out at you with the Xonar DX is the size. It’s a half-height sized card measuring 170mm long. This would make the DX a perfect solution for those who don’t wish to make sacrifices while building a small media pc. With gold plated connections and a sleek black PCB along with in-line capacitors it is certainly a very striking piece of hardware. Even the back plate (including the optional low profile bracket) are anodised in gun metal grey which only adds to the impressive visuals of the card.

Asus Xonar DX PCB Front Asus Xonar DX PCB Back

Through Asus cropping the size of the card in half it comes as no surprise that the majority of the connectivity is on the back of the card. A personal frustration of mine is that high end soundcards tend to have the actual fitting instructions engraved on the socket. While this is fine in a good lighting environment or the actual sockets are coloured it can be a little pain staking swapping out cables in dim light with gold plated connectors giving no clue as to what goes where. While I don’t expect the led lights of its forbear an optional coloured template/sticker would be a welcome addition for those of us who don’t possess night vision!

For those out there who prefer digital over analogue connections, the DX’s S/PDIF output is shared with its analogue mic and line input ports. You may also notice that the card is left wanting a digital S/PDIF input port although a 4pin auxiliary connector is provided should you wish to use it.

Asus Xonar DX Sockets Asus Xonar DX Mount

Upon closer inspection you will notice that the card is PCIex1 which will restrict itself to owners of later motherboards, it does however offer future proofing in return as motherboard manufacturers appear to be slowly phasing out the PCI standard in favour of the smaller standards available today. It’s also nice to actually make use of PCI-e x1 slots for change! Whether an express port’s bandwidth is actually utilised is doubtful however it is welcome and certainly adds to the appeal of the card. The card also requires the use of a floppy power connector which despite its small size just goes to show how powerful this card actually is. With the extra power going through the card, I was initially worried as to the heat that would inevitably be produced but my worries were unfounded as the card is no warmer than a regular card twice its size and certainly does not require the use of additional heat sinks or cooling despite its numerous solid capacitors and Vrms.
Asus Xonar DX Floppy Plug Asus Xonar DX VRM's

A notable difference between the DX and the more expensive DX2 is the addition of front panel audio headers which is a real bonus considering it is omitted in the more expensive version, the DX2.

Asus Xonar DX PCI-E Asus Xonar DX Audio Headers

Here we see the heart of the DX, the AV100 processing unit. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is anything other than C-media’s Oxygen HD audio chip though, not that it’s to its detriment. The AV100 is rumoured to be a ‘speed-binned’ AV200 processor which is also used in the DX2. As the Oxygen – sorry – AV100 was not designed to use PCIe there is also another chip onboard from PLX which Asus have utilised as a bridging chip enabling the card to use the PCIe as standard rather than the bandwidth limiting PCI interface.
Asus Xonar DX AV100 Chip Asus Xonar DX Audio Chip

Now here is something worth mentioning so listen up: Users of Nvidia’s latest 790i based motherboards have experienced difficulty in getting this card to work in Vista due to this bridging chip which seems to confuse the Nvidia chipset. I didn’t have an Nvidia based motherboard on which to neither confirm nor deny this but there are simply too many reports to ignore and not include this info in the review. The good news however is that NVidia are aware of this issue and are working on a new BIOS which will hopefully solve the PCI-PCIe bridging problem.
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Most Recent Comments

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

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