Asus Xonar D1 Reviewhardnrg -
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To be quite honest, when I received this low-profile soundcard, I wasn't expecting much from it, but the claims of being so much better than onboard audio made me curious.
The first surprise was just how damn good it sounds compared to what Realtek calls "High Definition Audio". There is obviously a stark difference between being able to play high-definition audio, and being able to play it well. The Xonar D1 came close to the quality of my modded X-Fi XtremeMusic, but ultimately the result is I'm listening to music on the X-Fi card as it does have the edge.
Where the Xonar D1 takes off into orbit is with multi-channel audio! The implementation of Dolby Headphone and Dolby Virtual Speaker work a lot better than Creative's CMSS-3D. This means that games and movies sound incredible from headphones, something that is important if you like to play games or watch movies late at night. I do, that's why I bought reference headphones and made my own headphone amplifier, so that I can enjoy high quality audio at any time of the day. With the Xonar D1, I can now enjoy high quality surround sound at unsociable hours. The EAX implementation, in the form of DS3D GX, is not exactly as good as Creative's hardware EAX, but it comes close, and I prefer the Xonar's Dolby Headphone + DS3D GX to the X-Fi's CMSS-3D + EAX. You would laugh if you saw me during this review, regularly trying to turn my speaker amplifier down in fear of waking the neighbours, when I was actually listening to headphones!
So all-in-all, a very formidable soundcard. With my X-Fi card, I've had troubles getting EAX to work in all games, and even if I get it working it won't sound as good as the Xonar, so I think I'll be changing my gaming machine to use the Xonar D1, and move the X-Fi XtremeMusic to a near-silent machine for music playback.
- Distinctly superior sound quality compared to modern onboard audio (Realtek ALC889)
- The best implementation of speaker virtualisation I have heard
- Excellent bass redirection controls
- Optical digital output
- Low profile compatible
- Not quite able to match up to an audiophile-modded soundcard for music playback