Asus Xonar D1 Reviewhardnrg - November 9, 2008
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I disconnected all the fans, even the CPU heatsink fan, and was left with just the PSU fan and graphics card fan. The PSU fan emits a soft sound, and with the graphics card fan manually set to the lowest setting, 25%, it is pretty much inaudible in terms of fan noise. The noise from the hard disks both from idle and seeking vibrations was too annoying to ignore, so I took them all out and laid them on small rectangles of sound-isolating foam/sponge. The door to the room was closed during testing, and with no other equipment running, you could literally hear a pin drop.
The Xonar D1 boasts that it is better than onboard audio, so it is necessary to compare it to the onboard soundchip on the motherboard. I am also interested in seeing how it measures up to my modified XtremeMusic soundcard. Following cotdt's guide at head-fi.org, I have upgraded the front stereo line-out's op-amp and the power capacitor, as well as bypassing the decoupling output stage, to raise the sound quality to about the highest possible.
- Processor: Intel Q9450 Core 2 Quad 333x8
- Motherboard: Gigabyte X48-DS4
- Memory: 2 x 2GB Mushkin XP2-8000 Redline 5-5-5-12
- Video Card: Point of View 7800GT
- Sound Card: Asus Xonar D1
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Hitachi 7K250 160GB SATA
- Optical Drive: Sony DDU1612 DVD-ROM
- OS: Windows Vista Business 32-bit
Comparison Sound Cards:
- Realtek ALC889A High Definition Audio codec (onboard audio)
- Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic "Hotrodded"
- AKG K 701 Reference Headphones (powered by M³ Headphone Amplifier)
- Turtle Beach Ear Force X-52 5.1 Headphones
- Soundcard to amp: Custom made Van-Damme / Switchcraft / Neutrik with silver-plated OFC + OFC conductor, OFC shield
- Soundcard loop-back: an identical cable, but using a 3.5mm to 2x phono/RCA adapter
At first, I wanted to test a range of headphones as I have the AKG K 701, Sennheiser HD25-1 II, Westone UM2, and Koss PortaPro to choose from. I also initially thought about testing with my main speaker setup of Technics SU-V620, Canon SB-20, and 2x Tannoy 631SE. Another idea was the surprisingly capable Jazz Hipster JS2202AA powered speakers.
After some preliminary tests, it was clear that there wasn't really any point in testing multiple headphones, so I just went for the best that I have, the AKG K 701, together with the headphone amp that I custom-built. This headphone/amp combination is very accurate and, unlike speakers, the sound isn't affected by the physical characteristics of the room. So, I decided to do the critical listening using headphones and only briefly tested the card on speakers to confirm features were working, rather than assessing sound quality.
I'm interested to see how well the surround sound works, so I'll be plugging in the Turtle Beach X-52 and hoping that it doesn't suffer from the tinny sounds directly in front or behind the player, as it did with both the Audigy 2 ZS and X-Fi XtremeMusic.
- RightMark (RMAA)