Asus Xonar D1 Reviewhardnrg - November 9, 2008
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The "HiFi" mode in the Xonar D1 Audio Center disables all DSPs (effects, EQ, etc) and sets the soundcard up for unaltered music playback. For this segment of testing, I chose some pieces of music that I am very familiar with, and have heard on many different audio systems. The first two pieces are classical works that have been mastered well onto CD. The following two tracks are from modern electronic artists. The result is a balance of acoustic and electronic instruments, capturing the secondary sounds of musicians playing physical instruments, and presenting a challenging array of electronic sounds from digital audio equipment.
All the tracks were ripped from CD using ExactAudioCopy, encoded to the lossless FLAC audio codec. This means the exact bit-for-bit signal of the CD track is maintained and reproduced upon playback. The advantage in regards to this test is that there is no noise from the optical disc drive whilst listening to the music. foobar2000 was used as the media player as it supports ASIO playback.
- Realtek ALC889: Wave and Master levels @ 100%, foobar2000 output = DirectSound
- Xonar D1: Wave and Master levels @ 100%, foobar2000 output = ASIO, 16 bit, 6ms
- X-Fi XtremeMusic (modded): Wave and Master levels @ 100%, foobar2000 output = ASIO, (auto 16 bit), 5ms
Camille Saint-Saens - "The Swan":
- Realtek ALC889: Piano sound muffled/buried/muted under strings
- Xonar D1: Piano is much clearer and in harmony with strings which are also much much more clear, detailed, and refined. The delicate notes and subtleties like hammer and bow noises are instantly heard - made me think 'where were they' on the Realtek...
- X-Fi XtremeMusic (modded): The grace and gliding that Saint-Saens must have intended to convey in this piece of music is the most apparent with this card, the Xonar D1 is a noticeable step behind.
Johann Sebastian Bach - "Air":
- Realtek ALC889: Plucked bass sounds muffled, overall sound appears restrained and slightly mono
- Xonar D1: This is just so much clearer than the Realtek, the plucked bass is bold, precise and distinct now. This is how Air should sound, the instruments spread out but playing in harmony, coming across together rather than the lead strings dominating everything on the Realtek.
- X-Fi XtremeMusic (modded): Bass fuller and deeper, even more clarity, everything seems super-clean, lead strings piercingly defined, can almost see the music.
Ulrich Schnauss - "Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn":
- Realtek ALC889: There is a noticeable droning to the lower frequency instruments that seems to bathe the sound in a murky mist, the drum beats sound very one-dimensional and overall the performance is rather bland.
- Xonar D1: The opening notes and much more defined, and the slowed down drums sit nicely in the mix, as opposed to the mush of the Realtek. When the lively drum-machine beats start, they don't quite cut through the mix as sharply as the X-Fi, but they are very much alive and dynamic. This sound card makes me smile.
- X-Fi XtremeMusic (modded): All I can say is that it was thoroughly enjoyable to listen to this track, and it makes me glad I modified my card.
Infected Mushroom - "Vicious Delicious":
- Realtek ALC889: It sounds like someone put a film of plastic over the headphone drivers. The sound, again, is rather boring and reminds me of falling asleep on an aeroplane for some reason, maybe it's that drone... I actually hate listening to the onboard sound at this point and can't wait until the track is over.
- Xonar D1: The difference is almost startling, the sound is so much cleaner and it's hard to describe, but it's as if the sound has been set free from carrying heavy weights and is now able to dance about in and around my ears like a cheeky imp that came from the woods.
- X-Fi XtremeMusic (modded): The imp came along with his friends, and one of them is celebrating his birthday.
The Xonar D1 is much better than the supposed "High Definition Audio" of the onboard Realtek soundchip, but doesn't quite reach the finesse of the modified XtremeMusic. The nearest analogy I can think of is with headphones. Regular AC97 onboard audio is like the free headphones you get with your phone or iPod, it sounds ok if you've never heard anything else, but really it's a bit crap. Realtek High Definition Audio is like a decent pair of headphones, but the entry level, so the bass is a bit muffled/muddy, some of the sounds get buried under others, extremes of frequency range are lacking. The Xonar D1 is like a moderately-priced pair of audiophile headphones, so you get an instantly recognisable improvement in sonic fidelity, the instruments are clearer and separated, bass more snappy and distinct, and overal clarity greatly improved. My modified XtremeMusic is very much at the top end. The delicate finesse and rotund bass of this card is something the Xonar D1 is close to, but doesn't quite achieve. To the D1's credit, it is much nearer to the X-Fi than to the Realtek, and it's pleasing to hear the D1 perform this much better than onboard audio.