Asus Xonar Xense Premium Gaming Audio Set Reviewhardnrg - November 3, 2010
Category: Sound Cards, Speakers/Headphones
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It's actually quite astonishing when you consider all the product lines that Asus offers: laptops, netbooks, slim media PCs, desktops, servers, monitors, graphics cards, sound cards, routers, computer cases... the list literally goes on. What gives me a slight expression of disbelief is the range of target markets, from hard core overclockers, to young school children, average 'noobs' and families, business elite, and science 'boffins' pushing the boundaries of research. The proliferation of Asus' products throughout households and businesses around the world proves this is no "jack of all trades, master of none" company. It's among the top five computer manufacturers in the world.
The same world that has gone Hi-Def crazy, with consumers tripping over each other for the latest TV technology; I still find it strange that most people either have a very poor or mediocre sound system or simply use the TV's built-in speakers. People can hear the difference between a cheap sound setup and high-end system, but it's as though people have forgotten about sound quality.
Well, I'll tell you who hasn't forgotten: Asus, with its solid line of high-end sound cards which perform spectacularly for listening to music and as part of a computer-based home cinema. The Xonar Xense One builds on the success of the Xonar Essence STX, featuring the same headphone amplifier, but this time a modified Sennheiser PC 350 headset is included as part of the package. As I have previously reviewed the Xonar Essence STX, I have high hopes and expectations for the Xonar Xense One, but wonder what changes Asus have made to tailor this sound card for gaming. I am also intrigued to find out how Sennheiser PC 350 performs alongside it, and how it compares to other headphones and headsets.
You might have wondered what a "Premium Gaming Audio Set" consists of. Well, you can immediately see on the front of the box a picture of the Asus Xonar Xense One sound card, and the Sennheiser PC 350 headset through the transparent plastic side section of the box. Some of the key features are stated or shown as a logo here as well as on the back of the box. For example: precision acoustics for FPS games, 118 dB SNR, ergonomic headset, Dolby Headphone, and Dolby Digital Live, amongst others.
The left side of the box list some of the technical specifications of the sound card and headset. It's quite nice to see that Asus have even included information on DACs used on the sound card and the distortion of the headset. I like audio gear, and usually, I'd have to look this information up myself. If you don't know or care about these specs, it's basically very reassuring that they are worth printing on the box. The whole right side of the box is the clear plastic inner packaging.
The top and bottom of the box don't reveal any more product information, aside from the serial and part numbers.
The front of the box has a flap that opens upwards to reveal detailed explanations of the key features and sound card connectivity. The lower part has a windowed section, where you can see the sound card EMI shield, along with lists of the contents and system requirements. Sliding off the outer cardboard box presents you with the sound card and headset inside the transparent plastic packaging.
So here's what you get: the Xonar Xense One sound card, Sennheiser PC 350 headset, Quick Start Guide, a driver/manual CD, 7.1 audio breakout cable, 1/4" to 3.5mm stereo jack adapter, and a TOSLINK digital audio adapter.
The breakout cable uses a DVI type connector to separate the analogue audio outputs (front left/right, rear left/right, center/sub, side left/right), as there isn't really room on the sound card to fit all the 3.5mm stereo sockets. I actually cringed when I saw the DVI connector, as non-standardly using a DVI connector for audio will inevitably cause consumer confusion at some point, but having a breakout cable like this allows you to use high-end audio interconnect cables with chunky-bodied 3.5mm jacks. The 1/4" to 3.5mm jack adaptor lets you use audio cables, microphones, and headphones/headsets with 3.5mm jacks. Finally, the TOSLINK adaptor allows you to connect a standard optical S/PDIF cable to the optical digital audio output of the sound card.