Asus Xonar Xense Premium Gaming Audio Set Reviewhardnrg - November 3, 2010
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After listening to music in stereo, I like to move on to multi-channel sources, and start with movies and surround-sound demo/test discs. This is to observe how the audio equipment handles each speaker channel, and to assess the realism of the surround-sound experience.
Selecting Movie mode in Audio Center disables the EQ and enables Dolby Headphone surround virtualisation (defaults to DH-2, Livelier Room). I agree that the Dolby Headphone setting is ideal, but I preferred my own EQ setting when listening to my test material.
I started by putting the Xense and PC 350 through their paces with the Dolby Blu-ray disc, The Sound Of High Definition. This disc has a number of tests, demos, and movie clips, in 5.1 and 7.1. By enabling the Movie mode, the Dolby Headphone mode moves the sound away from your ears and makes it appears to be coming from around you in the room. I think the main difference to the other headsets is that the sound quality of the PC 350 means it places you in the room, rather than bringing the room to you. Remember earlier in the review when I commented on the crazy "Jazz" EQ setting? Well, this was a point where the Xense Audio Set redeemed itself. Listening to Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis was pure pleasure. As with stereo music, each of the musicians and vocalists were clearly defined, but this time there was the added element of the third dimension, which gave a stronger sense of depth and presence.
After the Dolby tests, I moved onto a selection of movies with Dolby or DTS audio tracks, including The Matrix, Ip Man, and the Harry Potter films. Notably, when Alice crashes through the cathedral windows on a motorbike in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the PC 350 delivers a highly realistic smashing of glass, accompanied by the gutteral growl of the engine. The ability of the Xense and PC 350 to deliver power and detail at the same time gave a much better sound experience compared to the other headsets. While very good, the Zowie Hammer can't match the high-end sound of the PC 350; the Turtle Beach X-52 sounds okay overall, but the surround effect is weakened by the mismatched headphone speakers; the Psyko 5.1 sounds wildly unnatural and the surround effect is poor; and, the Medusa 5.1 Home Edition sounds muffled, overly bassy, and has poor surround sound. The Dolby Headphone mode often had me looking over my shoulder to check if there was someone behind me, so it definitely works very well with the PC 350.
Again, it was a toss-up between a 9 or a 10. I think, while the Dolby Headphone mode is very good, and easily better than Creative surround virtualisation or 5.1 headphones, it's not 100% the same as a high-end surround sound speaker system, so I feel there is some room for improvement that could be possible in the future.