Asus Xonar D2 Review (Page 1 of 6)

By: Jonathan Kwan
October 20, 2007

When we said that Asus makes everything back in May, we weren't joking about it -- and let it be reinforced if you just take a look at the introduction of our linked review. A unit of Asus' first and flagship soundcard, the Xonar D2, was in our hands for more than a month already at the time of completion of this article; which allowed us more than adequate time to throughly test this product instead of simply rushing out a review. Asus promises to deliver the ultimate in computer sound to bridge home audio systems to desktop systems, complete with a suite of Dolby and DTS sound technologies. Is it true? How awesome is this sound card? Is it worth your money? Does it compete well against Creative's sound card monopoly? We'll soon find out and show you what we think about Asus' Xonar D2, the soundcard that made itself a significant name in computer audio before it even hit the consumer market.

Our review unit of Asus' Xonar D2 came in a large box with tons of packaging from Asus' offices in Fremont, California using FedEx International Economy. As usual, Asus put in tons of packing material to ensure that the internal contents arrive in perfect condition.

As juxtaposed to DHL's service, I must say once again that FedEx is just that much better -- I phoned in to inquire if the package could be delivered to a more convenient location during the day for me to receive. Although it took an extra day for an unspecified reason, it was all done and we received it safely.

Shipped in Asus' excellent retail packaging for its Xonar D2, it's quite different in styling from the company's motherboards -- but by this it extends a feel of high performance, studio audio product rather than 'just another computer part' as such put forth by Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic's packaging; in which I purchased that particular product approximately one year ago. Asus Xonar D2 packaging's white and abstract baby blue design printed with an array of icons at the bottom further reinforces Asus' seriousness in this product.

The flap-top can be opened to reveal a window through the middle showing the Asus Xonar D2 itself behind clear plastic; and the rest of the inside highlighting features of this sound card -- as well as included parts out of the box. Specifications are shown on the sides, as well as a table highlighting its features again in thirteen languages and dialects. My only complaint is that there's a handful of spelling mistakes on it (Such as 'real-teim', 'S/PSIF', 'prouction') -- it shouldn't be too hard to iron out those mistakes before sending the design off to the big machines.

Before we move on, let's take a look at its specifications, as obtained from Asus' website:

Audio Performance
- Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted): 118 dB
- Input Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted): 118 dB
- Output THD+N at 1kHz: 0.0004% (-108dB)
- Input THD+N at 1kHz: 0.0004% (-108dB)
- Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/96kHz input): <10Hz to 46kHz (for all channels)
- Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/192kHz input): <10Hz to 90kHz (for all channels)
- Output/Input Full-Scale Voltage: 2 Vrms (5.65 Vp-p)
- Sample Rate Conversion Quality: Almost lossless, high-fidelity floating-point filters, which has:
-140dB THD+N (typical value for 44.1K->48KHz, 24bit)
-145dB Dynamic Range (typical value for 44.1K->48KHz, 24bit)

Main Chipset
- 4-bit D-A Converter of Digital Sources: Burr-Brown PCM1796 *4 (123dB SNR, Max. 192kHz/24bit)
- 24-bit A-D Converter for Analog Inputs: Cirrus-Logic CS5381* 1 (120dB SNR, Max. 192kHz/24bit)

Sample Rate and Resolution
- Analog Playback Sample Rate and Resolution: 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit
- Analog Recording Sample Rate and Resolution: 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit
- S/PDIF Digital Output: 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit ,Dolby Digital, DTS, WMA-Pro
- S/PDIF Digital Input: 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit
- ASIO 2.0 Driver Support: 44.1K/48K/96K/192KHz @ 16/24bit

I/O Ports
- Analog Output Jack: 3.50mm mini jack *4 (Front/Side/Center-Subwoofer/Back)
- Analog Input Jack: 3.50mm mini jack *2 (Line-In/Mic-In)
- Other line-level analog input (for CD-IN/TV Tuner): CD-In, Aux-In (4-pin header on the card)
- Digital S/PDIF Output: Coaxial and High-bandwidth Optical Combo Connector
Supports 192KHz/24bit
- Digital S/PDIF Input: Coaxial and High-bandwidth Optical Combo Connector
Supports 192KHz/24bit
- MIDI Ports: Additional MPU-401 MIDI I/O bracket and converter cable

Driver Features
Operation System: Windows Vista/XP(32/64bit)/MCE2005
Dolby® Technologies: Dolby® Headphone, Dolby® Virtual Speaker, Dolby® Pro-Logic IIx, Dolby® Digital Live
DTS® Technologies: DTS® Connect (DTS Interactive Encoder and DTS Neo:PC)
Smart Volume Normalizer™: Normalizes the volume of all audio sources into a constant level
Xear 3D™ Virtual Speaker Shifter: Virtual 7.1 speaker positioning
Magic Voice™: Modifies the sound of your voice, for VOIP and online chat applications (Windows XP)
Karaoke Functions: Music Key-Shifting and Microphone Echo effects (Windows XP)
FlexBass™: Professional Bass Management/Enhancement system
Other Effects: 10-band Equalier/27 Environment Effects
3D Sound Engines/APIs: EAX®2.0&1.0, A3D® 1.0, DirectSound® HW & SW
DirectX: DirectX 9.0 or above required for 7.1ch output

Sliding out the dual section PET shell reveals an absolutely incredible bundle with the Asus Xonar D2 package. Out of the box, you will receive the following hardware:

- 1x Asus Xonar D2
- 1x MIDI bracket and adapter cable
- 2x S/PDIF TOSLINK optical adapter
- 1x S/PDIF TOSLINK optical cable
- 4x 3.5mm to RCA cables

Other stuff included out of the box, including bundled software:

- Quick start guide
- Dolby demo CD
- Driver CD
- Abletion Live 6 Lite
- Cakewalk Production Plus Pack (Sonic LE, Dimension LE, Project5 LE)
- PowerDVD 7.0

Page Index
1. Introduction, Specifications, Bundle
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. A Closer Look - Software
4. RightMark Audio Analyzer 24-bit/48 kHz
5. RightMark Audio Analyzer 24-bit/192 kHz
6. Subjective Listening and Conclusion