A Closer Look - Hardware
The face of the Asus Xonar D2 features an anodized brushed aluminum EMI shield. The EMI shield is attached to the board using four screws located on the other side; the function of this piece of aluminum is to achieve higher degrees of signal to noise ratio with regards to the analog aspect - the aluminum EMI shield does nothing else in particular. Asus' Xonar D2 is still a single slot card -- a corner is removed at the bottom right to reveal Dolby and DTS logos. The Asus AV200 chipset is also partially exposed.
In the middle is a circular speaker-esque design, where its circumference is basically a narrow opening to allow light to pass through from LEDs located behind. This provides a stylish orange glow, in which you will see in just a moment.
The anodized brushed aluminum EMI shield is quite a fingerprint magnet. Even with a damp cloth, the fingerprints are quite hard to remove. It's on the side of the card as we haven't touched the EMI shield's main side directly at the time of taking this photo.
Looking on the opposite side of the card shows off Asus' black PCB combined with gold-colored brackets and logos to create a sense of a high end audio product -- the professional feel is the phrase here. Excuse the dust, it's going through our tests for the last few weeks in one of our test computers (In case you were wondering, it's our media center computer utilizing Antec's excellent P182 case).
The gold-colored brackets at the back of Asus' Xonar D2 is filled with an array of connectors. From the left is, labeled in the following order: Line In, Front, Side, Ctr/Sbw, Rear, SPDIF In, and SPDIF Out. By default the S/PDIF outputs are coaxial, but adapters are included to make them optical connectors.
This allows not only both digital in and out, but also all the connectors you need for full 7.1 analog output. My only complaint is that there are no separate mic and line-in ports, although that's not a big issue -- it's great to see manufacturers not skimping on the connectors.
A separate MIDI PCI bracket is also included for mini-DIN and 5-pin DIN MIDI plugs for both input and outputs.
Removing four screws will permit the disengagement of the EMI shield to the actual Xonar D2 board. From behind the EMI shield openings is two separate orange plastic pieces responsible for spreading the LED light and create that orange glow when the computer is turned on; where each of these orange plastic pieces are held down by one plastic screw, each can be easily removed as well. Let's take a detailed look at the different hardware components of the Asus Xonar D2.
Starting from the heart of the Asus Xonar D2 is the Asus AV200 chipset. The Asus AV200 is likely a heavily borrowed or otherwise rebranded C-Media HD CMI8788 high definition audio processor; where the manufacturer's page suggests extremely similar features as well to further reinforce this point.
Matching up with Asus' intended market of the Xonar D2, the CMI8788 for the audiophile and home theater inclined consumers rather than gamers -- support for proprietary Creative EAX technologies are not provided. This concern still exists with Asus Xonar D2's support for EAX 2.0 only, but it is unlikely that it affects anything major in this regard because of the intended market of this product.
Over the years, it is generally debatable about software development driving hardware design, or hardware design driving software development. Many console games are coded with home theater surround sound implementations; and developers probably won't take much effort to port this sound technology over to the computing platform with prominence of AC3 encoding compatible cards arriving on the market today.
With a total of twelve Texas Instruments RC4580IPWR dual audio operational amplifiers (Commonly referred to as OpAmps) spread throughout the PCB, it is clear that Asus is serious about its intended market. An additional high performance LM4562 OpAmp is also located on the Asus Xonar D2.
The Asus DJ100 AC97 chipset and Cirrus Logic CS5381 analog to digital converter (ADC) is shown above; located beside the Burr-Brown digital to analog converters (DACs).
A closer look at the Burr-Brown PCM1796 DACs. Burr-Brown is known for its high quality DACs; in which the company is now part of Texas Instruments.
Six NEC UC2 low profile relays are located behind the connector jacks; in which jack LEDs are shown in our photo above as well.
Power connector of the dual LEDs is shown above. As also observed is Asus Xonar D2's use of only solid aluminum capacitors for primarily durability reasons. Can you spot the LM4562 OpAmp in our photo above?
We've taken some demo photos in our official testing platform of the cool LEDs loaded upon the Asus Xonar D2. Our Danger Den Torture Rack's motherboard orientation and clear acrylic design allows us to take a relatively unobstructed view of the Asus Xonar D2 bottom LED. The orange glow actually looks pretty good in our opinion -- nothing done over the board.
I can't remember how many times I've fumbled behind my computer while trying to figure out which jack is which. Fortunately, the Asus Xonar D2 features not only LEDs for lighting up the individual ports, but also colored LEDs to represent standard connector color codes. This is definitely one of the most useful features implemented on sound cards. Plus, it looks pretty darn cool too!
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