Asus Xonar D2 Review (Page 3 of 6)

Page 3 - A Closer Look - Software

Although I wasn't too surprised about the interface of Asus Xonar D2's drivers, personally I would much prefer functionality over flash -- as with most 'overdone Hi-Fi inclined' interfaces. Newer users might also be quite stumped at first look. Part of it is the lack in ease of use; which we would say based on a combination of things such as blue-on-blue color schemes in certain areas, as well as too many things scrambled on the same screen.

The main screen of the Asus Xonar D2 configuration screen. Hitting the Menu button at the bottom right corner of the main window section will reveal the bottom half as shown in the screenshot above; showing five additional tabs for different settings. The main screen allows you to select sampling rate and output; on the digital side, options to switch between Dolby Digital Live and DTS Interactive are provided within the drop down menu.

On the right of the same window section is a diagram that allows you to configure listener positioning in relation to speakers, when DTS NEO:PC is enabled. Under the volume control section with a 'knob' is a Mute and SVN button, respectively, as well as four buttons to select between four DSP modes (Game, music, movie, and Hi-Fi presets) which are all just basically a combination of different settings. Hi-Fi mode simply resets everything to default/neutral 'plain audio' without any DSP modes enabled.

The Mixer tab allows the user to configure input and output selections, as well as individual volume for each -- and each channel if applicable. A Reset button puts everything back to default, which is usually turning everything back to maximum, or at least somewhat close to there for others that are not.

The Effect tab allows the user to 'simulate' an environment and environment size. Similar to Creative's EAX effects for different environmental effects; which in my opinion has more of a fun factor than function factor.

An array of equalizer presets are also accessible from the software. User preset profiles can be saved; but on the Xonar D2 I would not really recommend the use of the equalizer -- firstly because it does not respond to the equalizer nearly as well as most Creative cards (Or, for that matter, it doesn't respond very well at all), and secondly the equalizer on the Asus Xonar D2 would prevent sound from sounding naturally. Significant adjustments on the software equalizer is directly proportional to others -- meaning that, for example, if the low frequencies were adjusted higher on the EQ, the middle and higher frequency outputs would be suppressed.

The Karaoke tab, which to an extent is more or less a microphone input control. Magic Voice changes your voice input, which can be quite useful for some prank calling.

The last tab on the menu.

In addition to the main configuration is Asus' PMP (There are no vowels in there, just P - M - P ;) It's not shown by the way). This software uses Asus' Audio Loopback Transformation (ALT) for digital to analog back to digital conversion in circumvention of DRM; all done within the card itself. Through this, it can allow after audio processing to be encoded into 128/192/320Kbps CBR WMA or MP3 files. This includes Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Headphone; depending on your preference, although most audiophiles would not recommend adding artificial implementations permanently into an encoded tracks. But you can try to see how it works out for you.

Since this is done within the card, the track is actually being played in the process of encoding as it needs to go through a digital/analog/digital loop -- if you have a few weeks worth of music, then going through the digital/analog/digital processing would take half the actual time if it's DRM. Non-DRM tracks is 16x; but if it's non-DRM it is probably better to go with a LAME encoder for better effects rather than after audio processing. The sound card utilizes minor CPU power and rather limited by the processing capabilities of the card itself.

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