Asus Xonar D2 Review (Page 6 of 6)

Page 6 - Subjective Listening and Conclusion

Subjective listening is always an interesting part of reviews. The reason of its subjectiveness can extend beyond because pulling the objectiveness out of this subjective aspect is very hard. Typically, I see results from 95% of audio reviews stating how (Insert whether it is a headphone, speaker, sound card, MP3 player, or something related to audio output)'s the bass is so awesome, it shook the house so much that I had to get my house's structural integrity checked and the midrange is so awesomely clear that it sounds the person is really in the room, I swear someone touched me on my shoulder during that time, as well as the treble is so freakin awesome it's so high yet natural the percussion instruments sounds soooooo fantastic. While there are undeniable truths to these observations, personally I feel that there are things beyond this. But regardless I'll try to express my feel on this subjective matter to the best of my capabilities.

The general design of this card is to sound natural, and I can clearly see this intention because after some testing with my headphones I can clearly see this when compared to the Creative X-Fi I have installed on another system. I can say I am impressed by the midrange, as well as the cleanness and detail related to it -- it's clean, clear, with detail and does not sound overemphasized on any frequency. However, with this the Asus Xonar D2 also sounds very neutral -- almost to a point that it lacks a contrast for deep, low bass and sharp, wet sounding treble. Because the Xonar D2 does not respond to significant equalizer changes as mentioned earlier, nothing much can be done with the raw output of the card in terms of software configuration -- I found that the Asus Xonar D2 performs the best by far when it's on neutral EQ settings. Basically, as opposed to Creative sound cards and audio products which are generally the punchy type, the Xonar D2 is the neutral type -- having a large emphasis on the layered and equal midrange output with precision and detail in every aspect.

Therefore, I would say do yourself a favor and don't use the Asus Xonar D2 with any cheap analog computer speakers such as the Logitech X-530 in which I have experimented with, just to see how it goes. The results are terrible, because the audiophile/home theater intention of the Asus Xonar D2 is not necessarily designed to unleash any 'potential' of speakers of this category. On the other hand, hooking it up to our full 5.1 home audio system provides incredible results through my Yamaha receiver -- basically what I am trying to say is that the Asus Xonar D2, as advertised, is a home theater/studio card that's designed to work with receivers and home theater speakers. That also means not cheap computer speakers that's worth 1/4 the price of the sound card itself. You'll want to leave the lows, mids, and highs to the receiver and speakers themselves; the Xonar D2 is implemented not to create any sound bias but instead to provide the best audio to allow each component to their job in creating the final effect. Combined with a complete set of Dolby technologies, the Asus Xonar D2 has certainly succeeded in that regard, with both excellent digital features and commendable analog audio outputs for this purpose.

With that regard, however, I feel that the C-Media HD CMI8788 based Asus AV200 audio processor on the Xonar D2 did not entirely blow me away with the satisfaction of absolutely incredible sound performance -- saying that, it in fact does its job very well. Unfortunately, the performance anticipation is simply what you'd typically expect in subjective matters of sound cards in this category; so there's no element of surprise.

On a side note, I found that the Asus Xonar D2's microphone input levels extremely low -- even with microphone boost turned on and the input level turned all the way up. Using the same computer microphone, I've found much better input levels on all Creative cards I've used as well as the integrated sound on my laptop. When I am voice chatting on Windows Live Messenger, the person on the other side had a hard time hearing me half the time.

Asus has certainly paid a lot of attention to its intended market when the Xonar D2 was being created. In terms of specifications and hardware build, the components used on this sound card are excellent -- from its full featured home theater feature inclined audio processor, to Burr-Brown DACs, Texas Instruments RC4580IPWR OpAmps, all the way to the LEDs and EMI shield, the Asus Xonar D2 will definitely appeal home theater enthusiasts. Its abundance of connectors and flexibility with convenient jack LEDs is an added plus. Performance is also very good -- from our audio analyzation tests, performance is generally impressive with exception to one or two things The tests were re-run on our main test platform. The results RightMark Audio Analyzer results are absolutely impressive across the board, period. (The confirmed cause of poor THD numbers initially would be investigated by Asus.) Asus Xonar D2's bundle is also very impressive. However, its use of the C-Media influenced Asus AV200 chip does less than blowing anyone away with the difference in sound quality when compared to other performance home theater sound cards. Software can be also be improved; and if it responds to EQ better for more compatibility with speakers on the lower end spectrum would also be nice. Mic input level can also be improved. In general, if you are looking for a full featured performance sound card for your home theater system, the Asus Xonar D2 is available to you at most online retailers for lower than $200.

Special thanks to Charlton and Eric over at Asus for making this review possible.

APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.7/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.

The Asus Xonar D2 is the sound card for home audio enthusiasts -- combined with its incredible bundle, and a plethora of home theater technology support, it doesn't take long for anyone to realize the intention of this sound card -- and it does its job pretty well at what it's designed for.

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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