|ASUS Xonar Xense PCI-E Sound Card Kit|
|Written by Vito Cassisi - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 20 December 2010|
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To test the ASUS Xonar Xense we have used RightMark Audio Analyser 6.2.3. This produces graphs which display the following aspects of an audio card:
Each of these tests will be run four times to ensure consistency, using an external loopback cable. If the results are consistent, the best result of the four will be used to offset error introduced by noise produced by the lengthy loopback cable.
In addition to these analytical tests, we will be listening to some music to gauge whether there's an audible difference, and whether the difference is an improvement. The tracks we will use for testing include The Wall pt. 1-3 and Shine on You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, assorted tracks by Sarah Blasko including Bird on a Wire, and selected tracks from David Russell. These tests will be done with 'Hi-FI' mode enabled (which turns off all enhancements) within Xonar Audio Center.
The headphones used to run these tests include:
The surround speaker systems used to run these tests include
Results: Listening Test
Using the provided Sennheiser PC-350 headphones, music was detailed but felt flat with a very narrow soundstage. Regardless of track, the PC-350 headphones were lacklustre, from treble to bass, we were left wanting more - especially from a premium set of cans.
Being a gaming headset, we went on to play Unreal Tournament 3 with 'game' and 'GX' modes enabled. The narrow soundstage did little to facilitate EAX, and explosions were muffled by the closed cans. DiRT 2 didn't fair much better, with everything sounding like it were emitting from within a small enclosure rather than a large environment. The headset could be summarised in a single word - 'dull'. And not a natural accurate dull either, it's just plain terrible. Movies were much the same.
The PC-350s saving grace is its in-built microphone, which is suitably clear and adjustable. They're also reasonably comfortable, and sit around the user ears instead of pressing against them.
On a more positive note, the Xonar Xense card itself performs stunningly. As far as our untrained ears could discern, the Xense is very similar to the Essence STX in terms of output quality, using the Alessandro MS-1i headphones. The EAX emulation and gaming modes perform surprisingly well (provided you use a decent pair of headphones) and manages to provide convincingly binaural sound when Dolby Headphone is enabled.
Music wise, it's hard to fault the Xense. Similar to the Essence STX, Pink Floyd's various tracks come across highly detailed with no discernible noise. Dynamic range is spectacular, with excellent lows and highs. Put simply, everything sounds great, no doubt due to the flat frequency response and high quality DACs.
Movies such as iRobot were similarly great, thanks to the wonders of Dolby Headphone. When set to 6 channels, the stereo MS1-i headphones sound convincingly surround, which is no simple feat considering their narrow soundstage.
When compared to the onboard solution, the Xense outpaces it in every way. Gaming and movies are lifeless when using the onboard solution, and music is good but not excellent. Using Dolby Headphone, games on the Xense jump to life. When connected to the surround Logitech X-530 5.1 system, the feeling of true presence is quite surreal, even despite the fact that these speakers are far from hi-fi level.