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ASUS Xonar Xense PCI-E Sound Card Kit E-mail
Written by Vito Cassisi - Edited by Olin Coles   
Monday, 20 December 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
ASUS Xonar Xense PCI-E Sound Card Kit
Features and Specifications
Closer Look: ASUS Xonar Xense
ASUS Xonar Xense Detailed Features
ASUS Xonar Audio Center Software
Testing
RightMark Audio Analyser Results
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Testing Methodology

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:

  • Frequency response
    The optimal frequency response of an audio card is a flat line at 0dB. That is, for a given input signal, the response should be consistently 0dB across all frequencies. If the line deviates from 0dB, then there is undesired attenuation or emphasis in the resultant signal.
  • Noise level
    Noise is unwanted sound. The noise floor is the sum of all noise sources. The lower the noise floor is the better, since any signals below this become difficult (if not impossible) to distinguish. Noise is measured in dB (decibels).
  • Dynamic range
    Dynamic range in terms of an audio source differs slightly to that of a piece of music or instrument. It represents the ratio between the highest undistorted sine wave amplitude and the root mean square of the noise floor amplitude. It is measured in dB, and the larger the value the better.
  • Total harmonic distortion (THD)
    Put simply, THD is the measurement of harmonic distortion introduced by components of an audio system, represented as a percentage. The lower this value the better. According to Wikipedia, a value of under 1% is inaudible, however without citation we'll take this with a grain of salt.
  • Intermodulation distortion
    Another measure of distortion, this time caused by non-linear signal processing which causes the unwanted amplitude modulation (AM) of two or more signals. Measured as a percentage, this value is best when very small.
  • Stereo crosstalk
    Stereo crosstalk is the is leakage of sound from one channel into another. This is measured in dB. Lower values are desired.
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:
  • Alessandro Music Series One (2009 version, a.k.a MS1i)
  • Sennheiser PC350 gaming headphones (as bundled with the Xonar Xense)
The surround speaker systems used to run these tests include
  • Logitech X-530 5.1

Test System

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-K8N Pro-SLI
  • System Memory: 2GB DDR400
  • Processor: AMD Athlon X2 4400+
  • Audio: ASUS Xonar Xense, ASUS Xonar Essence STX, AC'97 Realtek ALC850
  • Video: AMD HD4670
  • PSU: CoolerMaster eXtreme 380W
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit

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.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: ASUS Xonar Xense PCI-E Sound Card KitStupido 2010-12-21 05:20
How good is this card compared with the lower end Xonar cards?
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# NoSuccellus 2010-12-21 23:47
How good it compare to XFI medium to high end roduct ?
I know this review is about the sound card but since the headset comes in:
How far the MIC.
The headset being crap, how comes prices ain t being a con., since your paying for something bad, and the gamer really expect it to be good ?
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