|ASUS Xonar Xense PCI-E Sound Card Kit|
|Written by Vito Cassisi - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 20 December 2010|
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7.1 Audio Card Final Thoughts
Looking back at the results and general usage of the Xense kit, it's obvious that ASUS were trying hard to produce an all-in-one solution for gamers. A high end sound card solution bundled with an expensive set of headphones is enough to make any gamers mouth water with excitement. Alas, the headphones bundled with the Xonar aren't particularly good. Sure, they're from a well known brand and they're certainly not the worst set from their product line, but they're absolutely terrible for gaming. It's almost as if ASUS chose them solely because the brand is a household name.
The Xense card itself is absolutely excellent. It blitzed both listening and analytical tests, closely rivalling the Xonar Essence STX which is arguably the best consumer audio card on the market. Audio processing such as Dolby Headphone really complete the package, allowing gamers to use headphones rather than surround sound speakers during intense gaming. It's a great product for both audiophiles and gamers alike.
ASUS Xonar Xense Conclusion
In terms of performance, the Xonar Xense nails it. Flat frequency response, indiscernible noise levels, and superior dynamic range place this card leagues ahead of typical onboard solutions. Replaceable op-amps, high quality capacitors, EAX emulation, and a great headphone amp seal the deal. Put simply, the Xonar Xense is difficult to ignore if you're looking at purchasing a dedicated audio solution.
The PC-350 Sennheiser headphone performance, as stated in our listening tests, is not so hot. They're adequate cans, but are far from capable of taking advantage of the clarity and quality of the sound card it's paired with. Muffled highs and uninspiring lows matched with a narrow soundstage make for a disappointing addition to an otherwise commendable audio card.
Appearance wise, the Xonar Xense is showy with its chrome EMI shield. It looks great if you have a window on the side of your PC. As for the headphones, their black/grey facade makes for an aesthetically pleasing professional looking device.
Build quality of the Xense is excellent. High quality componentry and the secure EMI shield is as good as you can expect from an expansion card. The headphones look and feel solid, with no evidence of fragility or point of possible failure. The adjustable microphone stays firmly in place.
With regards to functionality, the Xense is has everything a gamer could want. An array of Dolby technologies including Dolby Headphone allow for an enhanced audio experience, whether it be emulating 7.1 sound, or using stereo headphones for a surround sound experience. Digital out and the provided TOSLINK connector allow external DACs to be used, and the gold plated TRS/RCA in/out facilitate clean noise-free audio.
Last but not least, we come to value. Given the expensive of the headphones if purchased individually, one could conclude that this bundle is very good value. However, factoring in the suitability of the headphones for gaming, it may be best to purchase a better pair separately. For $279.99 at NewEgg, you're getting a great card which will last several builds and a Sennheiser PC 350 Xense Edition headset.
All in all, if you're in the market for a high quality sound card with 7.1 surround sound support, then you'd be crazy to look past the ASUS Xonar Xense. Just don't buy them for the Sennheiser PC-350 headphones.
+ Near flat frequency response
- Included headphones are mediocre at best
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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