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Monday, 11 July 2011

ASUS Xonar U3 Simulated Surround-Sound USB Sound Card Review

With the push and mass acceptance of HD video came the push and mass acceptance of widescreen HD monitors, and so too, has come the push for HD audio. 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound speakers. Disregarding quality, these can be had for comparatively little from earlier in the decade, thus, they are much more attainable for the mass market than they once were. With this mass adoption of surround-sound has come the demand for the hardware to utilize it, and manufacturers have responded. Gone are the days of the outdated AC'97 chipset, and here are the days of built-in surround sound capable chipsets on even the lowest of low-end motherboards. This mass acceptance of HD audio has raised the bar for audio quality standards, and has made it significantly more affordable for those standards to be experienced. Additionally, more manufacturers have stepped into the HD audio realm and have begun to create their own audio expansion cards for users that crave more quality, by means of higher quality DACs and op-amps, and more functionality, such as that provided by hardware EAX and various Dolby technologies.

This movement has not been limited only to desktop users, but it has also grown in popularity with laptop/netbook users as well. Although today's laptops, tablets, and even netbooks feature these newer audio chipsets, size constraints have generally limited users to ordinary stereo sound. The push for surround-sound, however, is strong enough that manufacturers have taken notice and have started catering to mobile users with external, ultra-portable USB sound cards. These ultra-portable solutions lack true surround-sound support, however, some offer simulated surround-sound by way of Dolby Headphone technology, and this does a very good job for movies and games. One such manufacturer of one of these ultra-portable USB sound cards is ASUS. ASUS only recently ventured into making sound cards with its high-end Xonar line of products aimed at gamers and audiophiles. Most recently, it has created the XonarU3, an external, ultra-portable USB sound card aimed primarily at headphone users and gamers. Today I'll be testing it, but first, let's have a peek... OverclockersClub

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