USB headphone amps have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. There's a lot of good reasons for having an external DAC for audio, chief among them less noise to draw better performance from higher-quality parts, and of course more power to drive high-end or even audiophile quality headphones. ASUS has been focused on bringing interesting products based on these ideas, you only have to look at their Xonar Essence line of cards to realize that.
The Xonar brand has been around for quite a while and we love the quality of ASUS’s design and build. The first Xonar product in the Guru3d Audio Lab was the D2X, a product that I called ‘a showboat’. It was ASUS’s first top-tier gaming audio card, and of course, they made an asteroid sized splash in the market. We liked it. Then, of course, if the D2X wasn’t enough quality for you, ASUS released the Essence series of sound cards. These are the ultimate expression of what ASUS could do with audio, showing their engineering chops and, dare I say it, passion. Oh, we liked them, too. Today we have in house another Xonar, the ASUS Xonar U7 External USB sound card. It is the performance enhanced version of the Xonar U3, a thumbdrive sized USB audio adapter. The U7 is not the average external USB DAC/headphone amp. It is loaded with features, offering 7.1 surround sound audio with 192KHz/24-bit capability, 114dB SNR, line-level outputs, S/PDIF input/output, and selectable gain for those audiophile headphones you were trying to convince yourself into buying (do eet, do eeet!). While it’s not a ROG branded product, the Xonar U7 is designed to work with the ROG Vulcan or Orion headsets. But, you can use it with any headset of your choice. This means you get both a dedicated headphone amp and microphone input, in a nice external USB powered package with some impressive specifications. The U7 also has a knob. We like knobs.
The Xonar U7 is not just about the hardware, along with the Xear suite of effects, it can upmix stereo to surround for gaming using Dolby’s new Home Theatre v4. It works over S/PDIF, of course, so you can use an external decoder and theatre system. Dolby HTv4 also has a few new tricks up its sleeve, namely, dialog enhancement and dynamic compression. We'll get to those.
The Xonar U7 has a lot of the same features you'd find in some high-end sound cards, good software, good features, but does that mean it's any good? There is quite a crowded field of USB headphone amps these days.
Asus Xonar U7 Review ASUS Xonar U7 review test and benchmarks. The U7 offers 24-bit/192KHz recording and playback with 114dB SNR, S/PDIF output, 7.1 channel analog output, dedicated stereo headphone output, a volume knob, and it's all powered of a USB 2.0 port. The headphone output comes with its own DAC and adjustable gain settings, making the U7 capable of driving just about any pair of headphones to ear-splitting levels.
ASUS Xonar Phoebus soundcard review We review the ASUS Xonar Phoebus 7.1 soundcard. Gamers are not quite as strict as the audiophile market place, we would still suggest they like to have great sound, after all a great game is just that much better with high quality surround sound or headphone based audio immersing you into the action. We have been following the development of this product since the beginning and today we have a brand spanking new Phoebus 7.1 bundle in the Guru3D Audio Lab. Without any further delay, lets pull this new audio card out and check it out.
Asus Xonar Xense 7.1 Soundcard review Asus recently announced that they have teamed up with Sennheiser, a proverbial powerhouse in the audiophile headphone market to bring audio lovers the Xonar Xense 7.1 soundcard bundle.
ASUS Xonar Essence ST DeLuxe review We test and review the Xonar Essence ST Deluxe 7.1 soundcard. Yes, you read it right, the full deluxe model! ASUS has been relentless with its R&D and soundcard releases, putting out one high end card after another. The Essence models are considered the current undisputed kings of the Xonar series of soundcards. We are quite excited to see what the Essence ST offers over the STX and in general. So, lets pull out the Xonar Essence ST Deluxe 7.1 and have a look and a listen.