Asus Xonar D2X Sound Card review

Soundcards and Speakers 105 Page 7 of 9 Published by


Page 7 -- Music and DVD

Music and DVD

I used Foobar2K .9.5.3 with the kernel streaming plugin.  Ive re-encoded (not transcoded) the listening borage into FLAC, since thats what EAC seems to like using now.  I also used several 24/96 and 24/48 WAV files, either recorded off an LP or a live recording.  Several sound cards were tested with the D2X, include Creative's X-Audio, Auzentech X-Fi Prelude, and an Intel onboard job.  Ill tell you now, it took only a few seconds of the first song to reach a conclusion.

The D2X is our new reference.

I suppose stranger things have happened.

Like Roy Orbison in clingfilm.

Oddly enough, it sometimes happens with sound gear that you really would like to take a break, go to the bathroom, get lunch, or whatever, but you find yourself pressing play on the next song.  And then the next song.  And then you realize youre late for a job, havent had lunch, and your bladder is about to explode.  The D2X has such captivating sound quality that it can hold you paralyzed for hours listening.  Extreme clarity can sometimes make you weary, an overload of the ears, but the D2X doesnt.  You can just tune out the detail and just listen, which is fantastic.

And the first song was, Twilight Zone, Rush, 2112 (MFSL, 781kbps FLAC) MFSL remastered this, the top end is a little softer and less grainy than the regular pressed edition.  Vocals, incredible stability of the effect on the voice.  Not a single out-of-place instrument in the mix.  At 2:00 the second whisper voice in the left channel is supremely intelligible, which is not easy to do, because its a whisper Digging further into the collection of Rush (which is dangerous, because it could take months to clamber back out again), we hear much the same extreme dry clarity, especially with the cymbals and stuff.  Hemispheres, Trees, La Villa Strangiato, especially La Villa, a tour de rigor of musical brilliance, Neal Pearts changing timbre of the cymbals was most effected by the extreme clarity, where there was little else but the sound of the cymbal.  Very little sweetness, but very clear and very clean.  Auzen's X-Prelude was better for this subtle detail, by the fact that there was more of 'it', but somehow lacked the refinement of the D2X.

Proving almost limitless variety in music is Domenico Scarlattis Sonata in E major, K. 162 (out of 550 or so), arranged for two guitars by Sergio and Odair Assad, off their Baroque Album, the sound of two guitars should be a challenge for the D2X.  I had to grab an unwitting (but very cute) passerby to have a listen to prove a point.  The extreme clean and crisp sound of the D2X actually gives the sense of artificial sound.  There was literraly no distortion in the sound of the guitars to guide your ears, no overtones to sweeten the sound a bit.  I believe this sound is called dry like a dry martini, dry but nonetheless is very intoxicating.

Stevie Wonders Pastime Paradise off Songs in the Key of Life, Vol. 1, the two amazing things that stand out is the stereo separation, which is quite possibly the best Ive ever heard.  It is extreme.  The second is the detail, an ascending line which Ive not heard before, or only glimpsed, was there, right channel.  It becomes part of the bass line later in the song.  And then you keep listening into Summer Soft dammit I gotta take a leak!

Comparing the D2X to a few other sound cards I had at time of testing, we go back to Pink Floyd Time (681kbps FLAC), off DSotM, 5:46, the backup singers really are a separate part of the texture, and you can hear their vibrato at the end of the phrase.  Ive heard it a million times by now, but never to this fine a detail, and it made my eyes swell up and the hair on the back of the neck stand on end.  It was spooky.  In both the X-Audio and X-Prelude, the backing vocals are not as well defined in space or between themselves.  Not nearly as spooky.  The X-Audio does indeed hold its own though, especially considering the price, its a very good sound for the price.  I wouldnt trade in the D2X for one, but if I was on a budget, I would actually consider it.  Now Auzen's X-Prelude delivers a very good sound show, but doens't seem to be as refined as the D2X.  The cymbals are actually present with the X-Prelude, where they are not so with the D2X. 

Finally, a little Jimi Hendrix, Little Miss Lover, Purple Haze, They simply sparkle in the D2X.  Hendrix really does say, excuse me while I kiss the sky! with the D2X.  The most magical is without a doubt, Little Wing, where each and every bell strike is strikingly clear.  You can actually hear one of the bells shake as it rings.  The other detail is that Jimi's guitar sound has a lot of overtones itself which are bell-like themselves.  Being able to hear the overtones of the guitar and the bells as seperate things is unreal.

The D2X is not kind to bad recordings, or low bit rates.  In fact it is extremely revealing of every detail.  The next best thing, I believe, is being in the recording studio or at the live performance.  The good side to the D2X is that while it is ruthlessly detailed, it seems somewhat warm and easy to listen to; I never felt the need to have the volume any higher than 19 or 20.

So there you have it.  From the first few seconds of Twilight Zone I was a goner for the D2X.  The worst of it was that I could not stop myslelf from playing song after song with the D2X.  Yeah, this thing is the twilight zone of sound cards.

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