Page 9 -- Conclusion
This card has been out on the market for a long while now, and I've read a lot of posts with good things to say about it. But, since I'm skeptical by nature, I had to see if this thing lived up to its hype. Well, there's nothing quite like first-hand experience. The Xonar D2X is simply an amazing sound card, even if it is a bit of a showoff. Its packed with so much hardware and so much software that I would almost call it a good deal for the price. Ill certainly say, you get what you pay for with the D2X. No doubt about it though, if you are looking for the ultimate enthusiast sound card, then this is it. It's got the features, it's got the bling, and it's got the fidelity to back it all up. There might better cards out there, but certainly nothing its equal.
The gaming performance under XP was about 2-3 FPS slower than the competition in Bioshock and Call of Duty 4. While lower performance may be important to some gamers, the trade-off is the sound quality, which helps the player get immersed in the game world. I can live with a loss of frames-per-second for superior audio any day. There was a notable exception being BF2142 where performance was actually higher, with both regular and GS3D GX enabled modes. The GS3D GX feature seemed a bit peewee to me, while it does enable higher sound settings with some EAX games, it doesn't actually do any higher EAX processing. It's true that modelling of audio environments is still in its early stages, but the DS3D GX seems a bit regressive to me. The sensible thing to do is for Creative to license EAX 5.0 now that Vista pretty much killed off their business model. Creative have got nothing to lose, and since Auzentech is using X-Fi chips for their sound cards, why not go all the way? Xonar with EAX would be fearsome.
Speaking of fearsome, it took all of 5 seconds of listening to the Xonar D2X to know that it is our new reference sound card. This unseats the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude at the high end (not that we really keep track of these things) as our favourite all-around card to game, listen to music, and watch movies with. Well done. As always, though, with bad recordings or low bitrate MP3, the D2X is merciless in revealing flaws. This is high-def audio. The ultra clean sound can sometimes make high frequency sounds, like cymbals, not sound as tuneful as I prefer. Sometimes certain recordings of acoustic guitar could sound somewhat un-natural without all the distortion to color things.
Asus has drivers for XP and Vista in both 32 and 64-bit flavors and we found them to be small and fast, with minimal bloat. They are graphics heavy, but a definite plus over the basic C-Media drivers that youd normally get. And it manages to get all the features in, plus the DS3D GX stuff for EAX emulation, and kept it solid and stable. I like this a lot.
There seem to be only two things amiss with the D2X, the lights and the missing front panel connectors. Other than that, Asus really has a winner with the Xonar D2X. Im sure there are some arms bent here and there to get it this way, but ultimately, the enthusiast wins this one.
Product: Xonar D2X soundcardManufacturer: ASUSSKU code: PVT98FYDBUInformation: ASUSStreet price: $172
Special thanks to Randy Chang and Eric Chen over at Asus for providing the review sample and answering my interminably dull questions. Extra special thanks to Hilbert, His Tallness, for getting this review going and having patience for when it's done.
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