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My main goal was to see if I could really tell a difference when playing video games in Windows Vista (and Windows XP, too). I tried a handful of old and new games, with the audio settings at my typical levels, and then much higher whenever possible. Titles such as Company of Heroes, Team Fortress 2, Half Life 2: Lost Coast, Call of Duty 2, and F.E.A.R. all sounded incredible, and I was surprised at the difference the Xonar D2X made. There was never a disruption or even the slightest crackle, zero distortion, and the surround sound effect was greatly improved from what I was used to with the onboard HD audio solution. In addition to being better able to identify the source of sounds in 3D, the full spectrum of sound was clearer and I was surprised to find the highs and voices could sound so much better.
As far as multimedia enjoyment goes, I found the playback of audio and video to be better than I had ever experienced on any of my computers. With minimal time spent actually configuring anything, the same full spectrum improvement I experienced in games had been applied to DVDs and MP3s. The analog 5.1 and 7.1 setups were the primary test configurations, but using the digital coaxial input on a 2.1 home theater setup for the first time was also very impressive.
A search of PriceGrabber
reveals what might be the only prohibitive aspect to owning an ASUS
Xonar D2X... Six resellers are listed with prices ranging from $175 to $200 (US). While such an upgrade might make the sound card one of the most expensive components in some systems, if audio is really important to you, it just might be worth it. Either that, or you a major pirate, and the combination of PMP and ALT may be worth the money alone! I say that jokingly, but the technology does open up such possibilities.
Due to the excellent audio quality, the generous bundle of cables and accessories, and finally having something highly desirable to stick into a PCI Express x1 slot, the ASUS
Xonar D2X earns the award of "Highly Recommended". And thanks to the novelty and usefulness of the LED illuminated 1/8" stereo jacks, as well as the capabilities of ALT/PMP, it also earns the award of "Great Idea".
» Excellent audio performance in games and multimedia
» Excellent bundle of software and accessories
» PMP software creates good quality, unrestricted 'backups' of DRM files
» Finally something useful to stick in a PCIe x1 slot
» Colored LED illuminated 1/8" jacks
» Requires power from a floppy connector, adapter not included
» PMP software is a bit limited and rough around the edges
Special thanks to ASUS
for providing the ASUS Xonar D2X 7.1 Channel PCI Express Sound Card to Bigbruin.com for review!