January 13, 2015

Unboxing & Review: Asus Xonar DGX PCI-E 5.1 Sound Card

"Wanna play games? get a good CPU, a powerful GPU and enough RAM to run it! wait... good sound? oh no worries, the motherboard has an integrated sound card"... sounds familiar? well it is true that motherboards nowadays have decent sound modules built into them but why do people still buy dedicated sound cards? in fact why is it that dedicated sound cards still exist in the market? well we shall find out won't we?

Thanks to Asus for providing the Xonar DGX, they actually have higher end ones but I choose the DGX simply because it boasts a built-in headphone amp. Retailing at RM139 in the Malaysian market, lets unbox!


Audio Interface: PCI Express 

    Audio Performance:-
    Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted) (Front-out) : 105 dB
    Input Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted) : 103 dB
    Output THD+N at 1kHz (Front-out) : <0.0025 %(-92 dB)
    Input THD+N at 1kHz : <0.0022 %(-93 dB)
    Frequency Response (-3dB, 24bit/96KHz input) : 10 Hz to 48 KHz
    Output/Input Full-Scale Voltage : Chipset
    Audio Processor :C-Media CMI8786 High-Definition Sound Processor (Max. 96KHz/24bit) 

    Sample Rate and Resolution
    Analog Playback Sample Rate and Resolution : 44.1K/48K/96KHz @ 16bit/24bit
    Analog Recording Sample Rate and Resolution : 44.1K/48K/96KHz @ 16bit/24bit
    S/PDIF Digital Output : 44.1K/48K/96KHz @ 16bit/24bit

    Special FeaturesSmart Volume Normalizer™
    Xear 3D™ Virtual Speaker Shifter
    Magic Voice™
    Karaoke Functions
    10 -band Equalizer
    27 Environment Effects
    GX2.5 Gaming Audio Engine

    Low -profile Bracket x 1
    Driver CD x 1
    Quick Start Guide x 1
    Dimensions: 170.44 x 64.39 mm ( L x W ) 


The DGX comes in a dark box with the sound card in the middle of the front fascia. Asus branding is at the top while the make and model along with some highlights are down below.

At the back is a table with multiple languages of the features.

While the sides have information on the specifications and what's inside.

Emptying the contents, you'll find a Quick start guide, a low profile bracket, 2 screws, driver CD, Warranty notification and also the Xonar DGX soundcard.

The Product

The Xonar DGX is bare, literally. Every component and connectors are not covered in some fancy looking metal piece, which is excessive anyway given that the DGX will sit inside the chassis when in use. The DGX plugs in directly to a PCI-E 1X but it'll work just fine on a 4X, 8X or even a 16X PCI-E lane.

Just a quick check on thee soldering behind the PBC, Asus did a good job here, neat and tidy. The black PCB is of course, a bonus.

Turning the Xonar DGX to the PCI-E bracket side is where one would plug in their speaker system via 3.5mm audio jacks and/or SPDIF for a true 5.1 surround configuration.

A Texas instrument DRV601 headphone amp can be seen here just to the left of the cluster of capacitors at the top.

A little to the middle of the DGX lies the Oxygen HD CMI8786 audio chip for up to 8-channels.

A number of internal connectors are located at the top edge for your Front panel audio, auxiliary input and S/PDIF output headers.

The Software

The Xonar DGX software or Audio Center doesn't take much effort to install so you'll pretty much be seeing the screens below in a short amount of time.

Activating the software, you'll be greeted by a simple virtual amp-like controller of which you could immediately adjust the volume, SVN and mute on the right panel. The overall bluish panel displays all the info you need such as your settings and sound samples when there's audio.

Clicking on the small arrow at the bottom right shifts the info screen up to reveal the control panel with 7 different functions that you could adjust to your hearts content with features built into the software such as Magic Voice™, Karaoke functions, FlexBass™ is a bonus complete with a 10 -band Equalizer and 27 Environment Effects. It is a simple piece of software but the customization is vast so one can bet that they'll find a setting that's suitable for your listening pleasure.


So how did it sound? to answer this, we tested this in comparison to the onboard audio module of the Asus Maximus VII Ranger motherboard that sports the ROG SupremeFX audio module, another on-board audio from a much lower tier MSI G41M-P33 and the Steelseries 5HV2 USB 7.1 sound card. We also have a few headsets/earphones in our arsenal to test with, namely the BitFenix Flo, a Turtlebeach Earforce X31 wireless headset and a pair of Audio Technica CKL200 earbuds. 

On the BitFenix Flo, everything works as it should when it is plugged into the Asus Maximus VII Ranger and the Xonar DGX, in fact, I could barely tell the difference between the two solutions. I did pick up a buzzing noise when testing with the on-board sound from the MSI G41M-P33 motherboard but the 5HV2 USB 7.1 sound card totally misses the mids and has an airy sound to the whole playlist.

The Turtlebeach X31 worked well under all solutions. There is still a little buzzing noise from the MSI G41M-P33 motherboard and the 5HV2 manages to pump up the mids this time around but the airy feeling is still present. The results are the same when tested with the Audio Technica CKL200.

Just for fun, I plugged in the Xonar DGX into the MSI G41M-P33 motherboard and we manage to get rid of the buzzing noise most likely caused by interference of the motherboard itself as it essentially is a big circuit board. Having the audio placed away from the main circuitry eliminates that problem and of course a better sound quality now that the Xonar DGX have taken over the sound processing. 


I think that the Asus Xonar DGX is a great addition to your PC if  you're having disturbances with your current on-board audio solution (such as the one with the MSI G41M-P33 motherboard)  or when a portable solution is insufficient to drive your headset and/or speakers. Not only will you get rid of the problem that's been plaguing you but also an upgrade in sound quality as well. At this price, it is a rather small investment for better quality audio.

However, if you already have decent on-board audio such as Asus' own ROG SupremeFX, you might not need the Xonar DGX to drive your headset/speakers unless they require more amplification; usually true for higher end headphones or speakers. 

I think the Asus Xonar DGX PCI-E 5.1 Sound Card is here to stay given that there will be some of us who would want to get better sound quality while being friendly to the wallet. Inexpensive and a great performer, it well deserved a Tech-Critter Silver and Recommended badge.