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ASUS Xonar U1 USB Audio Station review



Our Score


Review Price £39.06

The Asus Xonar D2 was widely considered to be a successful entry into the sound card market for Asus, offering a powerful multi-purpose card designed to appeal to both gamers and budget music production. Following on from this debut, Asus has released its first USB audio device, the Xonar U1.

The U1 has a distinctive round metal knob design far removed from the typical black plastic box. Not only is it visually appealing, but it looks solid and manages not to feel like a budget device.

The top half acts as a volume dial providing a pleasingly tactile way of controlling the sound. Pressing down mutes or un-mutes the audio. There are only two audio connections, both mini-jacks. One acts as a line in or microphone input (selectable in the software mixer), the other is an analogue stereo output intended to be used by headphones or speakers and doubles as an optical out for Dolby Digital (& Live) and DTS.

Whilst the unit itself is a comfortable size, the USB cable is very short, which could be an issue if being used with a desktop computer or laptop with little desk space. The cable is directly attached to the device so at least it's not something that can be forgotten if it's to go travelling with you. Also somewhat uncomfortably small is the recess for the headphone and line jacks. My Grado 60 headphone cable just about squeezed in but not my jack to phono lead which proved too chunky.

In terms of functionality, the device offers a similar set of abilities to its PCI counterpart, but with only the two audio connections it is considerably less flexible. So once again you get a flurry of ®s including Dolby Headphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Digital Live, Xear 3D Virtual Speaker Shifter, etc. I've written before how I'm not a fan of processing sound to make it appear as surround on headphones or two speakers. All of these technologies rely on altering the phase of the audio signal, which interferes with the precision and clarity of the stereo mix and tends to add phasing artefacts.

As the U1 has only a digital out, the benefits of discrete surround sound will only be available if you optically connect the U1 to a surround decoder box. Presumably this is a cost issue but I would have thought including surround analogue outputs onboard, or via a breakout cable like many of Creative's offerings, would have made it a more attractive option, particularly for home theatre users. However, if your amp does have a decoder then Dolby Digital Live will let you enjoy games in surround sound without the need for a spaghetti junction of wires.

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May 17, 2011, 4:10 pm


", there's no real stand-out feature on the Asus Xonar U1 USB AudioStation. The USB audio card market is already well served, and quick search on eBuyer shows a USB card for just £11 that has many of the same features."

Well while I would like to agree as your review is both informative and useful and have actually brought the £11 sound-card on Ebuyer . I have spent countless hours trying to find a cheap alternative, (tending to be a cheapskate at times) ! Yes These budget external sound cards feature Dolby Prologic and Virtual surround where needed as does the Xonar. Though many know this is just spreading two channels of sound , not True 5.1

It has to be said that no-one has seen or heard of an External sound Device that features DDL ! Am I missing something? I'll let you know if I get any joy with DDL or Eax, while gaming on my cheapo card !

Correct me if I am wrong .Considering there's s many high end gaming laptops nowadays , many would see the Dolby Digital Live (DDL) as one of the Stand out feature's to say the least . It seems DDL is the highly sought after in the Desktop Gamers world . As DDL allows 5.1 sound through optical line out to Home theatres ,in many newer post 2008 PC games

Although I have yet to experience DDL or EAX sound , I have heard rave reviews about this sound encoding and will apparently provide True 5.1 sound

I Feel the Xonar might be worth the extra cash as buying many cheaper alternatives is really a false economy


July 6, 2011, 6:59 pm

You're right, now that I've used it over several years the Dolby Digital Live feature works very well and it's a solid and reliable sound card, particularly at the current price. Looking back I was probably a bit harsh in the review but I was comparing it to the more fully featured Xonar D2 which was terrific.

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