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ASUS Xonar U1 USB Audio Station - ASUS Xonar U1 USB Audio Station

By Paul Weir

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

What impressed me the most about the D2 though was the quality of the highly regarded audio converters. Throwing a dizzying array of features and a generous software package in is appreciated but if the sound isn't up to scratch, it's all somewhat redundant. It's unclear what converters the U1 uses since the only labelled audio chip inside has Asus' own name on it.

Having the audio converters outside of the electrical maelstrom present inside most laptops will in itself often result in a far cleaner sound with less interference. Comparing the playing of music with my Emu 1616 PCMCIA card does reveal quite a difference, as would be expected. The Xonar's headphone output is reassuringly noise free but the audio playback quality, while acceptable for a budget sound card, noticeably lacks the sharpness and accuracy of the Emu.

Including a microphone in the box is a useful addition if you wish to use a VoIP application. Like the main unit it looks pretty but sounds cheap and rather thin, even when placed close to the sound source (i.e. your mouth). Enabling the array microphone option in the software mixer does remove much of the background noise present but results in an even more flimsy sound. If VoIP is the main motivation for looking at buying the U1, you may well be better with a headset.

In Ubuntu 7.10, basic playback and recording worked although the software mixer behaved unreliably, initially only playing back sound from one speaker and you'll obviously get none of the effects or surround capabilities.

No dice on Mac support though. Just prior to writing this review, I noticed that the Asus website had OSX drivers listed but clearly this is just a tease - trying to download from the site leads to a 404. Should Mac drivers appear, depending on whether the full functionality of the card is available, it could find a very comfortable niche in the more poorly served OSX market. Otherwise the U1 is an attractively designed package with a good range of features but lacks the kind of excitement generated by the D2.

Verdict

While it looks and sounds reasonable, 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.

Overall Score

7

Scores In Detail

  • Value 7
  • Features 7

Jo90

May 17, 2011, 4:10 pm

Quote

", 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

paulweir

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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