After giving us a tempting glimpse at CeBIT this year, ASUS has finally let us get our hands on its new soundcard, the Xonar D2.
Still sporting its mean black EMI shield and mesmeric glowing ring the new card is quite striking and looks great both in isolation and when buried deep in the dark depths of a computer case. The shield isn’t just a gimmick, though. Its ability to block interfering electromagnetic waves raises the cards Sound-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) by 4~6db to 118db, which isn’t to be sniffed at.
At its heart lies the AV200 audio processor that was reportedly developed with help from C-Media. Whether that means the chip is just licensed from existing C-Media technology or if the chip is a total redesign, I’m not yet sure. We’ll be sure to find out when we get it in for review, though.
Home cinema users will be glad to see support for both Dolby and DTS standards and EAX 2.0 is also included for 3D game enhancement. Sampling rates are 192KHz/24bit right across the board so, unlike some sound cards, you aren’t compromising bit rates when using more than two outputs.
One new technology that is included is a thing called ALT or Audio Loopback Transformation. This is supposed to enable circumnavigation of DRM copy protection without loss of sound quality by using a digital to analogue to digital conversion. I’m not sure of the legal implications of this but the fact it’s on there suggests no laws are being broken.
Two versions of the card will be available, the D2 (PCI) and D2X (PCI-E) with the PCI version coming first and the D2X following shortly after. A hefty software bundle is included with the card, including Cakewalk Production Plus and Alberton Live. Certainly there should be enough to enable you to hit the ground running.
With a decent product specification and Asus's marketing clout behind it, the Xonar D2 is unlikely to fail even if it involves some loss leading.
Whether it's enough to challenge Creative we'll have to wait and see, but some competiton in the sound card market has got to be good for the consumer.