|ASUS Xonar D2 sound card review|
|Specification&heading=ASUS Xonar D2 sound card review|
|ASUS Xonar D2, drivers|
|Test setup, RightMark Audio Analyser|
|3D audio performance, subjective testing|
ASUS Xonar D2 sound card review
It seems like only yesterday when the discrete sound card market appeared to be more or less dead, strangled by a combination of Creative Labs' dominance of the market coupled with ever-improving on-board audio solutions.
It was around that point that a funny thing happened, and it all seemed to start around the time HDA (as they were in the days before Auzentech) released their X-Mystique card. Non-Creative Labs discrete sound cards had come and gone without so much as a flutter of interest ever since Creative despatched of their only major opponent, Aureal, by buying them up, but the X-Mystique was different - Sure, it didn't offer all of the major EAX-related bells and whistles, but it still held together as an attractive package, touting high quality audio playback coupled with its real golden goose - Real-time Dolby Digital Live encoding, a feature that enthusiasts had been crying out for ever since NVIDIA's SoundStorm SPU several years prior.
The X-Mystique's success paved the way for further improvements from HDA, who eventually became what is known as Auzentech, and from that point forth the industry has hardly looked back, with CMedia's audio processors in particular paving the way for a whole slew of parts offering in varying flavours that magical formula of 'High Definition' audio and real-time Dolby Digital and DTS encoding, and even appearing to force Creative Labs' hand in allowing their X-Fi chipset to be used on third party sound cards.
Considering this booming industry, it was perhaps of little surprise when one of the biggest names in all things PC hardware started making noises about a discrete sound offering of its own, culminating in a whirlwind of column inches as an early prototype of ASUS' first entry into the market began appearing at trade shows. What we saw back then has now completed its gestation, giving birth to the subject of today's review - The Xonar D2. This intriguing offering has certainly helped to ratchet the interest around the discrete sound card market up another notch, but today we're here to ask a far more important question - How does it actually sound?