Win one of three Asus Xonar sound cards

Asus is celebrating a birthday. The company’s line of Xonar sound cards turns three this year, and to commemorate the occasion, Asus is introducing a high-end Xonar Xense sound card bundled with a Sennheiser gaming headset. Like the Xonar Essense STX, the Xense has a built-in headphone amp and 6.5-mm headphone and microphone jacks.

While the Essence can only pipe multi-channel audio over its digital output, the Xense has a digital out and an output dongle with a standard array of 3.5-mm analog outputs. Asus is bundling the card with a version of Sennheiser’s PC350 gaming headset, and the combo is expected to hit shelves over the next few days with a suggested retail price of $300.

If you’d rather not drop three hundred bucks on a PC audio upgrade, don’t fret. Asus has generously donated one Xense bundle and a couple of its upcoming Xonar DG sound cards for our latest contest. The Xonar DG isn’t due until the end of the month, so you actually have a chance to get your hands on that card before anyone else.

To enter, all you have to do is hit this thread in the forums, describe your PC audio setup, and explain why you chose its various component parts. Eligible posts need to be 300 words or less, and while you should feel free to flex your photography skills, please don’t post more than a couple of pictures. Any images need to be 1600 pixels wide or smaller.

TR editors will judge the entries based on the quality of writing and photography. Creativity counts, too, and we reserve the right to award at least one of the Xonar DGs to the person who is clearly most in need of an audio upgrade. The forum thread will stay open until 2:00 PM CDT on Tuesday, September 14, and we’ll announce the winners within 48 hours of the contest closing.

Since we have to ship these cards ourselves, the contest is limited to residents of the US and Canada. (The Xonar DG is going to retail for only $30, and it’d cost more than that to ship the card to some parts of the world.) We’re only allowing one entry per person, and we’ll be checking IP addresses to make sure no one tries to game the system. As with our previous contests, cheaters may have their accounts banned from the forums and the front-page comments.

In addition to providing fodder for this giveaway, Asus is also soliciting suggestions for new sound card features in an online survey. Those who complete the survey can ask Asus for a free OPAMP upgrade kit for their existing sound card… while supplies last, we’re told. Asus is handling that particular giveaway, but feel free to use the comments below or this contest discussion thread in the forums to chime in with your thoughts on future sound card features.

Comments closed
    • fantastic
    • 9 years ago

    I know it’s not your survey, but it’s broken. FYI

      • Spotpuff
      • 9 years ago

      Yeah had the same problem. Filled it all out and then hit submit and it exploded.

    • branko
    • 9 years ago

    My advice for quality gaming sound: Buy a good Realtek ALC889-based motherboard and pair it via *[

    • dustyjamessutton
    • 9 years ago

    I don’t know why everyone complains about the drivers. I have an ASUS Xonar Essence ST and I have had ZERO driver issues. Even the new beta drivers with asio support are bug-free. I have had absolutely no issues with my Xonar Essence ST. Save Oblivion crashing with 3D gaming mode enabled, but that is Oblivions fault, as it crashes with any sound card with EAX enabled. The sound quality of my Essence is the best I’ve ever heard, then again this is the most expensive sound card I’ve ever bought. Yes, I know, spend more money, and get even better sound, like the HammerFall card.

      • Skrying
      • 9 years ago

      Probably because your experience isn’t a good indicator of everyones.

    • Kent_dieGo
    • 9 years ago

    Lets see, the tax on $300 would be $100 for most people. It does not seem worth “winning” this one. I guess if you are a student or on welfare it would make sense to enter.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      I don’t know about Canada but in the US anyone who has an effective tax rate of 33% can surely afford $100, they could also easily afford to buy it at the full price anyway. Far from ‘most people’ have a 33% effective tax rate though, but complaining about taxes paid on something you win is rediculous because anything in the normal effective tax range for people still puts you way ahead. If there was a 70% off sale at an etailer you know they would sell out damned fast 😉 but if it’s really that bad just don’t enter.

    • sluggo
    • 9 years ago

    Reply fail.

    • willyolio
    • 9 years ago

    nice… but i’m already using an auzentech x-fi prelude. it’s doing quite well for me. i could always use a better headset, though.

    • Clint Torres
    • 9 years ago

    Thanks TR for kickin’ down!!

    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    I used to have a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium PCI-E. A few months ago I upgraded my motherboard to an MSI 785GM-E65 and it came with a Realtek ALC889 audio chip. One of the first things I do when I buy a new board is listen to the onboard audio solution, and this new motherboard makes me realize just how far along Realtek’s HD audio solutions have gone. I wish I didn’t buy an X-Fi anymore for $100. Between the ALC889 and the X-Fi, I don’t think I’m missing much. Compared to my old board’s IDT 92HD206 HD Audio codec though, the X-Fi really shines.

    I guess that’s the reason why high end PC audio is just a niche market nowadays. Gone are the days when you had to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a Sound Blaster. Back then it was exciting to have FM synthesis audio while playing X-Wing, which actually featured speech. But nowadays practically all HD audio codecs (yes, perhaps even my old IDT Audio chip) sound better than those much-touted Wavetable synthesis sound cards in the old days.

    People take HD Audio Codecs for granted nowadays, not realizing that we actually paid a bundle just 15 years ago for a Sound Blaster on an ISA bus. But really, people need to be contented with HD Audio. It is good enough.

    Ok, time to join the contest. LOL.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      Yeah, my motherboard has onboard audio and it’s “good enough” for Windows bleeps and bloops, and for games.

      • AssBall
      • 9 years ago

      Yeah, VIA’s integrated sound solutions are even better than Realtek’s, IMO. But both are pretty good for the 2.1 setup I run. I’ll probably never buy another Creative product. Shittiest. Drivers. Ever.

        • ronch
        • 9 years ago

        You said it. No more Creative drivers for me. Besides, all that computing power for what… a bit more sound quality? And don’t forget the price tag.

        I feel better using my ALC889 which can put out practically the same sound quality for ‘free’ while using so much less hardware, power and bloated drivers. And yes, CPU utilization is no longer a concern with today’s multi-core processors.

          • Krogoth
          • 9 years ago

          CPU issue became moot once CPUs got into 1Ghz+ range. Multi-core chips are just icing on the cake. Audio processing is one of the most common threads used in multi-thread games.

            • Meadows
            • 9 years ago

            Not true. In fact, one of the recent W7 Xonar drivers had issues and increased OS latency over extended uptime, eventually making user input and sound playback skip (the very latest ones are fine).

            Don’t think that the world’s pink ever since CPUs are over 1 GHz. CPUs and sound devices still matter the same and you can still cock them up the same.

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            That’s a software issue not a hardware one.

      • sluggo
      • 9 years ago

      I don’t disagree with what you’ve said, but the real turning point for gaming audio on the PC was not faster processors but the advent of seriously cheap disk space. The only reason we had MIDI on the PC (implemented via FM synthesis and wavetable synthesis) was that MIDI was extremely efficient in terms of storage. Even 10 minutes of CD-quality audio would fill up most of the hard drives of that era, so MIDI was the only real solution for music. Music (and sound effects) were generated on the fly and usually required no storage at all other than a few meg of ROM for samples.

      About the time hard drives topped 100MB it became practical to store sound and (compressed) music patches on the hard drive. It sounded far better than MIDI and was easier to produce, so bye-bye MIDI. This was also about time that audio hardware got onto the PCI bus, providing higher throughput and lower latency for audio data and accelerating the demise of on-card music generators.

        • albundy
        • 9 years ago

        not for me. i eventually got pissed off at midi so i ditched all those naysayers and used mp3 compression since the early 90’s.

      • Kaleid
      • 9 years ago

      Perhaps you need better speakers? 😀

      • dustyjamessutton
      • 9 years ago

      I must respectfully disagree with you on this one. Yes, on-board audio sound amazing nowadays compared to my old 8-bit Sound Blaster in my old 386. But they are not really audiophile-grade. I would put current onboard HD audio on par with a good $500 home theater receiver. The Xonar Essence and Claro Halo cards are entry-level audiophile quality in my opinion, and sound much better with a good set of speakers than onboard HD with the same set of speakers. In my case I use a pair of Klipsch Cornwall speakers powered by a Yamaha stereo amplifier. Don’t laugh about the Cornwalls, I’m all about the old vintage look, and yet they still sound amazing as they we’re just manufactured this year. The speaker drivers themselves are cutting-edge, just the cabinets are old-retro looking. But that is off-topic. So go out and buy a good sound card, and don’t let some audiophile snob tell you not to waste the money just because your ears aren’t as good as theirs and won’t know the difference.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 9 years ago

        Here’s the deal with soundcards versus onboard: soundcards are b[

    • Jioklo
    • 9 years ago

    I miss the random giveaway contests. I’m so lazy 🙁

      • ronch
      • 9 years ago

      I’m so lazy, I’m having someone read your posts here for me. LOL.

    • shakyone
    • 9 years ago

    I moved this to the correct thread, my bad…

    • DrDillyBar
    • 9 years ago

    I have a D2X and have owned many ASUS mobo’s.
    Grats ASUS.
    a 2MP Phone is the extent of my photography skills. 🙂

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    I was going to enter till I read it was a cheap variant they were offering not the bundle in the original post. I unfortunately don’t need a sound upgrade as I try to maintain good sound for gaming.

    It is, however, very unfortunate that Windows 7 has broken 99% of gaming surround sound effects and features added (IE EAX). Even Alchemy doesn’t fix things in most cases. Sound in Windows 7 is a mess if you try to do anything more with it then the basic features. Creative’s drivers don’t help either.

    I wish TR would draw some more attention to the whole audio issue of Vista/Windows 7, but reviewing some newer sound cards and then comparing their experiences in Windows 7 to Windows XP.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      I think you need to read more carefully.

      • Krogoth
      • 9 years ago

      The problem comes from the removal of Directsound

      EAX depends on Directsound. The majority of older tiles used EAX for 3D audio output due to Creative’s monopoly.

      Game developers have move away from EAX onto other solutions. 3D Audio works fine on modern games.

      EAX is dead, and IMO, it is for the best. It’s a bloody shame that Creative still lives and holds IP on EAX. They still prevent third-parties from emulating it. Alchemy is just a quick-fix, not a real solution to the problem.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 9 years ago

        Yes, EAX is dead and thank god for it because it means no crappy drivers from Creative. People need to get over it already, and if they’re really that desparate to play their old EAX games with real EAX they can dual boot into XP.

        • l33t-g4m3r
        • 9 years ago

        No, Microsoft had an ulterior motive for removing hardware audio, and it was most likely drm.
        Also removing ds3d did not “kill” EAX.
        EAX can run over any api, like OpenAL, which is what Alchemy is, and no that is not a “quick-fix” either.
        Basically, EAX has moved to OpenAL, and Microsoft has a new software api, so either way 3d audio is not dead.
        What is a problem, is that many game developers are not taking advantage of what either api offers, leaving us with mediocre sound.
        That, and many soundcard drivers suck, ruining what’s left.

          • Krogoth
          • 9 years ago

          Sorry to burst your bubble.

          Hardware accelerated audio and DSP is DEAD. The culprit? CPUs. They are just too powerful and have several cores to exploit. Creative just managed to prolong its death through a monopoly.

          Microsoft and rest of the industry is just moving along with the times. DRMs has nothing to do with it. Even if it were the case, it would still be incorporated in a hardware accelerated format. However, this isn’t the case.

          Creative is the one you should be blaming. They single-handy killed 3D audio in gaming when they finally killed off Aureal via legislation BS. EAX was always a POS API. It was mostly a cheesy “reverb effect” through most of its life. It is a good thing that developers have moved away from it. You know this when AAA-PC titles no longer offer EAX effects.

          Creative is the epitome on why proprietary APIs are always losers in the long run. Their support is tied to the company that holds the IP. GLiDE was lucky, since it was really a cut-down version of OpenGL. You could emulate almost all of it via OpenGL.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 9 years ago

            LOL. “PC gaming is dead, black is white, up is down, etc.”
            No. The X-FI chip is clearly still being sold, and used, so it is not dead, and every single person who equates the death of directsound3d to the death of all accelerated 3d audio is a damn idiot.
            CPU’s are not the culprit either, this was a Microsoft decision, and obviously it WAS because of DRM, eg: the protected audio path.
            Much easier to control if they take hardware acceleration out of the picture.
            As for 3d audio being done on the CPU, where? Where is it?
            I don’t notice it anywhere.
            Nobody has made a software audio API that blows away EAX, and EAX hasn’t been echo effects since 1.0.
            3d audio is similar to 3d graphics, you need an accelerator because the CPU is not optimized for specialized tasks.

            Your argument is akin to saying CPU’s are fast enough to process DX11, so we don’t need video cards anymore. It’s ludicrous.

            Get with the program. EAX isn’t even being developed anymore.
            OpenAL is the future of accelerated audio, it is not locked in, and ironically creative is the one running it.

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            What rock have you been living under?

            3D audio has moved to pure software-based solutions even the professional arena. The reason? It gets the job done without being tied to proprietary platforms.

            Microsoft has nothing to do with it nor is DRM. The only reason you don’t notice the overhead for software rendering is because, it is that trivial to any modern CPU.

            This is quite different from graphic rendering, where GPUs are still orders of a magnitude faster than their CPU counterparts. CPUs cannot deliver the same level of performance as a low-end GPU. This is what creates the necessity for a dedicated GPU.

            EAX is dead. A3D has always been superior it. Too bad that Creative had to use legislation to kill off superior solutions. Modern software-based audio 3D are better than EAX. The only catch is that they are only supported by modern games. Older games are tied to EAX and Creative isn’t willing to open it. 3D audio users for those olders games are SOL. Alchemy is a shitty wrapper that had so much potential. Its quality clearly shows how much Creative cares about supporting its standards.

            The vast majority of gamers are on Realtek codecs and tiny minority that remain are on non-Creative based discrete solutions. The few that still use Creative-based stuff are a dwindling minority. I wouldn’t be surprised if Creative ends up filing for Chapter 11 in the near-future.

            • leigh crusio
            • 9 years ago

            I tend to agree with the CPU performance view, i seem to remember seeing somwhere that the Audigy 2 had the same performance as a 166MHz Pentium. A modern multi core CPU should be able to replace that very easily.

            I have an old Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro gathering dust in a box of bits, its not used in Win 7 as the drivers are crap and the audio inputs no longer work with my guitar (probably drivers).

            Creative sucks monkey balls.

            • Meadows
            • 9 years ago

            This is where you’re wrong and leet-gamer gets the score.

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            Care to explain?

            • Meadows
            • 9 years ago

            First off, we haven’t moved to software 3D audio – a game either uses unprocessed (surround) sound, or uses OpenAL, or in very few cases, a limited number of software effects. This is grossly insufficient for claiming that we’ve “moved on” to anything. Furthermore, Creative’s cards can still hardware-accelerate OpenAL where applicable, and judging by the performance results, the Xonar cards’ wrappers aren’t entirely software, either.

            Secondly, nobody was talking about A3D, and no, Realtek is not “good enough” for gaming, considering that the VERY BASIC effect support that EVERY retarded $2 low profile sound card should have – talking about EAX 2.0 – doesn’t even work on them without installing a driver patch (they call it 3D Sound Back). It “might” work on XP, still.

            Whether OpenAL chiefly stays in software is a thing to ponder, but as long as there exist expensive discrete audio cards, there will be a point to accelerate other things with them in the future.

            It’s unknown whether Microsoft’s incentive was DRM, or a hatred towards Creative, or simply laziness, that prompted them to drop DirectSound3D in order to make Vista’s improved sound settings and support possible; but one thing is certain, CPU power didn’t lead the change.

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            Again, you are not addressing the issue.

            Hardware-based audio acceleration is no longer relevant, because modern CPUs have taken its place. The focus is on pure software based solutions. OpenAL does both software and hardware acceleration and it works great for both.

            The crux of the problem is that older games (2006 and early) used EAX. EAX 3.0 and newer is still locked with Creative based solutions. EAX required Directsound, but Microsoft dropped it with Vista. You had to rely on an OpenAL EAX wrapper. The catch is that the wrapper only works for Creative-based solutions and its implementation is sub-par just like most of Creative’s software. The only reason Realtek and other codecs “suck” at EAX emulation is because Creative refuses to open up EAX. This is why proprietary, closed APIs suck balls.

            The only reason to get a discrete sound card is for audio fidelity (assuming you have quality speakers and headphones to go with it) and audio creation/editing. Hardware acceleration is not one of them, since the CPU overhead for software 3D audio acceleration is so trivial.

            The only people who get audio cards for “hardware acceleration” are the same people who get $1,200 Extreme edition GPUs/CPUs for “gaming”. They got money to burn and don’t know any better.

    • bdwilcox
    • 9 years ago

    Asked this question in the thread, but might as well ask it here, too. Will this sound card improve audio pumped through an ATI video card’s HDMI-out port? Or does the ATI video card have its own DSP on board that creates the signal? Right now, I’m using my mobo’s on-board Realtek sound chip and pushing the sound through my ATI video card over HDMI to a receiver that my speakers are hooked to. Would this card be bypassed in that setup?

    • The Wanderer
    • 9 years ago

    Looks nice, and any of these would fit nicely in the system I’m planning to build before long – but unfortunately I’d have effectively zero chance of winning one if I were to enter, because my current audio setup is “integrated audio, plus a couple of speakers which looked much better on paper than they seem to work in practice”; there’s only so much that can be said about either a system like that or the process of putting it together, and there’s almost no way any such description could outmatch the ones which are likely to come in based on more elaborate systems.

    By its very design, this contest is biased towards those who already have reasonably elaborate audio systems. That’s not necessarily an inherently bad thing, since people who do have such systems are more likely to be the sort who would appreciate this kind of high-end hardware, but it does seem to me that it isn’t entirely fair to people who would appreciate such hardware but haven’t yet been able to build an audio system good enough to describe in a way which could potentially win.

    (That’s assuming that an entry which essentially said “here’s how pathetic my setup is, here’s how much I want a better one, please take pity on me and help me improve it” in more eloquent terms wouldn’t have much chance of winning. If one would, that changes things somewhat, albeit not necessarily enough for it all to balance out.)

    • LaChupacabra
    • 9 years ago

    Awesome combo. Thanks for the contest =)

    • TaBoVilla
    • 9 years ago

    this card will fit perfectly with my laptop.

    • mcnabney
    • 9 years ago

    Your contests have been great, but not really interested here. I like my audio transmitted in an uncompressed fashion without any signal degradation which rules out TOSLINK and 75 ohm analog wires. Oh, and solid/reliable drivers would be nice too. Dealing with ATI or Nvidia and their twitchy drivers is more than enough for me.

    • phez
    • 9 years ago

    $30 Xonar card ?!

      • ronch
      • 9 years ago

      Um, that’s $300, my friend. $300.

      • ronch
      • 9 years ago

      Oops! Thought you were referring to the Xense bundle. My bad. Please forgive me.

      Yeah, $30 for a Xonar DG? For that low price just how good does it sound compared to ‘free’ HD Audio?

    • Ryhadar
    • 9 years ago

    Eh, gonna pass on this contest. I already have a Xonar DS and while I’m impressed with the sound quality the quality of the drivers /[

      • kvndoom
      • 9 years ago

      I used C-Media’s generic CM8788 drivers when I had an Asus card. I didn’t like the Asus drivers either, especially the CPU hogging, thoroughly useless spectrum analyzer that you couldn’t disable.

      Now I have the HT Omega Claro (lightning killed the Xonar) and their drivers are basically just a rebadge of the generic’s, so I’m happy.

        • anotherengineer
        • 9 years ago

        Agreed. I had a sondigo inferno with a CMI8788, sold it and have an HT Omega Claro Plus+ now and its great.

        I also see that Cmedia has reposted the CMI8788 drivers on its website, I remember they dissappeared after Asus bought the rights to the chip.

        And now Auzentech I hear is coming out with a CMI8788 based card again!!!

        Nice, hopefully the chip gets some better win7x64 driver support.

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 9 years ago

    I could care less about these contests.
    The odds of winning are non-existant, prizes are meh, and the entering process is annoying.

      • bthylafh
      • 9 years ago

      Want some cheese with that whine?

        • l33t-g4m3r
        • 9 years ago

        (waves stick) get off the lawn, and stop sending publishers clearing house junk mail!

          • potatochobit
          • 9 years ago

          junk mail? do you have eyes attached to your head, muffin?
          them rims are gold plated and the cover is polished silver
          even the capacitors are sporting gold trim

      • Skrying
      • 9 years ago

      Then don’t post. Thanks for making it incredibly clear you’re a bad person.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        derFunkenstein and 3 other friends like this.

      • Peffse
      • 9 years ago

      You could care less?

      What exactly would make you care less?

      • ludi
      • 9 years ago

      I have a newly minted MSI N460GTX and a Just Cause 2 license that would like to have a “word” with you out back.

      Along those same lines, on behalf of myself and everyone who /[

    • blitzy
    • 9 years ago

    damn man some sweet contests here lately! nice work

    • Spotpuff
    • 9 years ago

    TR’s having a lot of contests recently and I love it!

      • khands
      • 9 years ago

      Agreed, just wish I wanted the prizes more/could take a decent photo 🙁

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    you should choose the winner randomly 🙁
    but this item really interests me so I’ll enter after i break out ye olde DSLR

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      Bump for great justice.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This