TODO alt text

Asus Xonar DG review

Is there still a case for dedicated sound cards?

The Xonar DG gets as close to its claimed stats as any card we've tested in the Rightmark tests, which is a good start. Subjectively, it also delivers on its promise of outperforming on-board audio by a long way. The headphone amp in particular, which can be tuned for high impedance headsets up to 150ohms is an exceptionally good touch at this price.

If you game through headphones, this is well worth the upgrade, with a powerful bass blast that doesn't drown out more subtle midtones and high range effects. For this alone, we'd choose the DG over the slightly more expensive Creative X-Fi Xtreme.

Even better, the DG also supports Creative's EAX 5.0 effects via Asus' GX2.5 driver. The driver interface, by the way, is identical to that found in Asus' other Xonar cards.

Outside of gaming, it's not a card that will please audio purists, since it doesn't have the power or connections to drive high end gear. For the rest of us, though, the improvement over on-board sound is appreciable and worth it.

Except for one thing - we had to re-install the drivers several times to eliminate the introduction of some distortion into MP3 playback. It's not a terminal problem, but it is a little frustrating.

A PCI-E option for newer motherboards without older PCI ports would be useful too.

Still, these are faults that are easy to live with. The Xonar DG costs less than a new PC game, but adds a lot of long term enjoyment, and we challenge anyone to tell the difference between this and a sound card costing two or three times as much.

We liked

The Xonar DG an appreciable upgrade from on-board sound for less than £30, and the dedicated headphone amp drives a lot of extra power into your cans without destroying fidelity. It's a simple and cheap way to make games a little more enjoyable.

We disliked

If you've got a newish PC then you may find the PCI port completely incompatible, and you'll want something better if you regularly hook your PC up to a hi-fi for movies or concert hall music.

Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter:http://twitter.com/techradarreview

Tech Specs

Product TypeSound Board
Channel Supported5.1
Brand NameAsus
Form FactorInternal
DAC Data Width24 bit
Sampling Rate44.10 kHz, 48 kHz, 96 kHz, 24 bit 44.10 kHz, 24 bit 48 kHz, 24 bit 96 kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR)105 dB, 103 dB
Host InterfacePCI
ManufacturerASUS Computer International
Product ModelXONAR DG
Product NameXONAR DG Sound Board
Audio ProcessorC-Media CMI8786
Manufacturer Part NumberXONAR DG
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://uk.asus.com
Interfaces/Ports3 x 3.5mm Mini Jack - Front/Side/Center-Subwoofer, 1 x 3.5mm Mini Jack - Line-In/Mic-In
Sound Channels5.1