On paper at least, the Xonar is capable of flexing its muscles with the best out there right now, boasting some components that could be classed as semi-pro. With a signal to noise ratio of 118db, on top of impressive THD and FR figures ASUS are starting out strong on paper. Sample rates are there too with the Xonar offering a healthy 192KHz over 'just' 96KHz from the flagship card from Creative.
Another little trick allowed for by ASUS is analog loopback which allows recording of an internal source without having to physically loop another cable back into the card.
Mmmm chips..... the Xonar's main processing appeal comes from the AV200 chip, however this is accompanied by two other similarly crucial additions being the Burr-brown PCM1796 & Cirrus logic CS5381; both feature 24-bit resolution, with all three being at different intervals in the path from bits to audio. There is also a supplied breakout MIDI bracket which provides two inputs for various pieces of hardware which might require a MIDI interface. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of yet another PCI slot being used in your already crowded case.
From a technical standpoint the Xonar can take a two track signal and process it out into a full surround experience, with complete support for Dolby digital/+ Live!, Pro Logic II, Head Phone, DTS Connect, DTS Interactive and DTS Neo PC; quite a long list of support right there. Clearly ASUS have decided to go all or nothing in this department which was a wise decision in my opinion as nobody wants to buy another card in a year's time when they find their new toy outdated by industry standards.from a gaming point of view.
ASUS are hamstrung by Creative's proprietary EAX technology, which outside of a Creative product is only supported up to the 2.0 revision. This automatically puts ASUS out of the run for best gaming card by no fault of their own. And who can blame Creative for wanting to keep their latest EAX secrets......a secret.
Technically the Xonar is strong, hell its even herculean, but as I've said before the proof really is in the pie and on paper things can look a lot rosier than they might be in reality.