Connection and Software Bundle
The Xonar comes with a pretty decent bundle, included are several cables necessary for connection to various gadgets including satellite TV, iPods, DVD players or the XBOX.
Also provided is the MIDI adaptor we mentioned earlier which is in the form of a secondary PCI bracket. In reality ASUS did not have to include any of these aside from the MIDI adaptor and internal connector line that runs from your DVD drive to the sound card.
Onto the software now, unfortunately we weren't provided with the full suite of software that will be included in the retail package, only what you see below. However the bundle is well worth going over as it is quite an impressive array of software ASUS have added.
Firstly is the now mandatory inclusion of PowerDVD which is a solid piece of multimedia playback software and has been since version 2.0. Moving on we have RMAA which is a handy little tool for testing signal paths between audio devices. Next we have Ableton Live which is a comprehensive tool for creating, recording and playing back music. Cakewalk 5 production pack is also provided for further manipulation on recorded music. Sonar LE is a complete music production environment. Dimension LE is a virtual instrument generator, and finally there is also Project 5 LE, another complete recording environment.
Now that's not a bad package at all. It's a real shame I was not given the chance to actually test the Xonar with this software but that's not for the consumer to worry about as it's all there in retail shape.
Dolby Digital Live is found in PC and console applications and uses complex algorithms to convert stereo data into a full-blown surround experience. Pro Logic IIx converts any stereo or 5.1 channel signal into 6 or 7.1. Dolby Headphone is designed to provide surround sound for a user with headphones. Dolby Virtual Speaker again uses complex algorithms to provide a surround experience from two speakers. DTS Neo PC, much like what's on offer from Dolby, turns a plain two channel signal into a 5.1 surround experience. It can even be used for 7.1. DTS Interactive takes stereo data from a console or PC and turns it into surround sound.
ASIO 2.0 is for the audio enthusiast and provides a low latency communication path internally between audio devices, allowing direct high speed data flow. EAX 2.0 is Creative Labs' ever evolving package of surround algorithms for gaming, however as mentioned above, due to privacy reasons ASUS are not provided with the very latest version which is up to something like 4+ by now. Anyway, I assume if you're considering this card, gaming is not your only interest and this will not be a huge concern.