Speaking technically, let's start by looking at some specifications.
S/N Ratio: 118dB front channel
Frequency Response: 10Hz-46KHz
Headphone Impedance: Optimized for 32-600ohms
Audio Processor: ASUS AV100 (retained from previous models)
24bit DAC: Texas PCM1796 for fronts, cirrus-logic CS4362A for remaining channels
Headphone amp: Texas 6120A2
Bus: PCI Express x1
SP/DIF Resolution: 192/24bit
Driver support: Fully Dolby, EAX 5.0, propriety ASUS software, ASIO 2.0 from 44.1 through 192KHz @ 16/24bit
Cable length: 3m
Connector plugs: 2x 6.3mm
Speaker Type: Dynamic, 38mm Nd magnet
THD: less than 0.1%
Pattern: noise canceling
Sensitivity: -38dbv @ 94dBSPL
Starting with the card itself, things look pretty good from the outset with technical figures that echo the success of previous Xonar iterations.
I'm not going to re-cover a lot of the information given in my Xonar Essence article concerning selection of particular capacitors and components, simply because it's information overload firstly. And secondly, you can see it all right here.
So, what I do want to cover here is just a quick refresh on the basics of what makes the Xonar so technically competent and then just run through a little bit about what the PC350's from Sennheiser are about.
One of the first benefits to the Xense is the very clean S/N ratio of 118dB, which is an impressive figure without pulling it apart too much.
Frequency response should be high on a card like this and is, managing to stretch all the way up to 46KHz which as a point of reference is a lot higher than the human hearing range of 20KHz. However, it is thought that we still possess an awareness of these frequencies even though they are so far up the spectrum.
ASUS have chosen their AV100 audio processor again which is merely a case of 'don't change what's not broken'.
Texas Instruments and Cirrus Logic are again tasked with providing chips to convert the digital signal to analog.
And the actual headphone amp is again a Texas Instruments component; that being the 6120A2.
Software support is basically all-inclusive apart from the notable exception of DTS Labs, which is one of the only things that jump out a bit for me. Gamers will be happy with complete EAX 5.0 support for all the latest titles and plenty of connection support also.
Now, the PC350's from Sennheiser are an impressive product in their own right, not to mention as a bundle. They feature a good long cable and full sized 6.3mm gold plated connectors which will be great news for the audio crowd.
Frequency response is very good, as you would expect from any Xonar board and THD is also very impressive coming in at 0.1%.
Now to the mic which is the last piece of equipment to cover and also is an impressive one. With a response of 50Hz-16,000Hz and a noise canceling pick-up pattern, things look good for this little mic, too.