It's time to find out how things sound in the real world.
The most significant aspect to the Xense audio package from ASUS arguably is the partnership with audio heavy weights, Sennheiser.
What ASUS has done is to take the fantastically well thought out and implemented Xonar Essence backbone which TweakTown previously tested and loved, and has then insured that a headset of only the highest quality is paired to it.
The result is a match made in heaven. If you remember from my article on the Essence, I used a pair of Sennheiser HD433's for testing. But due to the higher quality and larger drivers in the PC350's, things are set to only get better.
The PC350's use a special gain setting in the control panel which is called "Sennheiser PC350 Xense Edition".
It's important at this stage to ensure that this has been selected.
During testing I found that the sound being delivered to the Sennheiser PC350's in the upper range to be of a generally very high quality.
Percussion instruments were smooth and full-bodied and so were cymbals and guitar leads.
The upper range could be tweaked enough in the PC350's to provide what I would imagine to be plenty of scope for most users. Considering the fact that there is not a dedicated tweeter at work here in what is for all intents and purposes a HD audio package, things are still rosy.
That's right; the PC350's use a full range driver which as I have explained before does not split the signal up like an internal crossover network in a loudspeaker.
This may not appear to be a huge factor in performance when I explain it on paper, but I assure you it is.
Taking this into consideration, though, and it does not go far towards slowing this combo down. To recap, during my testing of the upper frequecies I did not find anything to fault here.
To offer some sort of comparison to what a potential buyer might expect, think about true entry-level high-fi in the $1000 bracket, which I don't need to add is impressive.
This was an area the Essence really excelled at and you don't get any prizes for guessing that things only get better when you add a serious custom designed headset to the mix.
Arguably the strongest performing area of the Xense is the rock solid mid-bass that has timbre, decay and a touch of analog warmth. Basically, everything an audiophile wants and everything missing from the sector before the Essence and Xense.
What I'm really discussing here is the natural instrumental tones that lie between the tones, which really build upon each other, like tiers of a wedding cake to culminate in the emotion of a live musical performance or for arguments sake, the reproduction of such a thing.
And simply, what high quality audio equipment does is to replicate all of those layers in the manor they came together in the studio in the first place. Without digressing too much, the mid-bass was really impressive during my testing of some heavy complex percussive material.
In the same way the Essence impressed me, for those who have not heard one of these cards, imagine an old turntable system and the fashion in which the gain can be pushed and pushed with only even warmer results.
This should be another strong area once we take into consideration the already outstanding low-end architecture of the Xense board and then combine the large driver used in the PC350 headset.
My listening tests demanded some very low and heavy bass performance from the Xense package. And as I had hoped, the performance was delivered happily with commanding poignant bass that really should be coming out of a 'proper' entry-level hi-fi.
And that's just the thing I must encapsulate here; this system is an alternative to spending a grand on a hi-fi system. That is the level of performance to expect and I think was part of ASUS' plan when producing it.
The low-end must play the same role as a good sturdy foundation when building a house. On it everything depends; ASUS know this, which is why the Xense performs so strongly in the low-end department.