Testing was conducted using ASUS' Xonar DG audio hardware @ 48KHz Max with 24-bit resolution. The card was installed in an AMD/ASRock Phenom dual core platform @ 3.00GHz (with 2GB DDR3-1333 running XP SP3).
The audio drivers are what we are supplied with at the time of testing. These may or may not be the latest, subject to manufacturer updates.
We found during testing that the Xonar DG is certainly a result of the same breeding that's been responsible for the great boards that preceded it. Overall, sound quality for movies and games was of a high standard. Music listening suffered a small amount from the hit in dynamics that the DG took over other Xonars. However, performance was still very good.
During testing we found the high-end to be really quite impressive from the DG; boasting a detailed and open feel to the high-end that conveyed a very enveloping energy when watching an action movie, or anything featuring a wide detailed panorama of FX and music together.
We do not usually mention testing material specifics, but Mark Walberg's 'Shooter' sounded amazing with this card. It's easy to hear how the board has been tuned precisely for this type of material. Overall, a very well tuned and detailed high-end that is just perfect for FX.
Pictured below; is it this specific choice of components that aid towards helping with the tuning we speak of? - Quite possibly.
Probably the weaker of the areas in performance, mid range was a little bit stifled at times and seemed happy to sit back while the high-end and low-end did their jobs. Not that there really is any issue with the mid range; it's more so just a tuning foible which allows more of the low and high-end detail to be apparent.
This is also an area where the slightly diluted dynamics of the DG over other Xonars is noticeable. By this we mean that the cards ability to sharply contrast frequencies from different areas of the sound spectrum is in question.
Arguably the strongest aspect to the Xonar DG, we found that during our testing the low-end was exactly where it needed to be. Again, some clear tuning has been done to this board to allow for a 'primo' low-end when dealing with complex action scenes featuring a lot of gunfire and explosions. The firearm FX in Shooter was compelling, with deep powerful bass being sent to our sub and no interference with the left and right channels whatsoever.
It's clear that ASUS has done some fine in-house tuning to allow the DG to take flight when a complex FX scene is played back through a decent system. If this board is just to be used for games and movies, it comes very highly recommended.
So, how's the move away from an in-house chipset gone?
Quite well we think! - According to our testing, the little C-Media HD Oxygen chip has done a great job. It does have a different acoustic signature to the ASUS in-house AV100, but only in a positive way we feel. The difference can be heard as soon as the first sound is played back, but we think ASUS chose wisely with this chip.
We also felt that at certain times the overall coherency of the signal being played back was actually better than the AV100, which is interesting. Now, this may in fact be a peculiarity of the hit in dynamics actually drawing everything together for some test media, while being noticeably down in other media. But one thing we know for sure is that psycho-acoustics play a large role in interpreting audio, which must be remembered at all times.