We had a chance to take a look at Asus’s Next Big Thing after the Xonar Essence ST/STX soundcards. Click on the image for First Looks at the Asus Xonar Xense gaming soundcard/headset kit. Seen it at CeBIT? You haven’t peeked under the hood.
We were treated to some peeks of the Asus Xonar Xense gaming soundcard/headset kit. Last shown at CeBIT 2010, this project is a joint venture between German headphone maker Sennheiser and Taiwanese hardware maker Asus. When you put two giants together, you can expect to get a lot of work done in terms of advancing the standards of (game) audio reproduction. After seeing what Asus has been working on, it does look like Creative has to put in a lot more effort to convince consumers to purchase their X-Fi series of products.
The Xense is a hefty piece of kit. A large part of the mass comes from the thick stainless steel shield, while the rest can be mostly attributed to the capacitors and the Printed Circuit Board (PCB).
The Input/Outputs (I/O) plate is different from the one we’ve seen on the D2 and ST/STX products. Aimed squarely at gamers, and paired with Sennheiser’s gaming headset, the focus is on getting the best locational cues and clear speech for the avid gamer. Audio fiends have to look elsewhere for RCA outputs. Multichannel audio (7.1) is available via the DVI port. A dongle will do the conversion.
Like the Xonar Essence ST/STX, this Xense sports a separate power input for its analog circuitry. Note the Sanyo OS-CON capacitors. These low ESR organic electrolytic capacitors are pricey encounters no matter where you shop.
With the Xense fully naked: 1. CMEDIA “DSP” chipset, interfaced to PCIe via a PLX solution. 2. Texas Instruments PCM1796 DAC (presumably for stereo and Front L/R. 3. Cirrus Logic DAC for multichannel conversion. 4. SOIC OPAMPs for buffering audio outputs. 5. Socketed DIP OPAMPs. 6. Texas Instruments TPA6120 headphone driver. 7. One of the many relays used for “pop” protection. These were present only in the highest end preamplifiers and audio sources in the past.
You can also see a splattering of Arcotronics film capacitors and a lot of Nichicon electrolytic capacitors on the PCB. This makes the Xense one of the few examples of over-engineering in the computer hardware industry.
Of course, all that is moot if the product fails to sound good. All I can say is that it definitely has been a long time since I’ve ever wanted to listen to something plugged into a PC.