Dolby but no DTS?
While the DTS options have been dropped, Dolby Home Theatre support is still included in full. All of these are software processed and because the Xonar D2X and DX share the virtually identical hardware, it should only take another Daniel K to engineer the DTS options to work on the DX.
- Dolby Digital Live – Encodes any audio into 5.1 channel AC3 and spits it out on the fly over S/PDIF.
- Dolby Digital Virtual Speaker – Converts stereo or 5.1 channel sound into a virtual 7.1 channel environment
- Dolby Pro Logic IIx – Upconverts stereo or 5.1 audio signals to 7.1 channels of discrete surround sound
- Dolby Headphone – “delivers realistic and spacious 2-to-5.1 surround or 3D positional sound-field over any set of stereo headphones.”
These effects do work, and I have personally found them far more effective than DTS Connect and DTS:NeoPC, however I also know people who are audio purists and won’t touch any of this with a barge poll.
Asus introduces three audio processing features with the Xonar DX:
- VoiceEX “adds realtime gaming EAX effects to your MMOG chatting”
- ChatEX allows you to “select a background scene in VoIP chatting”
- MagicVoice “allows voice pitch changing to disguise who you are”.
Yeah, uh, no… chocolate teapot, anyone? They are probably entertaining for about 10 seconds before you realise these effects are entirely pointless. While Asus obviously has a bunch of clever engineers, when it comes to genuine feature innovation in the soundcard field we’d suggest leaving it to Creative.
As ever, the software looks like it was designed by someone living in the eighties trying to guess what will be popular in 20 years. It’s cluttered, unintuitive, difficult to read and just plain awful. What makes me tear my hair out is that the original CMedia Oxygen HD software was the complete opposite of this – Asus has gone out of its way to make it worse
. Why? Apparently the Far Eastern markets love this futuristic and unusable rubbish, and until us Westerners can make enough noise to even have the option of changing things, it’s probably not going to change.
While we covered it in detail in our Xonar D2 review
, new features include specific options for front panel headphone and stereo speakers and new VocalFX and Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC) tabs.
Included is also the PMP (portable media player) software which, like the Audio Centre, could be better designed. On the surface it's a simple music converter – there are better free ones on out there with far more options but the main reason to use this is because it strips out DRM. Legally. If that’s perked your ears up, we explained it in a lot more depth in our previous review
if you’re interested in knowing more.
Well, it's more of a legal loophole
– by decoding and playing the music then using an internal loopback to re-record the output it can save it without DRM. The internal digital-analogue-digital conversion does potentially lose quality, but since most DRM'd music is compressed anyway the trade off between this and freeing your music is a worthwhile one. What Asus has done though is massively
improve how fast it works – when we first looked at the Xonar D2 it ran at the speed the music played, so converting entire music collections took forever. Depending on the track, the process now takes seconds.
and thoroughly encourage Asus to release an SDK for this to allow other developers to create more capable, open source software that uses the loopback engine. However, we also realise that currently this feature is quite "under the radar" and actively encouraging it could drop Asus into hot water with the four letter MAFIAA organisations.