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The ASUS Xonar D2 is one of the most universal sound cards available on the market. The highest quality of technical implementation helps it deliver best results among mass products in performance tests. It is great at playing music, provides superb 3D sound in games, and has a highly functional driver. The quality of sound effects and the useful additions like the automatic encoding of multi-channel sound into Dolby Digital and DTS formats will please even a demanding user. Of course, the lack of a Linux driver may be considered a drawback, but if the sound card is used in a multimedia computer running Windows Media Center Edition, the Xonar D2 driver will install a special version of the control panel optimized for viewing on a TV-set.

The support for MIDI devices, the superb implementation of ASIO 2.0 and the high digitization quality of the analog inputs make it suitable for professional use in sound editing applications. If you want to try your skills at composing music, the card comes with a set of professional applications with somewhat limited functionality. The only downside is that you cannot record multiple sources simultaneously although the card’s heart, the C-Media Oxygen HD controller, supports that.

The copy of PowerDVD 7 and lots of accessories for connecting the card to an amplifier or receiver is a plus, too. If you prefer headphones, you don’t need an additional amplifier because the card copes with low-resistance load quite well. But if you don’t have a reason to plug your headphones right into the sound card, the additional cascade of mediocre opamps will be disappointing because it worsens the sound quality but doesn’t make the card less sensitive to the audio cables. By the way, the included cables are long and good enough – you don’t have to replace them.

I won’t sum up the pros and cons of the Xonar D2 as it would mean repeating the body of this review. My main gripes are about the Xonar D2 Audio Center, actually. The card is universal, making it hard to name its target audience exactly. Its strong point is in the highest quality of the analog outputs, which makes it preferable for a home multimedia center with a top-class multi-channel speaker system. Home DVD players with comparable hardware would cost much more than this sound card.

As for improvements I hope for, I really want a Deluxe version of the card with an even better Burr Brown PCM1792 DAC and high-quality opamps on the front output.

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