Sometimes you note a company doing interesting things. Occasionally, a company will actually listen to the user base and make changes based upon what the populous asks for. Rare are such acts, but it appears to be what ASUS has done with its new ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Deluxe.
It’s an odd creature. Two parts, an inter-switch link and a set of HDMI to DVI conversion ‘jumper’ cables make this unit look like it belongs in the Smithsonian. It is wrapped in the ASUS customary black metal shielding. Oh, and this card is the second to possess the much cherished OP-Amp reconfiguration/swap out functionality, just like the legendary Auzentech Prelude 7.1.
The premise behind the HDAV is as an ‘all in one’ style device, capable of aggregating your Wii, your PS3, your BD player and every other part of your home entertainment rig into the HTPC. Can it deliver what is essentially a fully featured A/V receiver in a double height PCI-E package?Quantitative Testing
As usual, we tested acoustic measurements with Right Mark’s Audio Analyzer. We ran through our set of 16-bit, 24-bit and 32-bit tests. We employed our choice of medium and high end monitoring for listening tests, in the form of Altec Lansing 641s and Tanoy Reveal 6D Series Studio Reference Monitors. Figure 1 shows a comparison across 16, 24 and 32bit sampling.
Things look a little wobbly here, unfortunately. The nature of the Noise, Total Harmonic Distortion and Frequency Response could be described as decidedly average. Stereo crosstalk here is also of extreme concern (Figure 3), suggesting the internal IC has some form of signal leakage across poles. How this came to be, we’re not sure. For us, the amount of THD present in all sampling rates through the ADC is not excusable.Qualitative Testing
Not great on paper, given the numbers we’ve produced. We sat down to appraise real world performance with our own ears. We waited for the magic and it just didn’t come. The whole card seemed to have a slight ‘brown’ tinge over it. Dark, muddy and sometimes not well enough defined. We suspect this is fairly intentional given the card is highly geared towards the gaming/entertainment market and not at all for the average audiophile. That being said, one could change the characteristics of this card dramatically by simply changing the Op-Amp points.
But perhaps we’re forgetting something. This card is about integration and flexibility. We should look to this as a focus. We took a PS3 and a Pioneer BD player and popped them into the first card’s HDMI input. We then sent a loop out of the HDMI output to our Dell 24in HD panels. To our surprise, the HDMI port HDCP communication worked perfectly, first time. Working perfectly, audio and all, out of one set of connections, all streaming entirely through the one HDMI port. In this respect, one might consider the HDAV card a reliable replacement for some home theatre receiver units! The ability to take multiple devices and aggregate them through the card is a definite strength.
This is a tough one. We’re left with a card that doesn’t perform that well in terms of pure acoustic ability and doesn’t support anything above EAX 2.0, but on the other hand we have an unprecedented level of integration and capability in the form of an ‘all in one’ solution. We suggest that when considering the purchase, you keep in mind what you want the card for. In a situation where you’ve got a nice LCD panel for movies, or want your HTPC to be that little bit better integrated with the pure digital path [HDCP in(device > card > device)HDCP out] then we’d say the ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 might be right for you.