Our trip to the ASUS booth today revealed several new product surprises, but one in particular had us grabbing our notebook to provide an immediate update from the show floor. We already knew ASUS had introduced the upcoming Xonar HDAV1.3 audio card yesterday. What we did not expect was the ability to test the card and see it in action at the ASUS booth.

The Xonar HDAV1.3 provides HDMI 1.3a compatibility and introduces their "Splendid HD" video processor on this particular series for the first time. Simply put, the "Splendid HD" video processor performs post-processing on the outbound image and does so without affecting CPU loads. We naturally like our images to be viewed as the director intended, but for certain audiences this video post-processing will provide edge enhancement, increased color saturation, and noise reduction. Watching the demos provided by ASUS, we did notice all of the features they tout at work and in a couple of instances where the sky was a hazy light blue, the Splendid HD processor did produce additional definition of the clouds and deeper blue in the sky as promised. Several of the visitors liked the change, I did not but it is a matter of personal preference. More importantly, we did not notice a degradation in image quality via the HDMI pass-through process on the monitors that ASUS utilized for the demo.

Getting past the video capabilities, the main focus of this PCI Express based card is to provide outstanding audio output. In our opinion, it does just that and with the new features, this card is going to have a long and useful life in our home theater systems. Of course, driver support is critical and it appears that ASUS has the new features working properly at this time. I only had limited time with the test system but touted features such as 7.1 channel, 24-bit/192kHz LPCM output through HDMI worked properly. Even more impressive was the seamless support for bitstreaming DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD during BD playback with several recent titles. This support is based on both PAPS and AACS content schemes.

ASUS will bundle a customized version of ArcSoft TotalMedia Theater for playback duties. I plan on returning to the booth later today for additional time with the player, but the titles ASUS provided for BD playback worked without a hitch during initial testing. I will not be totally convinced until I can do a few A/B comparisons and throw some additional titles in the ArcSoft player based on previous experiences.

The Xonar HDAV1.3 is very similar to other cards in the Xonar D2 lineup as it uses the same ASUS AV200 codec chip. This includes the digital to analog converters (Burr-Brown PCM1796, 123 dB SNR), National Semiconductor LM4562 operational amplifiers (opamp), and analog-to-digital (Cirrus Logic CS5381, 120 dB SNR) converters. The Xonar HDAV1.3 is the first in the Xonar family to utilize opamp sockets to allow simple, solder-less modifications for user-customized sound. ASUS claims their HyperGrounding technology greatly reduces EMI noise while providing clean 120 dB SNR and distortion rates of 0.0004% on all eight channels.

The Deluxe Version of the HDAV1.3 will include the HDAV H6 expansion card that connects to it via a ribbon cable. Both cards require a PCI Express x1 slot, but the daughter card is not powered. The daughter card provides analog out capability that allows up to eight channel analog output when used with the HDAV1.3. The HDAV1.3 features HDMI input and output ports, RCA front-channel output, shared line/microphone input, along with S/PDIF input/output ports. The HDAV H6 also features swappable opamps on each channel.

Pricing is not set yet, but we expect the Deluxe Version to carry a heft premium over the current Xonar D2X card. However, based on initial experiences I am sure my Visa card is going to get a workout when the card is released in late July. We have provided a few additional screenshots of the new control panel in operation and a look at the demo unit on the main floor. We will be back with an update on the card and other new releases from ASUS shortly.

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  • kenoverby - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    This asus card has gold plating all around. Better then video cards. The audio will sound better then having onboard s/pdif going through VGA card. cool. It has front panel audio connections. It's a good thing to becuase I use there best silent VGA card for sound editing. Good thing I chose Asus, what a surprise.
  • MrCoyote - Thursday, June 5, 2008 - link

    Asus needs to get their act together with their drivers and release updated drivers for their entire Xonar line. I have a Xonar DX which is a very good card for music playback. But the EAX functionality and sound positioning is terrible. Lots of games crash or have no EAX nor any sound positioning. There is no ambient reverb. You are left with a dull playing experience. If you enter a cave or some area in a game, you don't hear the sound bouncing around the room in the game. Because there are no real-time processed positional effects! Yet Asus claims EAX and positional support for these cards!

    The Asus forums are worthless, as users are often told "There is no Asus engineer that reads the forums". Yeah right! If I was working on these drivers, I would be reading the forum every day for problems. But Asus doesn't seem to care. Last driver set was in Feburary.

    These are good cards for music/video playback, but be warned about game support!
  • jay401 - Thursday, June 5, 2008 - link

    So how the heck do I connect that thing for digital audio output to, say, Logitech Z-680s or Z-5500s? I only see HDMI and composite video outputs on the back of that card, or am I mistaking something? Where's TOSLink or S/PDIF?
  • elfy6x - Thursday, June 5, 2008 - link

    I'm guessing on this one, but there are three RCA connectors on the back of the card, one black, red, and white. The black RCA connector *might* be a S/PDIF output to hookup systems like the Logitech speakers.
  • chizow - Thursday, June 5, 2008 - link

    If you need s/pdif just get the DX or D2X or any of the billion other sound cards that do DD/DTS over s/pdif. The whole point of this card is for people who want support for the lossless audio formats over HDMI (DTS-MA, TrueHD, 8ch LPCM).

    This card is a step in the right direction although I won't be getting one myself. Besides a lack of PCI 1x slots (I have only 1 but blocked by 8800GTX), I'll wait til HDMI support is integrated onboard or in the video card. I can see myself paying a little more for HDMI audio on a high-end video card, but I wouldn't pay $200 for the added of utility of HDMI lossless formats as I can already do decoded 8ch analog with my X-Fi and PowerDVD.
  • kekec37 - Thursday, June 5, 2008 - link

    Does this card only output video from HD player or can it display video from video files on computer (ie. playing DivX with MediaPlayer)?
    I need another DVI out so I could get another monitor and keep my projector on HDMI. But my mobo has only one PCIe 16x slot and I would have to get a new mobo.
    I have been looking for a PCIe 1x card with DVI or HDMI out, but havent seen it anywhere.
  • ViRGE - Thursday, June 5, 2008 - link

    Did Asus say why they're packing it with the ArcSoft player as opposed to PowerDVD/WinDVD? The latter two are the predominant software players, it's unusual (and not entirely inspiring) to see them packing it with the ArcSoft player. Is it just a matter of choice, or does the card's bitstream features not work with the PowerDVD/WinDVD yet?
  • Turas - Wednesday, June 4, 2008 - link

    Why can they just make it a x4 card so it gets more power. Or better yet if plugged into a pcie 2.0 slot grab power from that and if in a 1.x slot then require the cable. I believe what 2.0 provides the power that is needed. I hate have to run power cables to my cards.
  • Swaid - Wednesday, June 4, 2008 - link

    Sheer numbers. There are more motherboards out there that have extra (unused) PCIe 1x slots than 4x (or 16x) slots.

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