The Grand Finale (or Why I Need a $240 Sound Card)If money is no object, I am sure that most people would opt for the HDAV 1.3 Deluxe. It has almost every conceivable soundcard function integrated into its design, and it includes video processing effects through the Splendid HD processor. Oddly enough though, money is certainly a consideration for the vast majority of users. If they can get even 50% of the features on their free, onboard solution, then they will opt not to buy a standalone soundcard. The price of the Xonar HDAV 1.3 Deluxe is certainly going to be a turn off for most users. But for those that do feel that they cannot live without the features of this card, then the $240 US is certainly something they can bear.
The card needs an external molex power connector to work properly.
This is still only one of a handful of add-in soundcards that support bitstreaming of HD audio. The only other real competition these cards have is from AMD and their HD 5000 series of video cards when it comes to bitstreaming support. However, those video cards are limited as to their audio functionality beyond bitstream support. Things like equalizers, environmental effects, karaoke support, and game support are very lacking.
Asus has produced a very good card that should give those willing to shell out the money nearly every feature they could ask for. From my understanding, Asus is working on some more advanced driver level features which should add some more value to the entire Xonar line. This certainly is not a card for everyone, especially considering the overall impact on the user experience when compared to a DX11 video card costing near the same level as this sound card.
The daughtercard is packed with DACs and OPAMPs to deliver clean audio to the analog 7.1 channel world.
If you are a PC audio enthusiast, then this card should be near the top of the list, if not at the very top. While it is expensive, it does nearly everything that a user could want or need when it comes to PC audio. The design and build quality are excellent, and after a few hiccups the software driving it is now mature and works without major issues (things like the GX/Netflix issue are easily fixed and Asus knows about the problem). The inclusion of the full TMT3 version does make the product a bit more desirable, and its ability to play HD-DVD titles is a plus.
The card is not perfect, but it is about as close as can be considering the usage.