It was a nightmare trying to test these cards as scientifically as possible. Not only were the available objective tests difficult to control, the results were mostly useless and pointless to interpret. For one, a flat frequency response from both the DGX and DSX is meaningless when the cards’ audio characteristics sound different. While I’ve elected to review these cards’ “performance” based entirely on opinion, do realize that the real world’s only real benchmark for the hardware we use to listen to our music, movies, and games is with our own ears.
Both of these Xonar cards sounded better than motherboard audio. Even though the Realtek ALC892 I had on hand is decently high-end as far as onboard audio goes, it sounds hollow compared to what is capable with both Xonar cards. Between the two budget Xonar cards, it is the DSX that sounded better in almost all our listening tests; it has a more neutral sounding response and a punchier bass. That said, the ASUS Xonar DSX costs $20 more than the Xonar DGX, so it should sound better right?
However, I shouldn’t entirely discredit the DGX. It has a headphone amplifier unlike the DSX. It has Dolby Headphone. I talk about the DSX having better sound quality not necessarily because it is more detailed – it’s not – but because the DGX has anemic bass response and emphasizes mid-range and treble sounds much like motherboard audio.
The 3-year warranty is a testament to the inherent longevity of sound cards. They don’t consume much electricity and they barely produce damaging heat. Given such a long warranty period for ASUS’s audio products, we’re to assume there’s confidence in their reliability. Despite user reports of driver issues, our review samples had no problems running the latest official drivers. I also know there are unofficial drivers out there and I’ve tested one highly recommended unified driver in particular and it works, but you’d be missing out on the features the official driver includes such as microphone voice masking, surround sound settings, and Dolby Headphone for the DGX.
So should you buy a sound card? That’s partly how much you care about sound quality particularly in regards to music. It also depends on what listening hardware you have. For those using the analogue outputs, either good headphones or speakers are a requirement to using a dedicated sound card. In any of these cases, both the Xonar DGX and the DSX are fairly inexpensive at $39.57 and $59.24 respectively, but also deliver impressive results for how much they cost. Given how much I enjoyed listening with both these cards, they are both worthy of our Editor’s Choice Award.
ASUS Xonar DGX & Xonar DSX
Legit Bottom Line: Both the ASUS Xonar DGX and Xonar DSX don’t try to beat the best, but they accomplish a surprising amount for how little they cost.