Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 7.5
The gaming scene is huge and it’s picking up speed in India as well. Immersive is the name of the game and people are looking for the best possible experience in games, movies and music, and graphics and audio form an important part of the experience. For an immersive aural experience, you not only need a good pair or headphones or speakers, but a good source for the audio goes a long way too. Most PCs today use integrated graphics solutions, but for that extra punch one really needs to upgrade to a discrete audio solution. In the case of PCs, a sound card is what you need and ASUS has a new one called the Xonar Phoebus, designed specifically for gamers and movie enthusiasts. The only major brand to sell gaming sound cards is Creative and we only recently reviewed their Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Champion sound card.
The Asus Xonar Phoebus uses the C-Media CMI8888DHT audio processor. The processor is capable of handling 192kHz sample rate streams for both playback and recording. It also has a built-in audio amplifier like the one used on sound cards such as the Creative Sound Blaster Recon 3D Fatal1ty Champion and also the Asus Xonar STX. This allows you to use high impedance headphones without the need to buy a separate audio amplifier. The sound card has a power output of up to 600 Ohms – more than enough for most high-end headphones.
Line of connectors at the rear of the card
In addition to this, Asus has integrated other audio effects and features such as Xear 3D EX and Dolby Home Theater V4. These are basically effects that can be used for music, movies and games. They try and enhance the sound, but while testing the audio quality in music, we turned these off to get the most natural and normal sound out of the card.
The 6-pin power connector on the Xonar Phoebus
In terms of connectivity, the Xonar Phoebus has 3.5 mm ports at the rear like any other surround sound card. There is a separate port for headphones and a separate set for front, rear and subwoofer-center speakers as well as side speakers. There’s SPDIF support, along with microphone and line-in connects. This makes it feature-rich as far as the connectivity options are concerned.
The plastic dial could've been replaced by a metal one
The bundled remote control connects to the rear of the sound card using three cables. The remote control has a dial that’s used to control the volume. There are two ports – one for headphones and the one for the microphone.
Design and build quality
The Phoebus comes in a fancy, large-sized box, but with few contents – a sound card, an external remote control, the manual and the installation disc. On the exterior, the Xonar Phoebus looks neat. It’s got a metal housing covering most the sound card and hiding most of the gold-colored Nichicon capacitors underneath. This is similar to the set of capacitors used on the Xonar STX sound card. This sound card, like any other high-end audio sound card, requires power and it gets it from the six-pin power cable. Asus bundles a molex-to-six-pin power connector with the card.
A metal housing covers the card
There are some other interesting aspects to the card. The rear ports, for example, are lit up in different colours, making it easy to identify different ports when you’re trying to plug in speakers or headphones. The sound card itself has a blue glowing Xonar logo on the side of the card; which would look neat if you have a transparent side cabinet case. The bundled remote control is sturdy and heavy, but we wish Asus had used a metal dial or something a bit more solid. The cables that connect the remote to the sound are long enough to run through the length of a typical cabinet, but not more.
The driver interface of the ASUS Xonar Phoebus is simple and colourful. It’s different from the previous line of Xonar drivers and is very basic with simple controls and no complicated EQ settings. The Dolby Home Theater V4 program is a completely different program from the Asus drivers. This application lets you tweak much more and add surround effects to the mix to change the way your movies and games sound.
The Asus Xonar Phoebus is a good performer. There’s not a big difference in audio quality vis-a-vis other high-end sound cards. Somehow, it doesn’t feel as rich and it banks more on effects and features than on the audio quality. It’s the same kind of feel and performance that you get from the other gaming-oriented sound cards.
The control unit is solidly built
For music, you’ll notice little difference between this and your existing sound card. The sound is natural and there’s decent detail to it. There are a ton of effects that can be added to the mix, which make it fun to use while playing games, for example. Choosing profiles is simple and you’re free to tweak the settings handed to you; you can also save your tweaks and make your own profile.
A good card, but a tad bit too expensive
The audio experience from the Xonar Phoebus isn’t as rich as other high-end sound cards like the Xonar Essence One. The Xonar Phoebus sells at a price of Rs.10,500 – which is a tad bit expensive considering you get very good sound cards without the control unit for a third of the price. You can expect almost identical audio quality from them as well. However, buy this if you are into gaming and are buying one of the high-end headphones that require an amplifier to drive them.
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Jan 18, 2017