- Specifications and Product Pictures
- Connectivity and Initial Impressions
- Sound Quality
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How I tested it?
As always I test the SQ with my two headphones – Sennheiser HD650, Yamaha YH-100 and with my speaker system – B+W bookshelf speakers driven by a Taurus T200 stereo MOSFET amp.
I was rather skeptical of the ability of this small USB powered sound card to drive my Yamaha YH-100. The Creative Recon 3D USB which retails for around the same price as ASUS failed to provide any reasonable volume for my YH-100 headphones. Frankly, they are very hard to drive, and I use a huge hybrid (tube + solid state) headphone amp to drive these headphones.
Surprisingly, ASUS Xonar U7 was up to the task, and the SQ was very good for a USB powered device.
Compared to Creative ZX!
I had a Creative ZX card, and so I tried to compare the two sources to see whether they were evenly matched. The Creative’s counterparts have lots of advantages over the U7. First, the PCI-E port provides much more power than a 5V USB port. So, Creative didn’t have many issues when designing the card and could use high power components while ASUS had to carefully choose components that could work with less power.
But, to my great surprise, Xonar U7 was slightly but noticeably better than the Creative’s PCIe counterpart. The bass, in particular, was more detailed and more controlled than the Creative. Mids was also slightly clearer, detailed and treble again was ever so slightly better on the U7. Adding insult to Creative’s injury, Asus Xonar U7 has practically all the connectivity options that the Creative has and costs almost half. The Xonar U7 even works perfectly with Windows XP while the Creative doesn’t support XP.
That said Creative does have a huge software bundle to offset the advantages that ASUS offers. It is is an internal PCIe card. Therefore, there’s less clutter on your desk and has a a bundled external control unit for easy access if required. The software bundle of Creative is far more elaborate than the Dolby software ASUS bundles with the U7.
RCA Output Quality
Testing the RCA outputs to my stereo speaker setup yielded similar performance which was very good. I also compared the u7 with my default Music Streamer II DAC and frankly, it was hard to tell the difference between the two. The Music streamer did have a bit more detail in the treble but other than that I struggled to find any meaningful difference between the two. The Music Streamer costs more than the U7, lacks any connectivity option other than RCA output and doesn’t even have a headphone amp so it loses out badly to the ASUS U7.
All in all, the U7 shows stellar audio performance for its price.