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The HDAV1.3 is a fine looking beast, with most of the electronics hidden under
a black "EMI shield" that probably does more to improve Asus' sleek
image than to reduce electromagnetic interference. It is telling that the daughterboard
(where most of the EMI-sensitive analogue circuitry is located) does not have
a similar shield.
The black cover is an "EMI shield", not a heatsink.
The Deluxe edition comes with a daughterboard that provides analogue outputs
for surround sound.
Surprisingly, the card requires external power from the power supply to operate;
it includes a 4-pin Molex connector. Given the large 25W power envelope for
PCI-e x1 devices (and our own tests), it seems unlikely that Xonar actually
needs extra power to operate. It seems more likely that the connector is used
to provide an isolated electrical source for the card's analogue components,
which could be aversely affected by the quality of the power regulation circuitry
on the motherboard. It is telling that even the most basic models in the Xonar
line require an external power source.
Connectors for power and a ribbon cable to the daughterboard.
As mentioned, the Deluxe model features a daughterboard that provides six surround
channels of analogue audio. The additional card is made necessary by the large
amount of PCB real estate taken up by analogue circuitry, which must be duplicated
for each additional channel supported. It also makes room for larger, more robust
RCA connectors instead of the standard mini-jacks. Adaptor cables are included
to support mini-jack speaker systems, but the card is really designed for HiFi
audio components that can take advantage of the better electrical characteristics
of RCA connectors.
Mother and child.
The main card itself supports only two analogue channels, and reuses several
of the jacks to provide as much functionality as can fit onto the back of a
single PCI slot. There are two HDMI jacks (in and out), a coaxial S/PDIF out
(convertable to optical with an included adaptor), right and left analogue channels
via two RCA jacks, and a single mini-jack that can serve as either mic-in, line-in
or S/PDIF in (via an optical adaptor). Only a single optical S/PDIF adaptor
is included, so using both S/PDIF in and out in optical form will require acquiring
a second adaptor.
The HDAV1.3 handles video by means of an HDMI pass-through connector à
la 3DFX with its early 3D accelerators. The video signal is generated as usual
by the graphics card, output via DVI or HDMI and then fed into the sound card
where sound (and possibly some video processing) is added to the signal. A composite
signal containing both the audio and the video is then output by the sound card
through a completely different cable. This has the added advantage of ensuring
that the audio and video are in sync, but it does open up the video signal to
HDMI connectors in the foreground; daughterboard in the background.
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