Xonar HDAV1.3 Deluxe: Asus HTPC sound card does Everything

Audio|Video|Misc
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PHYSICAL DETAILS

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 tampering.


HDMI connectors in the foreground; daughterboard in the background.



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