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

Audio|Video|Misc
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TEST METHODOLOGY

SPCR does not have a set methodology for testing sound cards, but our examination focussed on the following tests:

  1. Estimate the card's power consumption.
  2. Quantify analogue audio performance objectively using Rightmark's Audio Analyzer software
  3. Qualify analogue audio performance subjectively by comparing it with another known system using known audio sources.

Test Platform

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Objective Testing

Rightmark's Audio Analyzer was used to estimate several characteristics of the HDAV1.3, including signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), total harmonic distortion (THD), intermodulation distortion (IMD), and stereo crosstalk. Tests were performed at sample rates of 44.1, 48, 96, and 192 kHz and bit depths of 16, 24, and 32 (int) bits. Inputs and outputs were set up exactly as per Asus' RMAA test guide for the Xonar HDAV, in which the analogue RCA outputs were connected to the line-in jack using an mini to RCA splitter. Line-in level was set to 100, and speaker out level was set to 40.

Subjective Testing

A total of 10 different tracks from 8 different CDs were used to perform an A/B listening comparison. CDs were playing in iTunes, with the application, driver, and system sample rates all set to 44.1 kHz in Vista's sound panel to avoid resampling. The default audio device was set to "Speakers", which allowed the HDAV1.3 to output simultaneously via S/PDIF and analogue outputs. Both of these outputs were fed into a Yamaha HTR-5790 A/V Receiver. All DSP filters on the receiver were turned off by setting the audio mode to "straight". The two sources were then volume-matched (by ear) in the Xonar sound panel. This turned out to be unnecessary, since both sources sounded the equal at 100 volume. The speakers hooked up to this system were a pair of floor-standing transmission-line speakers custom-built by SPCR editor Mike Chin. They sound extremely clear, and are estimated to have a flat frequency response down to approximately 100 Hz (if only the same could be said for the room).

Using this setup, we listened to each test track through fully using each output, and then a third time switching back and forth between the two sources. No attempt was made to do blind ABX testing. This setup allowed us to compare the DACs and op-amps in the HDAV1.3 against the same circuitry in the receiver. All other elements of the signal chain remained constant between the two tests.

The following tracks were used for subjective testing:

  • Kodo – One Earth Tour Special
    • Tomoe: A challenge for any sound system, featuring deep bass rumble from the bigger drums as well as fast transients from the smaller drums.
  • Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
    • Speak to Me / Breathe: A varied track starting with a quiet heartbeat and various sound effects, moving into a more conventional pop song with synth and vocals.
    • Money: A more conventional rock song with guitar, drums, and the occasional cash register.
  • Fats Domino – Greatest Hits "Live" in Concert
    • Whole Lotta Lovin': Live 1950's rock 'n' roll ... and the muffled remastered recording quality you would expect. A rockin' tune with little separation between the various instruments.
  • Brasstronaut – Old World Lies EP
    • Old World Lies: Jazz piano, trumpet and vocals, with good separation between each.
  • Fleetwood Mac – Greatest Hits
    • Rhiannon: Folksy soft rock tune that always sounds a little indistinct lots of electric guitar and female singer to die for.
    • Tusk: Interesting drum beat and lots of dynamics.
  • Big Sugar – Brothers & Sisters, Are You Ready?
    • Red Rover: Rocking Heavy Metal / Reggae with heavy bass and sharp guitars. Starts with a loud burnout of what sounds like a 70's Dodge Charger.
  • Denzal Sinclaire – Denzal Sinclaire
    • Tofu & Greens: A charming jazz ode to vegetarianism with smooth male vocals and quick, upbeat piano.
  • Nigel Kennedy – Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
    • Autumn, Pt. 3: My favorite rendition of Vivaldi's classic composition. This track features a large dynamic range in solo violin and full orchestra.

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the Antec Earth Watts power supply used in our test system. Note that the results are for the 430, while our test system for the HDAV1.3 used the 380W model. It is likely that the 380W model has slightly higher efficiency in the range we are using it, but the difference is unlikely to be significant.

Antec Earth Watts 430 TEST RESULTS
DC Output (W)
42.7
65.9
92.5
150.6
AC Input (W)
60
87
118
186
Efficiency
70.8%
75.6%
78.3%
81.0%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input based on this data. We won't go through the math; it's easy enough to figure out for yourself if you really want to.



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