As you will quickly find I have an issue with only giving my opinion on something subjective like aesthetics, audio or visual quality. What I like you might not, so I could tell you how great I thought the Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim was and when you get it home you might think it was not so hot. To get around this I like to use a sampling of people and a range of audio types. As the HDAV 1.3 Slim is meant for home theatre I thought that I would build an HD HTPC and playback a range of HD audio sources as well as a couple of stock ones. These would be played for five different people who would then be asked to rate the audio quality on a scale of one to five (one being worst five being best) after that I asked for a one word description of the audio quality.
For my media sources I chose the following:
Blu-ray DVD - I am Legend
HD TV - NASCAR Racing
CD Audio - Stevie Ray Vaughn "Little Wing"
MP3 - Blue October "Jump Rope"
HD Video [Via iTunes] - Quantum of Solace
With these formats in hand I assembled my victims, I mean friends, I started my testing.Test System
Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 2.53GHz
4GB Kingston DDR2 1066 RAM [4x1GB]
Asus P5N7A-VM [GF9400]
Seagate 500GB SATAII HDD
Asus SBC-04D1S-U [USB Blu-Ray Drive]
Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim
It is interesting to note at this point that many said they could not tell the difference between this and other HD Audio Systems. They said the sound was great but there was nothing to differentiate it.
This is good news for Asus as it means it stands up to other high-end audio gear without the normal high-end price. We are finally seeing HD truly being brought to the HTPC in earnest.
The numbers look good for Asus and the Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim. On a personal note although I prefer analog amplification, I like the way the HDAV 1.3 Slim sounds when used for movies [Blu-Ray] and for HD TV programs. The sound of 10-20 cars moving at almost 200 Miles Per Hour is impressive.
The most common words were:
On the technical side I did run into a few issues, unless I used an HDMI 1.3 Lossless receiver I found the sound to be a little off. It is hard to describe what it was but it just was not up to scratch. I also ran into an issue where running full digital out to Toslink would result in the audio turning into extremely loud static. There was nothing that would stop this other than turning the receiver down to zero. This seemed to be a receiver issue as it happened with two other cards; however it does illustrate that you will need to chose your components carefully if you are going to build a system with this in it.
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