After wooing the audiophile crowd with its elitist top-end sound kit, multinational tech specialist Asus is now going after the budget end of the market with a low-profile card for gamers with headsets.
The Xonar DG is pretty minimal in terms of PCB real estate, featuring a few capacitors and a small C-Media CM8786 audio chip. Meanwhile, the backplate sports just four analogue audio jacks, along with a digital optical output. However, Asus reckons the Xonar DG's special talent is sound quality rather than hardware features.
The company claims the PCI sound card has an A-weighted signal-to-noise ratio of 105dB when using the analogue 5.1 audio outputs. Interestingly, though, Asus is particularly pleased with the card's performance when using headphones, as opposed to standard speakers.
The card includes an on-board headphone amplifier, and supports Dolby Headphone; a technology that attempts to simulate the experience of 5.1 surround sound using any set of stereo headphones.
In addition to this, the card also accommodates Asus' GX 2.5 gaming audio engine, which not only provides EAX effects in games, but also supports Microsoft's DirectSound 3D features in Windows 7 and Vista.
According to Asus, the result of all this is a killer sound system for gamers using headsets. "Standard sound cards offer compromised audio when heard through headphones," claims the company, "resulting in muddy and underpowered reproduction."
Asus reckons its new sound card solves this with the dedicated headphone amplifier, adding that the Xonar DG was "designed from the ground up to cater to PC gamers who prefer to get sound through personal audio." After all, a loud speaker system won't make you popular at LAN parties, or on TeamSpeak for that matter.
Given that the card appears to be primarily targeted at gamers using headsets, Asus has also implemented headphone jack-detection into the card's front-panel headers, so you don't have to plug your headphones into the back of your case.
In addition to the full-size bracket (pictured), Asus says a low-profile bracket will also be included so that the card can be easily fitted into media centre PC systems.
Asus tells us the Xonar DG will be released in September this year, at a cost of around £40.