Probably the most high-end sound you can get from a computer sound card.

A Review On: Onkyo Japan SE-300PCIE Wavio PCI Express Sound Card

Onkyo Japan SE-300PCIE Wavio PCI Express Sound Card

Rated # 8 in Sound Cards
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Price paid: $200.00
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Pros: 120 dB S/N (A), 24/192, built in headphone amp, PCIe + standard XFi drivers (robust and relatively future proof).

Cons: The gamer and DSP features of the XFi codec add unwelcome clutter and confusion.

This is a great sound card, full featured for gamers, home recording, and home theater, as well as traditional high-end audio.


I am only interested in it as a source for high-end audio (2 channel) and my review only considers this one aspect of its functionality.


Notes in passing,


1. Drivers install without a hitch on Win 8.1(64 bit) and seem stable, so hopefully Creative has put that history behind them.

2. A lot of DSP "enhancements" are turned on by default. For the best sound, turn them all (equalizer, AEX, 3D, "crystallizer", etc) off.

3. The card is physically quite similar to the SE-200PCI, but there is now a separate plate for the multichannel analog outputs, replacing the breakout cable. So the full setup will take up two slots in your case, though the second is optional.

4. 120 dB is better than the SE-200PCI, and it is less susceptible to noise pickup too. (I suppose due to the full metal shielding over all the analog sections.)

5. As most people note, there is a built in headphone amp (good!), but no header for routing audio to the case front panel (not so good!) so overall the headphone jack is a pain to use. I use the line out RCA to my headphone amp, so its not an issue for me.


Once set up, its all nicely integrated with Windows (line out volume is set in the Windows mixer), and you can pretty much forget about it.


The sound is (once you get rid of the DSP, see above) smooth and detailed, with superb spacial resolution. Overall neutral, tonally refined. No digital glare, no artificial warmth or emphasis. Some people might find it too restrained. Not everyone wants or needs this kind of performance in a computer sound card, as you need similarly excellent system to appreciate it.


So that brings us to the price. Let me just say that the $400+ sticker price on this in the US is just insane. I got mine used, so back in "comparable to the SE-200PCI LTD" territory. It's $300ish retail in Japan, which is 50% more than the SE-200PCI LTD ever sold for, but justifiable, perhaps. Either way I can't bring myself to recommend a sound card that costs that much, and that much more than you can get the 200PCI for. Especially as 80% of people are probably going to prefer how the 200PCI sounds anyway. And given the 200PCI sounds wonderful, why take the risk on the '300? For 2 channel audio the numbers don't add up.



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