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ASUS Xonar U3 vs Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! Pro USB

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Currently have a Sager NP9150 laptop. 

Anyone have any opinions or suggestions?

post #2 of 21

What headphones will you use, or do you only need a line output for an external amplifier ?

post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by SikkNazty View Post

Currently have a Sager NP9150 laptop. 

Anyone have any opinions or suggestions?

The Xonar U3. Hands down. bigsmile_face.gif I have both the the Xonar U3 and the X-Fi 5.1 Pro USB (bigger brother of the X-Fi Go).

 

Both sound good on all effects switched off and no custom equalizers. But the surround sound options are where they are worlds apart.

 

Xonar U3 has Dolby Headphone, Dolby Pro-Logic IIx, GX2.5 EAX emulation and Virtual 7.1 speaker shifter amongst other features. It can also output Dolby Digital Live in real time via TOSlink optical out,

 

The X-Fi has only THX surround, no Dolby features what so ever. Its the trend now with creative products as they have abandoned the CMSS-3D features of their own versions of the HRTF implementations. And honestly they sound like utter trash. CMSS-3D sounded better but this is THX, totally different and vastly inferior

 

Get the Xonar U3 and you will be able to choose DH1 DH2 and DH3 modes of Dolby Headphone surround modes in 2,4,6 and 8 channels. You can set 7.1 channels in windows or via the Xonar control center and then choose output as Headphone and enjoy great surround sound.

 

If you are not in it for the surround sound, even then the Xonar U3 is a better buy because its drivers are free from the bloatware creative bundles with its products. Besides am comparing this to the more powerful Creative USB solution, the X-Fi Go is generally regarded as very poor compared to the one I have. 

 

The Xonar U3 is compact, feature rich and really performs better than the bigger USB class sound cards out there.

 

As along as your headphones are not more than 80-100ohms the exciter mode on the Amp that is built into the Xonar U3 should give you lots of drive power. I don't even go beyond 3 taps on my sound panel and its already loud for my 32ohm headsets and that was barely 2% volume level on the highest exciter mode. But to really enjoy any decent sound card a good pair of headsets are needed. Depending on your budget the guys here can make good recommendations. I just ordered a HD 598 to go with my Xonar U3 as I crave for a wider airy sound stage.

 

As for my rig, I have a M18X-R1 laptop and the on-board was as expected too weak for surround sound options so I looked to get a decent sound card that could output Dolby Digital Live to my Stereo headset's decoder for virtual 5.1 Dolby Head phone surround. I first got the Creative X-Fi 5.1 Pro. But there were way too many cables and clutter on my desk with this setup and I have no control over the Dolby headphone mode like DH1 or DH2 or DH3. Then I did my home work for real and understood that all I needed was the Xonar U3 and connect my Headset directly to it and I can get rid of all the wired mess of the control box. So simple. Laptop to Xonar U3 straight to the headset/headphone. No clutter and works great in Dolby headphone mode and the best part being I can customize the modes and other effects.

 

I even posted my short review on newegg.com, so to avoid copying it all over again I shall just link it here. The 2nd one from the bottom by the Name of Viki.

 

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132022&Tpk=Xonar%20u3

 

Hope it helps.


Edited by mharidas - 10/3/12 at 1:45pm
post #4 of 21

I wouldn't be surprised if the Xonar U3 won out here. Roller HATES the X-Fi Go! Pro SB1290, considering it a downgraded device with less audio quality and features. I don't have any first-hand experience to confirm or deny that.

 

My unit's the older X-Fi Go! SB1100, which he does find respectable, if still unworthy of comparison to a real X-Fi card (which only comes in PCI or PCI-Express flavor and thus unsuitable for laptops, alas). It sounds decent, with an almost-inaudible noise floor with an HTF600, and it works decently with DirectSound3D and OpenAL games that don't have issues with Creative's software OpenAL renderer. Also, the drivers are surprisingly bloatware-free, containing only the bare minimum of needed software. (And you can keep those drivers on the built-in 1 GB of storage!)

 

However, for newer XAudio2 + X3DAudio and FMOD Ex games, the SB1100 presents itself strictly as a stereo device. That means you can't trick those games into thinking you have a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system and mixing their audio accordingly, making its implementation of CMSS-3D Headphone useless for those games. (Yes, CMSS-3D Headphone, not that THX TruStudio Surround crap. That's another differentiator between the SB1100 and SB1290.)

 

Also, they both lack S/PDIF output, which the Xonar U3 has. That's another point in the U3's favor, even if you don't expect to use it much.

 

Note that I don't actually have a Xonar U3, but I sure would like to review it at some point. It's bound to at least be better than Creative's USB devices, which don't do anything in hardware like their internal sound cards do. I'd also like to put DS3DGX to the test against ALchemy.


Edited by NamelessPFG - 10/2/12 at 1:05am
post #5 of 21

Yeah the Xonars have bloatware free GUIs and that's a good thing. Creatives stuff no matter how good they sound for the PCI cards they have serious issues with crashing bloatware GUIs.

 

The GX2.5 EAX emulator works pretty well to my untrained ears I guess. I couldn't really tell the difference between the two. But it does work because there is a difference with and without it switched on. Only just that can;t tell the difference between creative EAX and GX2.5 in action. On paper the GX2.5 may not be an equal to the real EAX 5.0 but I sure couldn't tell the difference to be honest.

 

And with games now going with their own HRTFs in game audio engines and creative EAX being less and less supported (maybe EFX picks off), OpenAL and custom HRTFs are becoming more and more common place.

 

BF3's surround enhancement check box is an HRTF in itself ins't it? Dirt and F1 titles from codemasters implementing Rapture3D audio into them  are yet more examples of custom HRTFs being put into games. They take off CPU resources for sure. Would be nice if the industry had a common standard that allows proper hardware acceleration. But that's going to be help customers and companies like creative have never been for customers just their own pockets. 

 

I am eagerly awaiting my HD 598, can't wait to play some Witcher 2 and BF3 on it. Might balls up to play Dead Space 1, not sure if the surround sound goodness causes me to chicken out like the last time I tried it without surround sound...

post #6 of 21

Most games these days do NOT have binaural HRTF mixing built-in. XAudio2 + X3DAudio and FMOD Ex don't have it as a standard feature; they cater to surround speaker users, not headphone users. Otherwise, I wouldn't have reason to be bitter over the current state of PC gaming audio.

 

The Codemasters racing games are an unusual exception; they still use OpenAL, but instead of expecting you to own a Creative card to get the most out of it, they come bundled with Rapture3D, which can do binaural mixing (with six different HRTFs to choose from!) in software. This is the approach that the game industry should have went with, but for whatever reason, they didn't.

 

BF:BC2 and BF3 also aren't what I'd call shining examples of positional audio, either; the sound samples themselves are great, but the positioning is substandard even compared to most other software-mixed games, let alone the first four Battlefield titles that use DS3D or OAL. I have a hard time figuring out where sounds are coming from no matter how I mess with the settings.

 

Ultimately, I think the only ones who really pushed binaural audio for gaming were Aureal, because they had it enabled by default on sound cards with their Vortex chipsets before most gamers even knew what binaural audio was. All they knew was that they put on headphones, and..."Holy crap! I can hear exactly where they're coming from, even with my eyes closed!" But Creative couldn't stand being beaten at their own game, so they sued Aureal and bought 'em up after they went bankrupt from the legal fees, just to bury A3D and support for the competing Vortex cards...

 

As for the Xonars having bloatware-free GUIs...this driver pack with a stock C-Media control panel option suggests otherwise. Of course, it's probably still a good deal less quirky than Creative's approach, which has two mostly redundant control panels! And a Volume Panel app on top of that, which I strictly use for toggling CMSS-3D Headphone on and off as desired without having to wait for either of those control panels to load. At least I haven't had to put up with BSoDs or even mode locks for a long while, ever since I got the Titanium HD.

post #7 of 21

Between the Xonar U3 and the X-Fi Go! Pro (SB1290), it's quite easy to recommend the Xonar U3, but only due to the incomplete feature set of the X-Fi Go! Pro. If it was the X-Fi Go! (SB1100), then I would recommend the X-Fi Go!, which has a surprisingly clean output (considering it's a USB dongle) and gaming support is still better than the Asus USB alternative, despite running solely on software.

 

Now, stv014 did ask an important question. SikkNazty, what gear (headphones and/or speakers) are you using and what are your listening habits, namely music, games and/or movies?

 

EDIT: It seems mharidas didn't read NamelessPFG's reply, as he was refering to the X-Fi Go! not having bloatware on its software package.

Asus isn't particularly stable and has enough bloat as it is. UNi Xonar is a good place to read about it and get alternative packages.

EDIT2: The X-Fi Go! recommendation is done based on gaming being the main consideration. For multimedia usage, the Xonar U3 is a better option. For music alone, they're evenly matched.

 

Also, Asus GX feature is quite poor, delivers worse audio effects that are also more buggy, and it's EAX emulation doesn't emulate hardware features at all, with some of those actually being present on USB (software based) X-Fi solutions.


Edited by Roller - 10/2/12 at 1:46pm
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

 

BF:BC2 and BF3 also aren't what I'd call shining examples of positional audio, either; the sound samples themselves are great, but the positioning is substandard even compared to most other software-mixed games, let alone the first four Battlefield titles that use DS3D or OAL. I have a hard time figuring out where sounds are coming from no matter how I mess with the settings.

 

In BF3 with the surround enhancement option ticked any stereo headphone gets Dolby like effects. Its a HRTF nonetheless, just don't know what type it is. If its licensed or if they made one on their own. Dolby has listed this game on their site, not sure what that means. Certainly didn't see any Dolby options in the game. But that is an HRTF at work for sure. Just not as good as the full suit Dolby headphone on sound cards.

 

I personally felt the direct front and all other angled directions were clearly easy to make out. So I have to say the positional audio is some of the best I have heard with HRTFs enabled. The only issue was direct behind, as in 6 o' clock, but this is a problem with most HRTFs where discerning direct front and direct back are always difficult. Headphones also play their part in discerning the direct front and backs. Will see how things go with the HD 598 am getting.

 

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

 

The Codemasters racing games are an unusual exception; they still use OpenAL, but instead of expecting you to own a Creative card to get the most out of it, they come bundled with Rapture3D, which can do binaural mixing (with six different HRTFs to choose from!) in software. This is the approach that the game industry should have went with, but for whatever reason, they didn't.

 

 

Because the drop in frame rates with stuff like rapture3D enabled is significant. On a system with less than the absolute best and latest hardware this is a deal breaker. Dirt 3's EGO engine is no where as demanding as some of the other engines out there like DUNIA, Cryengine  and the likes. Thats the main issue here with software processed HRTFs like Rapture3D, they are good techs but too costly to implement in terms of system resources. Dolby Headphone is far less demanding than Rapture3D to process.

 

Maybe Rapture3D should get into the sound card business and have their IP in hardware there are some good ARM/x86 low power SoCs that can be put to good use for this purpose but then again thugs like creative will find ways to disrupt competition through financial muscle.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

 

Asus isn't particularly stable and has enough bloat as it is. UNi Xonar is a good place to read about it and get alternative packages.

 

 

I have not used other PCI based ASUS sound cards, Xonar U3 in particular has none of the problems you mentioned. The control panel's shell is the same as most other cards uses from the looks of things. The features and news options you can click on being different based on the model.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Roller View Post

 

Also, Asus GX feature is quite poor, delivers worse audio effects that are also more buggy, and it's EAX emulation doesn't emulate hardware features at all, with some of those actually being present on USB (software based) X-Fi solutions.

 

Like I said, I can't the difference between the two. These differences are not so great that they are obvious to someone and they can tell without anyone even telling them that there would be a difference. Maybe if you go comparing looking for the exact difference in mind you will, as they say, always find what you are looking for. If its not easily noticed its just a gimmick hardware based or not. Marketing would like to always trumpet the differences and definitely EAX is superior on paper, but what counts is if its of any practical difference. None that I can tell.

 

The GX2.5 has been having some issues with older games but nothing much with current games that have EAX or say games as old as Mass Effect 1.

 

 

Coming back to the point. In a market where patent trolls are thriving and innovation is slowing with broken regulations in business, we cant expect a unified hardware based standard that everyone will adopt for the good of us the consumers. So it boils down to what works for your ears and if its really that much of a experience changer. The effects techs like EAX or GX2.5 are all nice add-ons to have but they by themselves are pants when it comes to what they offer, they are no where as close to being phenomenal improvements to the listening experience. The effects are as pleasing as Anti-Aliasing set from 2X to 8X. You can see that difference but is all that much a big change that you can't live without? I seriously doubt it. You can certainly enjoy the game or other items without much regard to the lack of EAX like tech because they simply don't offer a lot of in terms of experience. With all this in mind a sound card purchase should be really down to audio sound quality and maybe some of the features like HRTF support. EAX and other environmental effects are just a marketing distraction. They may get very important when they are sufficiently advanced but until then its just a gimmick. I never even thought of EAX and never cared for it when I bought the sound card, its there in the form of GX2.5 emulation on the ASUS and EAX HD on the X-Fi 5.1. Great but wouldn't care much if the card had none.


Edited by mharidas - 10/2/12 at 7:55pm
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

If it was the X-Fi Go! (SB1100), then I would recommend the X-Fi Go!, which has a surprisingly clean output (considering it's a USB dongle) and gaming support is still better than the Asus USB alternative, despite running solely on software.

Is this the one you're talking about? (where can I find the drivers?)

http://www.amazon.ca/Creative-SB1100-Sound-Blaster-System/dp/B004G5YEEI

 

It sounds better than this one?

http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Soundblaster-Audio-System-SB1290/dp/B0044DEDC0

 

I have the Sennheiser PX100 and 558 and the 3.5mm jack on my laptop doesn't sound good. 


Edited by spandexninja - 12/29/12 at 6:17pm
post #10 of 21

I have both. Xonar U3 wins here, simply for DDL and the far superior DH compared to the crappy THX. For stereo SQ, both are so good, with GO! edges over a slight.

post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by nassq8 View Post

I have both. Xonar U3 wins here, simply for DDL and the far superior DH compared to the crappy THX. For stereo SQ, both are so good, with GO! edges over a slight.

 

In regards to the U3, have you come across a "fix" for the issue where the sound will drop out, then come back when you move the headphone jack around?  I've read of many users with this issue and the U3.  I also have the Creative Labs Go!, but I've kept it sealed in the box in the event the U3 works for me, and then I would potentially return the Go!

 

Thanks,

post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by wje View Post

 

In regards to the U3, have you come across a "fix" for the issue where the sound will drop out, then come back when you move the headphone jack around?  I've read of many users with this issue and the U3.  I also have the Creative Labs Go!, but I've kept it sealed in the box in the event the U3 works for me, and then I would potentially return the Go!

 

Thanks,

Sounds like a poor headphone jack or poor soldering job of the jack to the board. I would likely think it is a poor solder job. These are soldered by machine & often only spot checked by humans prior to assembly.

post #13 of 21

So is the U3 capable of outputting authentic, and not just virtual, 5.1 surround via optical output? Sorry, new to the USB soundcard game.

post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by germanium View Post

Sounds like a poor headphone jack or poor soldering job of the jack to the board. I would likely think it is a poor solder job. These are soldered by machine & often only spot checked by humans prior to assembly.

 

Hi,

 

Actually, the drop-out issues with the Xonar U3 is documented by many who have experienced this issue in the various forums.  I figured I could either wrestle with this issue, or just go ahead and return the device, which I paid $45.00 for.  Instead, I'm moving my sound a bit further away from the computer, and will only use a USB cable to feed into my DAC.  Issue solved.  There shouldn't be any noise issues ... hopefully.

post #15 of 21

just to share my 2 cents on the matter. I had a asus ul80vt and i decided to get a usb sound card. at first i got the xfi go pro. total disappointment. the highs were very edgey, and there was a total lack of warmth to the sound. details and soundstage were a little better than the internal soundcard but otherwise, overall i just found it worse. i decided to get the u3, and it actually sounded like the internal card with slightly less warmth and a more balanced sound but a lot more details and sparkle in the highs without any edginess. it also managed to convey emotions better than the internal sound card. overall a significant upgrade for me both with my headphones (beyer dt860) and pc speakers (cambridge soundworks pcworks 12v). but the xfi was a disappointment. 

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