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Onkyo Japan SE-300PCIE Wavio PCI Express Sound Card

  1. rjm003
    Probably the most high-end sound you can get from a computer sound card.
    Written by rjm003
    Published Aug 10, 2014
    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.

      the wizard of oz likes this.
  2. Ilya--s
    A little review of Onkyo SE300
    Written by Ilya--s
    Published Mar 8, 2012
    Pros - Transparent & detailed, neutral & natural, very good dynamics and imaging, doesn't sound harsh for my taste, doesn't lack reverberations
    Cons - Soundstage can be a little wider, bass a little thin & lack of some weight & body compared to some DACs
    Don't get me wrong - it's an amazing soundcard. I've had an Asus Xonar Essence ST w/OPA627AU, but SE300 are simply on another level of this.
    so, some facts about SE300:
    -) There is no front_panel output (HD_audio)
    -) 7.1 output sounds ok, better then Creative Titanium.
    -) Headphone_output are really good. Headphone_amp of Essence ST, for example, have much more power, but drives low-impedance headphones worse.
    -) SE300 is running a little hot.
    -) It's works under Windows XP.
    1. the wizard of oz
      Much appreciated review, and the part on headphone amp is interesting, especially for low impedance headphones users like myself.
      I knew I had good reason to have this sound card on my wish-list for when I start upgrading my computer. I have several Onkyo separate components, and am much impressed with them, even if they wouldn't be considered by most here very high-end.
      the wizard of oz, Mar 8, 2012
    2. Ilya--s
      D5000, for ex., sound nice with a headphone_amp of SE300, not as good as some desktop amps - soundstage are smaller and bass a little muddy & slow. However, Essence ST has much more power then Onkyo.
      Ilya--s, Mar 9, 2012