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ASUS Xonar U7 Echelon Edition Review

Rating: 8.5.

Last year ASUS enjoyed both public and critical success with their Xonar U7 USB sound card. For the enthusiast user demanding higher grade sound quality, adding an external DAC can be a good investment. Driving an expensive audiophile grade pair of headphones from the basic sound chip on a motherboard can also lead to less than optimal results. Asus have addressed this as the Xonar U7 incorporates a dedicated headphone amplifier. Priced at only £80, it won’t break the bank either.

Today we are analysing the new Asus Xonar U7 Echelon Edition which is encased in a compact chassis. The main visual difference between the original Xonar U7 and the new Echelon Edition is the new ‘digital camouflage pattern’.
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On a hardware level, the Echelon Edition hasn’t changed. It is powered by the C-Media 6632A Sound Processor, offering a signal to noise ratio of 114dB with full support for 7.1 channel audio up to 24 bit/192 Khz. Asus have however replaced the Xonar AudioCenter with the new SonicStudio Pro suite. There are also a new series of audio enhancements available, including Perfect Voice Noise Reduction technology.

The new ‘Sonic Radar’ technology has been included, to give gamers an ‘extra edge’. This is a unique Asus sound visualisation technology to enhance in game audio, specifically with first person shooters. Sonic Radar displays a radar style heads up display overlay to indicate audio directions. We will look at this in more detail later in the review.

Product overview:

  • See the precise locations of in-game sounds and enhance critical sounds to pinpoint the enemy instantly with Sonic Radar.
  • Gain complete control over loads of sound technologies with NEW Sonic Studio Pro technology.
  • Fast adjustments in the heat of gaming action with independent mic and audio volume controls.
  • True 7.1-channel HD (192kHz/24-bit) surround sound from a compact USB-powered device.
  • Hear the smallest sound details clearly thanks to the powerful integrated headphone amplifier.
  • Enjoy one-click surround-sound brilliance with Dolby® Home Theater V4.

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Win and review a pair of Grado PS2000e Headphones worth £2,700!

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  • John

    Wow I love those headphones, seriously impressive stuff. Nice review too, good value from ASUS< which you certainly can't always say.

  • Ben

    Its a great little device, seems amazing value for money, just ordered one from Amazon. Also kudos on teh headphones, I always wanted the grado 315i’s but this is just porn.

  • Davis

    Well this is a good idea, the plain black version was a fingerprint magnet, i had it, until my brother nicked it for his new flat. I might pick this up, as I missed it for my 598s Sennheisers.

    Those grados are massively overpriced, ive heard them – incredible bass and overall quality, but the price is ludicrous.

  • Interesting review.
    I am sure it is a solid product and for 80pound it sounds great for some use cases (especially paired with a gaming laptop!)
    I have to say, I am very sceptical of the subjective testing for quality though. I am lead to believe that non-double-blind audio testing is massively tainted by confirmation bias.
    Not to mention seeing an article breaking down 16bit vs 24bit audio claiming double blind testing lead to a near 50/50 successful determination rate (implying subjects simply guessed).

    I mean, I know people who swear on their life that when they swapped their $20 HDMI 1.4 cable for a $150 HDMI 1.4 cable “the picture got so much better, more lifelike and the colours really popped”! Hard not to believe that kind of bias wouldn’t occur when swapping from onboard to 80pound external then 1000+pound enthusiast gear.

  • Blub

    So did you connect the Gardo directly to the headphone jack of the U7, without any external amplification?

  • RJCofH

    Having suffered with this infuriating piece of garbage for 2 months I feel its time has come and ebay will be getting a listing. Using windows 7, the software has the following major flaws:
    1. As pointed out in the review, you have to change the date on your machine to 2013 to get the software to install to start with – very clever Asus.
    2. I play Guild Wars 2. The only way I can get a decent sound out of this heap of !@#% it to set it on Dolby surround playback or I just get a thin stereo 2 channel. OK but it doesn’t consistently keep its settings so half the time when I launch the game I have to go back to launch the echelon soe and spend ten minutes trying to get the sound back on my speakers. The sound through my speakers or ROG Vulcans when using headphones is no better than the onboard sound I was getting before so overall a big waste of time and money.

  • Michal Šimonek

    Nice writing review