ASUS RoG Xonar Phoebus 7.1 PCI-E Soundcard Review

Author: AkG
Date: July 25, 2012
Product Name: Xonar Phoebus
Part Number: 90-YAA0M0-0UAN0BZ
Warranty: 3 Years
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A Closer Look at the Xonar Phoebus

Unlike previous Xonar models – and keeping with the Republic of Gamers moniker – the Xonar Phoebus comes in a loud and brash red box which strongly reminds us of the ASUS Maximus Gene V’s package. Much like that ROG branded motherboard’s box, this bright red attention getter is geared towards the brick and mortar retail market rather than etailers. The Phoebus’ box has a top cover flap which can be flipped open and contains even more details of the soundcard as well as two small plastic film windows which show the Xonar Phoebus and its main accessory: the controller hub.

In comparison to the rest of ASUS’ soundcard lineup, the Phoebus’ accessory list has received quite a bit of an upgrade in order for it to appeal to gamers. There’s a software CD, power adapter, S/PDIF adapter and an installation booklet as usual but the similarities stop there. Since this model natively supports 7.1 output it doesn’t require a break-out adaptor and a great looking Controller Hub has also been included.

The controller hub is meant to be plugged in between your stereo headset and the Phoebus, allowing for control of microphone and headphone volume without resorting to software solutions. This should make it perfect for fine tuning volume levels while in-game. However, the basic concept behind the Phoebus’ controller certainly isn’t unique since plenty of higher end PC speaker sets also come with this type of manual functionality. If you decide to forgo buying a pair of headphones with an integrated mic, it has you covered with a pair of built-in microphones.

While the controller may be a boon to some gamers, it does however fall a little short of what it could have been. It is a very good first effort but the fact still remains that it will only allow you to modify the sound levels of 2.1 stereo sources and is all but useless anyone using a 5.1 and 7.1 surround setup. Considering many PC gaming enthusiasts use either analog or virtual 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound configurations this oversight on a Republic of Gamers device is puzzling. ASUS should have taken a page from other manufactures – such as Cooler Master and their Storm Sirius 5.1 headset by included a complete solution for multiple uses. To be fair, the stereo microphone abilities of this hub do somewhat make up for this oversight, but it is a limitation which you should be fully aware of. We also didn’t appreciate that the controller feels a bit on the cheap side which is highly disappointing for a premium level solution.

Moving on to the card itself, the Xonar Phoebus uses a PCI-E x1 interface and requires a standard 6-pin PCI-E for external power. For consumers whose power supplies simply have no additional PCI-E 6 pin plugs available, ASUS includes a dual Molex to single 6-pin PCI-E power adapter though we do wish Asus had taken the effort to sleeve this adaptor as it may detract from neat and tidy appearance of some custom builds.

Unlike the Xonar Xense, the Phoebus takes a more understated approach to its styling and reminds us of the Essence STX. Much like the Essence STX, the Phoebus disdains the use of a highly polished EMI shield and rather uses a large matte black affair with a few RoG red accents.

Also unlike the audiophile-oriented products, the connector layout is very straightforward and makes use of only 3.5mm ports instead of the more professional-oriented 6.3mm ports. While this does mean higher end headphones will require the use of a (not included, yet inexpensive) 6.3 to 3.5mm adapter, ASUS was able to eliminate the need for custom surround sound port adapters found on the Xonar Xense. Instead of having a mess of cabled coming out of your sound card, all of the input connectors are laid out in a neat and tidy single line.

From left to right there is Microphone In, Headphone Out, Control Box Link connector required for the controller hub, Front, Line In, Rear, Center/subwoofer and an SPDIF/ side speaker combination port with SPDIF capabilities via the included adapter.

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