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 cont'd

By removing the EMI shield we can see that the Phoebus’ layout shares much in common with that of the Xonar Xense. In fact, most of the components are either the same or are updated versions of those found on the previous Xonar model. This amalgamation of components makes for one intriguing looking soundcard with a blend of capabilities but it would be quite surprising to us if the Phoebus performed all that much differently than its sibling.

At the heart of the Phoebus is the new C-Media CMI8888 Oxygen controller. This is C-Media’s newest unit and is essentially an upgraded version of the venerable CMI8788 which graces –among others- the Essence STX.

For the dedicated headphone Digital to Analog Converter (aka “DAC”), ASUS has once again stepped down a notch from the ultra high end Texas Instrument PCM1792A found on the Essence STX and instead equips this card with the TI PCM1796. We’ve also seen this controller on the aforementioned Xense and while it may not be up to the standards of highly picky audiophiles, the 1796 is still widely considered a highly capable unit which sports some killer specifications.

Unfortunately – and unlike both the Xense and Essence STX – the op-amps on this card are soldered into place instead of being nestled into individual sockets. This lack of easily replaceable op-amps would not be of great concern if they had been upgraded from previous Xense model, but that isn’t the case. Sadly, not giving consumers a way to easily replace them makes the Phoebus a more “take it or leave it” affair than previous models and many audiophiles will opt for the former and not the latter.

As with the Xense, ASUS has once again opted for New Japan Radio Corporation 2114 op-amps. These are not the highest end products available but are decent enough to cope with the rigors of PC gaming audio. Even though the sound these JRC 2114’s “create” is not going to be quiet as rich or satisfying as higher end options, most people will never notice the difference between the two as it would require high quality recordings and ultra expensive headphones.

The Phoebus’ separate 7.1 circuitry is made up of fairly high quality components such as a Cirrus Logic CS4362A Digital to Analog Converter (aka “DAC”) with 6 channels and a Texas Instruments PCM1796 for Front Out. All of this is backed up by rather generic New Japan Radio Corporation 5332 op-amps. Both the op-amps and use of a Cirrus Logic solution are reasonable choices, but we really would have preferred to have seen TI / Burr-Brown chips as well as better – and replaceable - op-amps. To be fair, the inclusion of not only a good 7.1 controller but stock 7.1 outputs is nice to see and should be far more than enough for most enthusiasts.

One very noteworthy inclusion is a Realtek ALC889 chip which is usually used as a discrete sound solution on many motherboards but here it’s only purpose is to act as the microphone controller.

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