It’s difficult to truly test a piece of audio equipment since listening is so subjective. What sounds good to me, may sound terrible to someone else, and vice versa. Although, other than numbers and graphs, all I can give you is my opinion, so that’s what I’m going to do. Let’s start out with the specs of the machine the ASUS Xonar Xense is installed in:
CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.20GHz
RAM: 8GB Mushkin Enhanced Blackline DDR3 1600
Mobo: ASRock 890FX Deluxe3
PSU: Sparkle 850W Gold Class
GFX: AMD Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5
Sound: ASUS Xonar Xense
OS: Windows 7 64bit
Home theater receiver: Yamaha HTR-5540
Speakers: Axiom m40Ti (Front), JBL 2500 (rear)
PC Speakers: Altec Lansing Ultimate 641 (4 channel)
I picked two movies for my subjective tests, these two movies are Iron Man 2 and The Fast And The Furious (that’s the first one). The reason why I picked these two is because I’ve seen each enough times that I cannot only recite the words, but I could also vividly describe every action sequence. Also, both make great use of sound throughout the entire film. First I listened to the movies via the Xonar Xense’s digital output (coax), which went to my home theater receiver (Yamaha HTR-5540). As expected, each movie sounded perfectly inline over the digital out in Dolby Digital 5.1. Then I listened to key action and dialog sequences with the Sennheiser PC350 Xense edition headphones. I did two tests with the PC350’s, first I listened without any effects, then I’d turn on Dolby Headphone and tinker with the three different room presets. I found that Dolby Headphone provided a bit more spatial awareness, but not enough to truly emulate a 5.1 setup. Also, dialog seemed a bit weak with Dolby Headphone enabled. It’s like the center channel isn’t being properly mixed. Although, I did find that turning on SVN (smart volume) did normalize the dialog a little better. But when it came to big explosions, SVN kept the dynamic range limited (which it is supposed to do), so you lost a bit of the punch during big scenes.
I listen to a lot of music. The first thing I noticed after installing the Xonar Xense, is that the music I listen to was much more rich and lively than my onboard audio. This isn’t a huge surprise considering the high end nature of the Xonar Xense, but it is always refreshing when this moment occurs. Needless to say, I was excited to hook up the Sennheiser PC350 Xense edition headphones and listen to all of my favorite tracks. What I heard from the PC350’s was exactly not what I expected. Little bass, missing highs and a lot of mids. The overall sound was very muddy. Needless to say, music is not the PC350’s strong point. Although, if you listen to music that isn’t very dynamic, and sits a lot in the mids, you will be pleased with the PC350’s. This is bar far the weakest aspect of the set.
The PC350’s shortcomings in music aren’t attributed to the Xonar Xense in any way. As mentioned, my PC speakers produced better sound (analog), and even my Axiom m40Ti’s produced very accurate and clear sound (digital).
I tested three games with the Xonar Xense, Duke Nukem Forever, Crysis 2, and Monday Night Combat. Each game worked with multichannel audio out of the gate. No extra configurations were needed in the Xonar Xense Audio Control or the games themselves. This is an area where the PC350 Xense edition headphones really shined. Sure, they are only two channel, but I really enjoyed the sound they produced while playing games. Once again, with the addition of Dolby Headphone, a little bit more spatial awareness was introduced. Still not good enough to replicate a 5.1 set, but it made the world I was playing in feel just a bit bigger and less confined.
I’m not too big on Skype and voice chatting on Steam, but I went ahead and tested each on the PC350 Xense edition. As stated earlier, the mic is excellent quality, and as you already know these headphones are great at producing mids (vocal ranges). So chat quality was excellent and enjoyable. One thing I found a bit odd is that since these headphones cancel out so much noise, I felt that I had to talk louder for others to hear me. No one on the other end ever complained I was talking too loud, but it was just the feeling that I didn’t like. So usually during voice chats I’d wear my headphones like a DJ, only using one can.