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I purchased the ASUS Strix RAID PRO sound card to improve the listening experience from my workstation. Unfortunately, after about six months of use, I was very disappointed by the performance of this card.
Inside the box we find:
- External controller
- Box link cable
- User manual
- CD driver
- Strix Sticker
Design & Build Quality
The board design is very nice, from a distance it may seem a video card. The cover has a double function, it’s a protective shield for the components and, at the same time, it’s an EMI shield that helps to block the interference inside the case. The orange owl’s eye lights up when the PC is on, too bad that once installed horizontally in a PCI-e slot it’s practically impossible to see.
The STRIX Raid Pro is powered by a single 6-pin connector. Regarding the connections we find:
- Mic/Line In
- Headphones output
- Box Link
- Side + SPDIF Out.
The components used for the circuitry are of high level, ASUS has used Nichicon capacitors, famous for their fantastic audio characteristics. As a headphone amplifier, the company has chosen a Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 chip that can drive headphones from 16 to 600 Ohms, a good solution even if there is better around. The D/A conversion is performed by an ESS SABRE9006A chip which provides up to 116 dBa. Finally we have a CM6632AX audio processor and a CS5361 A/D converter.
The volume controller has a nice design, it will look good next to your keyboard. From here we have the ability to control the volume, change the playback device (switch between headphones and speakers) and enable / disable the RAID mode. On the right side we find the connection for the sound card (using the supplied cable), while on the left side there are connectors for headphones and microphone.
The Strix Sonic Studio software is full of features, unfortunately arranged in a rather confusing way. In a few clicks you can apply the desired equalization or activate and adjust the different effects made available by Asus, such as Bass Boost, Voice Clarity…
On the left side, we find a panel dedicated to the Playback Configuration with support up to 192kHz and 24 bit.
To test the ASUS Strix RAID PRO card I used the Fnatic DUEL Tma-2 gaming headset, the Sennheiser HD518 headphones and the Mackie CR4 studio monitors. The sound card is definitely designed to enhance the in-game surround experience but many people, including myself, will also use it to listen to music or watch movies from their PC.
Let’s start from what is definitely the highlight of this product, the sound in video games. Although I don’t have any surround headphones, I experienced a noticeable improvement in the audio definition. With my TMA-2 I could clearly hear the sound direction of footsteps or bullets in CSGO. In games like Tomb Raider the experience becomes even more immersive, with the soundtrack acquiring more body without overwhelming the environmental effects.
No doubt, even when playing movies we’ll appreciate the separation of sounds. Explosions, dialogues and environmental noises are clearly positioned and well-balanced (especially activating the Voice Clarity).
The true weakness of the Strix Pro, for what has been my experience, is music reproduction. I have listened to different tracks of various genres, both with the Sennheiser HD518 and with the Mackie CR4 speakers, never finding the right synergy. I could not bring the listening experience to an acceptable level, even with different EQ profiles. The soundstage was always rather limited with little detailed midtones. A real disappointment.
The list price of 140 USD is too high for a board with a fluctuating performance. If your focus is exclusively on gaming, then you can consider buying the Strix RAID PRO. If you use the PC to listen to your favorite music, I suggest you look elsewhere.