ASUS has been busy at work building up their Strix line of gaming products. Be it components or peripherals, the Strix line is proving to be a serious contender in the gaming hardware market. Recently, ASUS has been kind enough to drop off a sound card in the Strix series, the Strix RAID DLX 7.1 PCI-E Sound Card. After putting it through its paces for about a week, I can safely say that the Strix RAID DLX is rather impressive.

Design

There are two components to the Strix RAID DLX: the sound card itself, and the control box for it. At first glance, the sound card itself looks pretty neat. The outer enclosure of the sound card, which is an EMI shield to block interference inside the chassis, is designed to look like one quarter of an owl's face. Indeed, the box for the Strix RAID DLX features an owl's eye. The sound card does feature an orange LED at the "owl's eye" part of the card, but as you'll be slotting this thing into a PCI Express slot, it'll probably be obstructed. For the most part, the design of the card is nice, but it isn't anything particularly eye catching.

As for the control box, some of you may be familiar with the design if you've seen ASUS's Strix headphone as it is exactly the same. The control box sports an interesting hexagon-shaped design, making it stand out among the more common box-shaped controllers on your desk.

Hardware

ASUS isn't fooling around when it comes to the performance of the Strix RAID DLX as the sound card sports some really interesting components on it. For starters, the main chip that powers the Strix RAID DLX is the CM6632AX audio processor, a USB2.0 audio processor that has full 192kHz/24 bit support. Supplementing this chip is the CS5361 A/D Converter, which has a dynamic range of 114dBa.

Besides the CM6632AX processor, the Strix RAID DLX also features a TI TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier chip. This particular chip is able to drive a very wide range of headphones, ranging from 16 ohms and up to 600 ohms. This gives the Strix RAID DLX a degree of flexibility, allowing it to work with a large number of headphones of all classes, from standard headphones, to gaming headphones, and even audiophile-grade headphones. Finally, the Strix RAID DLC also features an ESS SABRE9006A DAC, a chip that is capable of delivering up to 116dBa of dynamic range and resolution.

Software

The Strix RAID DLX does come with its own software: the Strix Sonic Studio. The Strix Sonic Studio is pretty extensive in terms of audio options. It has the standard features such as an equalizer, bass boost, voice clarity and compressor sliders. It also gives you virtual surround options like reverb and advanced plug ins. You can also set your playback configuration on the software itself, allowing you to manually configure your audio output. The software also features a full channel mixer for those who want it.

As you may have noticed, the control box for the sound card has a button to toggle RAID mode. RAID mode is a feature whereby you could modify four different settings without needing to Alt+Tab out of the game in order to do so. These settings are Bass Boost, Microphone volume, Surround sound positioning, and one other setting that I can't seem to remember right now.

Performance

To test out the Strix RAID DLX, I've opted to go with my Audio-Technica PRO5MK2 for music , as well as ASUS's own Strix Pro headphones for gaming. 

Let's start with the gaming part. After running it through a variety of games, ranging from Battlefield 4 to Starcraft, I can safely say that the Strix Pro headphones pair well with the sound card. With regards to the 7.1 surround sound part of the test, the Strix Pro is able to perform well for the most part, as audio positioning and the sound stage is quite impressive. That said, the sound does lack some depth at times and the virtual surround sound option can be rather hit or miss as well. I'll admit that I couldn't really test out the 7.1 capabilities of the sound card as I lack the proper hardware (read: 7.1 speaker system) to do so, but I think it is safe to say that it would perform well.

Music reproduction is mostly a non-factor for the Strix RAID DLX sound card too. Thanks to the onboard sound processors as well as the DAC and headphone amplifier, the sound card is able to drive my PRO5MK2 without a problem. Sound output from the Strix RAID DLX is great as well as I was able to identify the lows, mids and highs without any issues.