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One Game In Town
I know that early adopters of the Xonar HDAV 1.3 struggled along while Asus worked on the drivers. Fortunately, it looks like progress with Windows 7 support is coming along much faster. Asus sent over beta drivers for the upcoming operating system that got the Xonar Control Center applet working perfectly.
The card isn’t 100% glitch-free yet in our lab. However, it remains the one and only solution for bitstreaming the latest Blu-ray audio formats to a receiver. In working with Asus to iron out the few remaining issues, it became clear that the company is committed to getting its hardware running smoothly.
So, Xonar HDAV or D2Audio on AMD’s Maui platform? Truly, that’s going to depend on the focus of your HTPC. If movies are but a component of your existing entertainment center, you’re running no more than six channels, and you’re looking to drive your receiver into obsolescence, the D2Audio amplifier is what I would consider ample. Should it ever see a certified protected audio path, I’ll consider it the ideal component for building a one-box solution.
But for now, I’d rather bitstream to the receiver using Asus’ card. In fact, I’ll be working on a follow-up to this story focusing on piecing together a mini-ITX movie-centric HTPC leveraging the optimal combination of hardware out there today—and it’ll likely include Asus’ HDAV 1.3 Slim with its low-profile I/O bracket.
Asus' Xonar HDAV Slim
There's a lot to like about the Xonar HDAV 1.3 (we're using the higher-end Deluxe version with analog 7.1-channel outputs, even). But all of the card's extras might be overkill (and overpriced) if you're just using HDMI pass-through. Asus sent us its Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim, which is best-suited for the folks who only need the HDMI connectors and would like a low-profile form factor for mini-ITX enclosures.
My original plan was to replace the HDAV 1.3 Deluxe with this card. However, it's currently only available with the aging PCI interface. And because the MSI board in our Maui machine only includes PCI Express connectivity, the two won't play nice. I'll be revisiting this card, which shaves a good $60 off the price of the standard Xonar HDAV 1.3, when it comes time for Part 4 of this series. More info on that in a couple of pages.