Guide to achieve best audio quality, performance and functionality for Xonar cards and other CMI8788 audio chipset cards.
- 07 Dec 2022: Article updated with the current recommendation to set playback sample rate for both the card and Windows to 48 kHz. Upon redoing the RightMark Audio tests, opposite to my initial tests, I noticed better results for 44.1 kHz files. Might need a deeper driver to make a definitive conclusion.
In sound card application settings (ASUS Audio Center, C-Media Panel, XonarSwitch):
- Set Sample Rate to 48 kHz, this is generally good for most media (games, movies, music) which is sampled at 44.1 kHz, while video DVDs and Blu-rays and some of the Hi-Res Audio music have a sample rate of 48 kHz. Increasing Sample Rate without having a source that’s sampled at a higher rate won’t improve sound quality, in fact, it might degrade it.
- Select Audio Channel/System input (present only in Win Vista, 7, 8, 10) and Analog Out/System Output settings based on the number of speakers that you have. For a 5.1 audio system select Audio Channel to 6 and Analog Out to 5.1. For a 2.1 audio system, select Audio Channel to 2 and Analog Out to 2. By default, selecting more channels than the number of speakers you have connected won’t enable you to hear more sounds or hear the footsteps and positioning of enemies better in games.
- If you wish to emulate 8 channels surround on 2 channel headphones, set the number of channels to 8, analog output to “Headphones”, enable “Dolby Headphones” and “7.1 virtual speaker shifter”.
- If you have 2 speakers and a standalone subwoofer that is connected directly to the audio card check this guide.
- Keep GX (or Xear 3D) disabled. GX is responsible with emulating EAX effects in some older games, but it’s know to cause crashes, audio loops in games and BSODs while it's enabled.
- If your Xonar card has a dedicated headphone amplifier, set the soundcards output impedance/gain (Ω = ohm) to a value close to the headphones input impedance (look for it in specifications, data sheet or manual). Do not set the impedance much higher as it may damage the headphones. Headphones AMP (impedance) options are only available when Analog Out is set to Headphone. In ASUS Audio Center click the Hammer icon to select a different output impedance. In XonarSwitch this is available under Headphones Gain. I'm not aware of an option to control the output impedance being available in C-Media Panel.
- Be careful which settings you enable. The effects will increase the DPC latency, which in turn could cause other problems like audio/video desynchronization or slow network/internet speed. They also change the sound not always in a good way, you might like it for your music but it might harm the audio positioning in games. You can read more on the impact of sound effects to DPC latency here.
- Windows Vista/7/8/10: Setting the Windows audio playback to 24 bit will slightly improve audio quality. Open Windows Sound (right-click on Windows Volume tray icon-> Sounds or if missing type in Windows search: "change system sounds"), select Playback tab, double click your default playback device (for example Speakers ASUS Xonar Audio Device) , go to Advanced tab and in the Default format entry select 24 bit 48000 Hz (studio quality) as shown in this picture. You can find detailed information on audio bit-depth here.
- Windows Vista/7/8/10: Set Line In and Microphone Default Format to "2 channel, 24 bit, 44100 Hz (studio quality)". Having the bit-depth set to 24 bit will slightly improve the recording quality. To do so open Windows Sound (right-click on Windows Volume tray icon-> Sounds or if missing type in Windows search: "change system sounds"), go to Recording tab, select Microphone or Line In (ASUS Xonar...) and click "Set Default" button in order to have access to it's advanced settings, then double click it, go to Advanced tab and in the "Default Format" entry select 2 channel, 24 bit, 44100 Hz (studio quality) as shown in this picture.
- Windows XP: Don’t increase the Windows Audio Volume to 100%, instead set it to 80-90% max in order to avoid dynamic volume issue. Issue regarding setting volume to 100% is detailed here.
In audio/video applications:
- Enable the audio output/playback to 32bit or 24bit instead of 16bit, as this will slightly improve audio quality. This setting is application specific so you will have to search for it in application preferences/options. For example, in Winamp the setting is located in Preferences->Playback->Allow 24bit. If you have Windows Vista/7/8/10 then you have to enable 24 bit output in Windows as well.
- If you use ASIO as playback output:
- recommended settings would be Bit-Depth set to 24-bit and Latency set to 10 ms.
- if you experience cracking or popping noises, you need to run the player as administrator (right click and select “Run as administrator") or disable Windows UAC.
- Windows Vista/7/8/10 only: Set each application volume at 80-90% in order to avoid dynamic volume issue. Issue regarding setting volume to 100% is detailed here.
In games options:
- Set Sound Quality to Medium or High depending on the importance of sound quality in that particular game. This setting affects CPU usage so if you have a slow CPU you should select Medium and if you have a fast CPU you can go with High. Setting this to High with a slow CPU might cause to much strain on your CPU and this in turn will affect the FPS of that particular game.
- Set the number of speakers you currently have connected is properly detected.
- If you've enabled Dolby Headphones 7.1 speaker emulation in soundcard's application settings, if the in-game options allow it, you have to set the number of speakers to 7.1. The game needs to generate 7.1 sounds which will be processed and converted by the Xonar driver for 2 channels output.
- Auxiliary audio applications list – applications for enhancing the audio experience
- ASUS Xonar DG, Xonar DGX, Xonar DG SI, Xonar DS, Xonar DSX, Xonar D1, Xonar D2, Xonar DX, Xonar D2X, Xonar HDAV, Xonar HDAV Slim, Xonar Essence ST, Xonar Essence STX, Xonar Essence STX II, Xonar Xense.
- Other C-media CMI8786 and CMI8788 audio chipset cards:
- Auzentech: HDA X-Purity 7.1, X-Meridian 1G, X-Meridian 2G.
- HTOmega: Claro, Claro Plus, Claro II, Claro Halo, eClaro.
- Razer Barracuda AC-1.
- TempoTec HIFIER Serenade