ASUS ROG STRIX X299-E Gaming Review

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  • Author: MAC
  • Date: September 27, 2017

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio

Since fewer and fewer consumers seem to be buying discrete sound cards, the quality of a motherboard’s onboard audio is now more important than ever. As such, we figured that it was worthwhile to take a closer look at just how good the analog signal quality is coming out of the onboard SupremeFX audio subsystem that is implemented on the STRIX X299-E. As mentioned earlier, this model features the modern Realtek ALC1220A codec, two Texas Instruments op-amps, Nichicon Fine Gold audio capacitors, and a PCB-level isolation line.

Since isolated results don’t really mean much, but we have also included some numbers from the plethora of motherboards that we have¬†previously reviewed. While the budget GIGABYTE Z170-HD3 motherboard is based on the Realtek ALC887, a lower-end 7.1 channel HD audio codec, all of the other models feature onboard audio solutions that are built around the higher-end Realtek ALC1150 or ALC1220 codecs, but feature different op-amps, headphone amplifiers, filtering capacitors, secondary components and layouts.

We are going to do this using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, since sound quality isn’t really something that can be adequately explained with only numbers. To do the quantitative portion, we have turned to RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA), which the standard application for this type of testing.

Since all modern motherboards support very high quality 24-bit, 192kHz audio playback we selected that as the sample mode option. Basically, what this test does is pipe the audio signal from the front-channel output to the line-in input via a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male mini-plug cable, and then RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) does the audio analysis. Obviously we disabled all software enhancements since they interfere with the pure technical performance that we are trying to benchmark.

The STRIX X299-E achieved some of the very best audio numbers that we have ever seen on a motherboard, falling just short of ASUS’ own STRIX Z270I LGA1151 Mini-ITX model. This is only the third Intel-based motherboard that we’ve tested that has achieved an overall rating of “Excellent”. As a result, and as you would expect, all the key categories like noise level, dynamic range, and stereo crosstalk feature excellent numbers.

As we have mentioned in the past, we aren’t experts when it comes to sound quality, but at this high level we suspect that just about anyone should be satisfied. We listened to a variety of music and spoken word content using a mix of Grado SR225i and Koss PortaPro headphones, Westone UM1 IEMs, and Logitech Z-5500 5.1 speakers, and the playback was clean and loud. Frankly, we have no criticisms at all.

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