Xonar U3 – Big volume from a little stick

April 10th, 2011 in .PC Components .Products
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Xonar U3 – Big volume from a little stick

Xonar U3

Xonar U3 and Box - it's tiny!

For those that are always on the go, our notebooks are often our lifeline to the world, be it for staying connected with friends, or staying entertained by watching movies or listening to music. Which brings me to something that’s bugged me for years about notebooks. The audio quality of most notebooks is woefully inadequate and vastly underpowered, mainly because they’re an afterthought. In the early days of notebook computing, manufacturers originally had the mindset of “why would users need a fancy audio system for a notebook that they should be using for work?”, and it’s persisted to this day.

Xonar U3 USB soundcard

The Xonar U3 USB soundcard. Never loose the cap too!

Well, times have changed, and people are using notebooks for more than just work. In fact it’s the only machine this guy has when he’s country hopping, and the traveling’s not for work. Here to change the way we approach portable audio is the ASUS Xonar U3. The Xonar U3 is a great way to upgrade your notebook’s (or desktop should you wish) sound quality without having to shell out too much money. Shaped slightly larger than a USB flash drive in a piano black finish, the U3 is a portable USB sound card that offers fantastic audio despite its diminutive size.

The device was recognized immediately after plugging it into the USB port, and installation was quick and straightforward with the enclosed driver CD. After installation, the Xonar U3 Audio Center pops up, offering an equalizer and a plethora of pre-set modes to enhance my audio experience. So, far, so good. Putting it into action, the U3 offered a significant volume increase, even at the lowest settings. The bass was much more pronounced when I was jamming out to Rebecca Black’s Friday, while the treble was crisp listening to the autotune of the Bed Intruder song, and that was just with a pair of in-ear headphones. Once I busted out the Beats by Dre headphones, it just made the music that much more immersive.

While it’s not a substitute for a super high end sound card or receiver, the Xonar U3 is an excellent addition for road-warriors and travel junkies alike, since it barely takes up any space in the travel bag, yet offers significant improvement over the built-in audio found in most notebooks.

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