Yesterday, it was at 00:00 am at the morning and I just couldn’t close my eyes. I’ve planned to mod my Asus Xonar U1, but never thought I would do it yesterday, in the middle of the night 😉

Asus Xonar U1 is a “cheap” USB sound card, powered by C-Media Nitrogen D2 audio processor. The photo as below 🙂 Cute with red/blue blinking lighting.

I want to put a warning first. Actually, modding such card will not bring outrageous result. So consider this mod is only for fun, huh… If you have extra capacitors on your shelf, extra time, and extra skill to de-solder those small capacitors inside. Let’s begin!

Inside Asus Xonar U1. The capacitors were all Nippon Chemicon. If I could recall my memories correctly, they were KZG, KRB, and KMG. Not a really bad capacitors, well, but I never liked Nippon Chemicon, even the famous RWE.

I didn’t have to tell the process to de-solder all those capacitors, because I assumed all of you were proficient playing with your own soldering tool 😉 Ok, now see what did I have on my shelf? I picked few Black Gate and one Elna Cerafine.

For the four small capacitors, I suspected they were for main audio processor power supply and perhaps for coupling purpose. I didn’t have many option here. Although the original size was 2.2uF only, but the space was very small. So I picked my Black Gate PK (miniature series) for this place. I replaced 2.2uF with 10uF.

Now as main filter caps. The Nippon Chemicon KZG 1500uF original capacitors were replaced with Black Gate F Series 680uF. Look at the size! There was also a small 220uF capacitors. I was too lazy to trace it’s function, it should be related with power supply, since it’s only a single capacitor. I digged my shelf, and found an Elna Cerafine.

Too big to be true? The leads on the Black Gate was too big. So I needed to play some trick with smaller lead from other capacitor and connect it to the Black Gate’s leads.

I couldn’t put the Xonar back to its original chassis. So for emergency usage, I digged my shelf again, and found small cartoon. I made a small hole on the center and voila, here you go, my new Xonar1

Well, how about the sound?

The improvement was so significant. The staging was even wider with some extra dimension/reverb (even for me with my well-known-small-staging-Grado-headphone). The vocal, well, my Ingram Washington never sounded so good on original Xonar. The vocal was very sweet, delicate, and detail. The low extension has more punch, very tight, and well controlled. The high was also gain quite significant improvement from this mod. The detail was improved, smooth, and harmonically rich. But overall the musicality was a little bit to “stiff”. I suspected this because of the new capacitor (especially Black Gate) needed longer burn-in time. The notorious Black Gate might take up to 200 hours before it would sound at its perfect performance. Well, I will wait… I will… 😉

It might not on the level of my EMU1820M card, but simply this simple mod brought a new listening music sensation – in terms of cheap USB sound card. My onboard Realtek HD Audio was simply beaten in a very high margin.

Listening tracks used:

  • What A Difference A Day Makes – Ingram Washington
  • Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker – Skruk & Rim Banna
  • Black Magic Woman – Patricia Barber
  • Stimela – Hugh Masekela
  • Reasons To Leave  – Kate Purcell
  • I don’t want to miss a thing – Salena Jones
  • Will you Still Love Tomorrow – Chris and Friends
  • Jembatan Merah – Gesang
  • 難忘的初戀情人 – Chen Lily LPCD45