EVGA currently sells a range of products: motherboards, graphics cards, power supplies, cases, and laptops. EVGA has been expanding to other markets for a number of years now, and at CES 2016 we saw the beginnings of a USB audio device due to a collaboration with a professional company called Audio Note. We were impressed at the time, but since then we've not heard much about the project, and had kind of assumed it had been abandoned. But at CES 2019 EVGA introduced the results of the collaboration: its first audio card. This card uses a PCIe to USB controller, making it an internal USB audio product.

EVGA’s Nu Audio card was designed by Audio Note, a UK-based company that develops custom audio solutions. The PCIe 2.0 x1 card implements a PCIe to USB controller to the hardware, and is based on the XMOS xCORE-200 DSP accompanied by Asahi Kasei Microdevices’ (AKM) AK4493 DAC, the AKM AK5572 ADC, and the Cirrus Logic CS5346 ADC. The board uses a silver and gold-plated multilayer PCB with isolated dual ground planes for analogue and digital circuits. Being aimed at users who want a cleaner sound but also better sound support out of their audio outputs, the Nu Audio card uses audio-grade capacitors and resistors that carry Audio Note, Nichicon, WIMA, and Panasonic brands. Besides, it features switchable OP amps as well as a dedicated Maxim amp for headphone volume control.

The Nu Audio card is equipped with two RCA line outs for left and right speakers that can output 384 KHz at 32-bit audio, one output for headphones featuring impedance between 16 and 600 Ohms, an S/PDIF out, a line in supporting 384 KHz at 32-bit audio, and a mic in supporting 192 KHz at 24-bit audio. In addition to traditional analogue and digital outputs, the card supports USB audio class 2.0 enabled by the ASMedia ASM1042 PCIe-to-USB bridge. Meanwhile, to ensure that the board gets enough power, it has a SATA power connector coupled with a multi-stage VRM.

Since EVGA usually targets enthusiasts, its audio card is not only outfitted with a cooling system for heating components, but it is covered by a shroud featuring 10-mode RGB lighting as well as four Audio Reactive Lighting options that match the board’s lighting and audio. The bundled software allows for full EQ tuning, as well as a dynamic response implementation. With the right software, the audio card can support full audiophile formats, such as DSD, and switch between them as required.

EVGA is now currently selling the card, at a price of $249. This is the first in a line of cards, we were told - depending on the feedback of the hardware, the collaboration with Audio Note might extend into a gaming focused design or a more professional audio input/output design.

 

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Source: EVGA

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  • mode_13h - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    > I think the only meaningful PC audio thing that most people would care about these days though, would be for someone to develop a very high end DSP designed for VR audio, where it would outdo PC software object based audio

    Maybe something like this?

    https://gpuopen.com/gaming-product/true-audio-next...
    https://developer.nvidia.com/vrworks/vrworks-audio

    However, offloading noise cancellation to the GPU would almost certainly incur too much latency and jitter.
    Reply
  • willis936 - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    These things seem more useful as instruments than for actual audio. Reply
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    I'm the crazy one and use an Asus XG-C100C to move up to a 1024 audio channels in and out of my system.

    As for this card, it appears to be fine high end consumer product but just doesn't seem like a professional card to me. There I'd expect balanced analog IO with similar high quality DACs and perhaps an actual DSP to tackle some of the audio processing. Sure, CPU's are fast enough for production processing but DSP's are useful and beneficial for lowend setups still. Beyond that would be some support for some network audio protocol like Dante or AVB. ASIO drivers are a must for pro usage too.
    Reply
  • BinaryTB - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    I'll wait to see what the drivers are like, if the card can work and perform with all features with base-Windows drivers, great! If it requires drivers from EVGA, then pass. Manufacturers always tend to bloat them like crazy and then abandon them after a couple years.

    Plus for gaming, good luck trying to get every dev studio to QA this card to make sure it doesn't have issues with their game.

    I'm speaking from Asus Xonar experience, thankfully the third-party drivers saved that hardware (for now anyway).
    Reply
  • coit - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    I use Behringer UCA202. Buy 10 at a time on ebay for $30 each. They have excellent test results.
    I have more expensive USB DAC's that except for pro balanced inputs are a comparative waste of money.
    Reply
  • coit - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    Correction: balanced outputs Reply
  • rpg1966 - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    "The Nu Audio card is equipped with two RCA line outs for left and right speakers that can output 384 KHz at 32-bit audio,"

    Line-outs output analogue signals, not xxKHz/yy-bits /pedant
    Reply
  • Inteli - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    They're clearly talking about the DAC behind the line-level outputs, which is important information. Reply
  • Inteli - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    I'm trying to figure out why EVGA is deciding to get into sound cards right now. I do see a niche for sound cards (areas where space is at such a premium you can't even afford a tiny external DAC/Amp combo), but I don't anticipate the market growing at all.

    In the internal sound card market, you have to challenge Creative, and I don't see what this offers that Creative's current flagship doesn't for $100 less. The only things that stand out to me are the RCA jacks for the line-output and DSD support, both of which are questionable inclusions to me.

    To me, RCA line-level jacks implies that the analog output is going to be connected to some sort of amplifier. If so, why not use the optical out and an outboard DAC, too? As for DSD, it seems like the market for digital DSD files is actually than the market for SACD, which is tiny as it is.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    The entire audiophile marketplace is filled with products that make little marketing sense. You could imagine a couple guys tearing down some piece of mass market hardware and talking about how they could do much better for just a little more $.

    My guess is that the business case, if there is one, rests on bigger margins than the rest of their hardware. But maybe it's somebody's pet project and they don't really care if it at least breaks even.

    The other thing I'm seeing is bundle deals with the rest of their hardware. Maybe they're planning on using this as the bait to help move their other hardware.

    I'm with you on the outboard DAC. That's what I use. Maybe they will also offer an outboard variant of this.

    Finally, remember that DSD could virtually blow up overnight, if someone like Spotify decides to offer it.
    Reply

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