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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  • SirMaster - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    Motherboards and GPUs have digital audio outputs onboard (HDMI).

    There is no difference in quality between an onboard S/PDIF or HDMI port and one on an audio card. Both their digital outputs are bit-perfect and they send the audio stream to my (far more expensive than an audio card) AVR with a nice quality DAC and nice quality amps in it.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    The main difference is the multi-channel formats they can support. For whatever reason, the standardized formats supported by Toslink are quite limited. I think it's probably out of copy protection fears that once HDCP came onto the scene, all advancement in home theater moved to HDMI.

    However, for stereo, toslink is fine. You can easily get 192 kHz 24-bit stereo, AFAIK.
    Reply
  • Inteli - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by "hardware based features"... The only thing I can think of would be a 3D audio implementation, and those post-processing features are sort of hit-or-miss in my experience.

    A sound card is by no means necessary for using an AV receiver, either. You can do it with onboard audio (like my desktop is) via optical, which has been a thing on motherboards for years at this point, or with a video card over HDMI (which is actually the better solution). In fact, depending on the interface you use to connect your sound card to your 5.1 surround sound system, a video card might work better.

    It also sounds like you're used to "USB Audio" meaning "headset" instead of as an input for an actual DAC, which is fairly common nowadays. Every single DAC Schiit Audio makes (which range from $100 to $2400) features a USB audio input.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    AFAIK, multi-channel optical is limited to 48 kHz @ 5.1.

    HDMI can support more channels at higher bit-rates and sample-rates. Also, more/newer codecs. The main downside is thicker, shorter cables.
    Reply
  • Inteli - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    Optical (or coaxial, both use S/PDIF) can't support uncompressed surround sound. For a digital surround-sound interconnect, HDMI is absolutely superior to optical. *Technically* analog surround could match HDMI, but that's hardly supported anymore anyways.

    I also don't use surround sound with an optical interconnect. The AV receiver I use over optical is acting as a *very* large headphone/stereo amplifier.
    Reply
  • npz - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    > I'm not quite sure what you mean by "hardware based features"... The only thing I can think of would be a 3D audio implementation, and those post-processing features are sort of hit-or-miss in my experience.

    Yes, for hardware mixing, routing, sampling conversion. Otherwise all of that is done in software.

    In the olden days before CPUs got really powerful enough, hardware function included wavetable synthesizers for MIDI as well as onboard DSP effects. I had some EMU cards and old Creative Labs with EMU chips for this.
    Reply
  • Qasar - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    Mode_13h
    i have been able to get 6.1 out of my optical output on my soundcards when playing a DVD/Blueray via Cyberlink Power dvd.. i might have been able to get 7.1 ( as the movie i was playing was 7.1 ) but my receiver is only capable of 6.1....

    HDMI may work.. but unless there is a way to output the sound from a sound card to the vidcard then out via HDMI.... then i would lose the DTS connect/ Dolby digital live i currently get from the Soundblaster Z card i have
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    Thanks for the info. I guess your AV receiver confirmed the number of channels in the signal?

    BTW, note that DTS and Dolby Digital are compressed. That's fine for watching content with such bitstreams that have been professionally mastered, but you wouldn't want something like a game audio to go through such encoders.

    If you want multi-channel uncompressed output, then I think you need to go with HDMI.
    Reply
  • Qasar - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    it does... little icons on the display LF C RF LS RS RS and SW :-) with power DVD and the right movie.. they all would be on.....

    i know they are compressed... but for me.. still sounds ok.. i remember when i picked up Starcraft 1, and played it on my Soundstorm enabled Asus A7N Deluxe i think it was.. the sounds the zerg makes some times.. would come out of the rears.. and i found my self looking behind me on occasion :-)
    yep.. but unless some one makes a way to encode to DTS or DD from any stereo source and send it through HDMI.. ill have to stick to Optical.....
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Thursday, January 24, 2019 - link

    > unless some one makes a way to encode to DTS or DD from any stereo source and send it through HDMI.. ill have to stick to Optical.....

    I don't understand this comment. HDMI supports uncompressed multi-channel surround. So, you don't need to encode, if you use it. Only optical requires you to compress audio to use proper surround sound (i.e. not matrixed formats like pro-logic).
    Reply

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