Tuesday, January 8th 2019

EVGA Unveils the NU-Audio Audiophile-grade Sound Card at CES 2019

What's this? A new high-end internal sound-card launch? From EVGA? We must be dreaming! The NU-Audio internal sound card is the most unexpected product from our visit to EVGA's suite on Monday. Developed in partnership with British audiophile hardware maker Audio Note and sold under the EVGA badge, the NU-Audio is a full-height internal sound card with PCI-Express 2.0 x1 bus interface. At its heart is an XMOS xCORE 200 PCIe audio processor with an Azalia-like pipeline. The main DAC is an Asahi Kasei AK4493, fronted by an Analog Devices OP275 OPAMP for the main headphones channel, and AD8056 for the line-out channel.

The card has some serious input chops as output, with the main line-in powered by an Asahi Kasei AK5572, and a Cirrus Logic CS53456 for the microphone-in channel. As an analog sound card, you only get 2 channels. You'll need optical TOSLINK for 5.1 channels. A combination of WIMA and Audio Note electrolytic capacitors are used across the card. The electrical area is ground-layer isolated, draws power from a SATA power input, and uses a Texas Instruments TPS7A47 voltage regulator. All connections between the electrical and audio areas are filtered, and copper EMI shielding covers vital audio components, in addition to the outer shroud. The PCB itself is chunky (possibly 4-layer with 2 oz copper layers).
Moving on to specs that matter, the analog stereo out SNR is rated at 123 dBA, and the line-in at 121 dBA. The audio processor can handle 32-bit / 384 kHz stereo audio formats through the analog channel, and 24-bit / 192 kHz through digital TOSLINK. The card supports high-impedance headphones. The software fully supports the latest versions of Windows 10 and Windows 7. The NU-Audio will command a stellar price tag owing to its Avant Grade components.
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16 Comments on EVGA Unveils the NU-Audio Audiophile-grade Sound Card at CES 2019

#1
ZoneDymo
Most unexpected? I Mean I guess we thought the project died like 2 years ago but we knew this atleast at some point WAS a thing so is it really the most unexpected?
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#2
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
Looks very Xonar STX'y
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#3
simlariver
The side-middle mounted front pannel audio connector is an interesting choice... I hope driver support will follow, unlike the c-media based Xonar line. Also I think I see a plx converter on that board so that x-core chip might just be a rebrand of a pci chip. The fact that there is only a 5.1 output is a sign of that.
I'm VERY curious to see how that turn out.

EDIT: Seems like it's not a pci-e to pci converter, it's most likelly a pci-e to usb2 converter, the xCore 200 only interface trough usb2.0
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#4
robot zombie
I kind of want it? AK 4493? Color me impressed. From what I know, thats actually a pretty decent DAC chip. Ive got an external DAC with a predecessor, the 4490 and it really has a pretty nice, smooth sound to it.
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#5
hat
Enthusiast
I feel the lack of 7.1 or even 5.1 channel analog audio is kind of an Achilles' Heel...

I like the SATA power connector, though. I'd prefer it have no power connector at all, but most cards are either PCI-E x1 or x16, with x4 and x8 cards (and slots) being rather rare... but at least it's not molex or floppy.
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#6
TheLostSwede
simlariver, post: 3972413, member: 41021"
The side-middle mounted front pannel audio connector is an interesting choice... I hope driver support will follow, unlike the c-media based Xonar line. Also I think I see a plx converter on that board so that x-core chip might just be a rebrand of a pci chip. The fact that there is only a 5.1 output is a sign of that.
I'm VERY curious to see how that turn out.

EDIT: Seems like it's not a pci-e to pci converter, it's most likelly a pci-e to usb2 converter, the xCore 200 only interface trough usb2.0
If it's USB to PCIe, it's most likely an Asmedia chip, as it only cost a dollar or two, compared to other solutions, which tend to be a lot more expensive.
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#7
bogami
The matter will need to be heard, but 113 Db THD + N made me concerned. Creative DAC 132- AN HF, which was used on the EVGA X299 DARK motherboard, proved to be very good, and this could only be upgraded, but as I said, the subject needs to be heard. The option of changing the preamplifier is a good feature .
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#8
danbert2000
Unless you absolutely need analog in or out, a modern GPU sending audio over HDMI is the best option. And if you're going to use the optical audio out, then all optical audio outs will have the same performance, unless the one on your motherboard can't encode system and game audio to 5.1 (DTS Interactive, Dolby Live). I can't imagine EVGA is going to be selling many of these at all.
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#9
KainXS
If its better than my essence I would get one when I upgrade later this year.
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#10
TheGuruStud
KainXS, post: 3972577, member: 42957"
If its better than my essence I would get one when I upgrade later this year.
I highly doubt it.
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#11
Totally
FreedomEclipse, post: 3972393, member: 38411"
Looks very Xonar STX'y
So much this, i wanted to dig out my stx ii and compare the pcbs but too lazy.
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#12
noel_fs
KainXS, post: 3972577, member: 42957"
If its better than my essence I would get one when I upgrade later this year.
From what i can tell from the components it is.
But for the price it will be sold there is many better options of combos dac+amp
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#13
Blueberries
hat, post: 3972423, member: 32804"
I feel the lack of 7.1 or even 5.1 channel analog audio is kind of an Achilles' Heel...

I like the SATA power connector, though. I'd prefer it have no power connector at all, but most cards are either PCI-E x1 or x16, with x4 and x8 cards (and slots) being rather rare... but at least it's not molex or floppy.
This. If you're going to dish out the extra cash for a sound card you should at least get 5.1 out of it.

Even if all you use are headphones you at least have options going down the road.
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#14
hat
Enthusiast
Blueberries, post: 3973429, member: 167159"
This. If you're going to dish out the extra cash for a sound card you should at least get 5.1 out of it.

Even if all you use are headphones you at least have options going down the road.
Well it does have optical which supports up to 5.1... but so does my onboard audio, and the sound card makes no difference on that unless you didn't already have optical in the first place.
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#16
Dumbassrevealer
It uses the USB bridge to use established, convenient and reliable USB audio environment, rather than proprietary PCIe audio chips and drivers which have been a source of constant headaches. It works with Windows native DS and WASAPI USB audio (native USB audio driver), as well as the EVGA/Thesycon ASIO driver, and JPlay kernel streaming.

The card also uses USB audio Asynchronous/Isochronous operation with onboard clock oscillators for low jitter; async is an established system within USB audio.

Check out who is using XMOS USB audio solution, compared to Cmedia etc. The XMOS chip puts you in the company of Pros. I guess it depends what you want, something which is actually good, or something that relies on DSP.

bogami, post: 3972486, member: 102090"
The matter will need to be heard, but 113 Db THD + N made me concerned. Creative DAC 132- AN HF, which was used on the EVGA X299 DARK motherboard, proved to be very good, and this could only be upgraded, but as I said, the subject needs to be heard. The option of changing the preamplifier is a good feature .
Bur Brown quote 0.0004% typical THD for the PCM1794, which is -107dB so the AKM is representative of its class - also, this is a 0dB specification and its only dance, pop and metal which is recorded at that kind level. Anything worth worrying about will be recorded at -10dB or below, where the THD will drop away.

Also, the AKM is capable of higher sample rates, native DSD and has a better selection of digital filter options.

ESS chips have issues inside, such as some kind of internal range switching which shows up as artefacts on an amplitude vs THD+N plot - in other words noise modulation, which will be audible.

As you rightly say, though, this is about something to listen to, not compare specs on - if you start making all your choices based on figures alone, you have sold you soul to the devil.
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