The last thing we expected to see when we walked into the EVGA suite at CES 2019 was a sound card. Sure, there were new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 cards too, which we have highlighted in our video content, but the inclusion of a new offering from a product line that most builders have abandoned was a bit of a surprise.
EVGA has teamed up with Audio Note, a high-end audio manufacturer out of the UK, to bring us the NU AUDIO. This PCIe Gen2 x1 sound card has a very impressive list of specifications, and the internal design that we were shown really emphasized the high-quality build of this product.
At the heart of the NU AUDIO is the XMOS xCORE-200 audio DSP, paired with a DAC capable of a DNR/SNR of 123dB. In order to make sure the sound from this card is as clear as possible, free of noise and distortion, Texas Instruments power regulators and specialized Audio Note capacitors have been used. And when we say specialized, we mean that Audio Note was directly involved with the design and manufacture of these components, tweaking them until their result was worthy of inclusion on the NU AUDIO.
Getting audio in and out of the NU AUDIO is possible via a stereo pair of RCA connections, a 1/4″ port, 5.1 CH speaker out, Line In, and Mic In. Connected to the back of the NU AUDIO is a standard SATA power connector, providing additional power to the card. Of course this power will be filtered and cleaned up on-board, and the use of a large copper shield assists with these duties. A passive heatsink makes its way to the outside of the card, just peeking through the shielding cover for heat dissipation.
And while not related in any way to audio reproduction, RGB lighting is present on the side of the card.
In my limited listening experience of the NU AUDIO paired up with some very nice audiophile headphones, I first experienced a one-to-one comparison between the EVGA card and a competitor’s card in a gaming setting. The playback of a cinematic cutscene with subtle sound effects and multiple whispering voices was paired up with a narrator’s voice that was very clear on both cards, but a bit more rich and detailed on the NU Audio. The next listening experience was of multiple high-fidelity audio files spanning many types of music. Voices were rich in sound, and the subtle nuances of instrument sounds were really brought out in the samples. The NU AUDIO will definitely be a card for users that want the absolute best audio experience, and that have or plan to invest in the rest of their audio reproduction setup.
EVGA and Audio Note have priced the NU AUDIO at $249, but if you are an EVGA Elite Member, you will be able to snag the card for just $199. The cost to add an upgraded sound card to a system build may be a foreign concept to many, as on-board audio has come a long way, but for those looking to have a premiere audio experience, the NU AUDIO may just be the way. The NU AUDIO is expected to be available on January 16.