Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: EVGA

Dedicated 2-Channel Sound

In the audio realm something pretty special happens when you have the right mix of source material, digital-to-analog conversion, amplification, and transducers (headphones or loudspeakers). And I am just talking about stereo, as 2-channel audio has the potential to immerse as deeply, and even more so, than 3D positional audio can; but it does take more care in overall setup. Enter EVGA, a company famous for its video cards, power supplies, motherboards, etc., and no stranger to diversification in the enthusiast PC community. And while EVGA in recent years has expanded their offering to include cases, coolers, and even laptops, they have never attempted a dedicated sound solution - until now.

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Coming as a surprise as the featured product in their suite at CES 2019, EVGA’s introduction of the Nu Audio card was exciting for me as an audio enthusiast, and this is really an enthusiast-level card based on the pricing of $249 ($199 for EVGA ELITE members). The Nu Audio is an all-new, designed from the ground up sound card with a true hi-fi pedigree and a stated goal of high-quality stereo sound reproduction. Just hearing the words “two channel” in relation to the computer audio was music to my ears (literally), and to say I was intrigued would be an understatement. I will try to temper my enthusiasm and just report the facts here; and yes, I understand that this is expensive for this market and a product like this is not for everyone.

The Nu Audio was created in partnership with Audio Note, a UK-based hi-fi component maker with a solid reputation and a philosophy that emphasizes component selection and material quality. In breaking down the components selected for the Nu Audio card it is evident that a high level of care went into the product, and it is the first time that I am aware of a computer sound card having this much in common with dedicated audiophile components.

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Of course component choices are irrelevant if the Nu Audio doesn’t sound any better than what users already have, and proving the value of a quality 2-channel experience can be tricky as it generally requires the user to provide both source material and headphones (or amplifier/speakers) of sufficient quality to hear a difference.

Continue reading our review of the EVGA Nu Audio PCIe sound card!

No audio jack, eh? A Creative way to use your phones USB-C port

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2019 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: usb-c, SXFI Amp, Headphone Amp, Creative, Aurvana Trio, Aurvana SE, audio

There was a dearth of USB-C audio devices shown off at CES, with wireless connectivity and other ways of dealing with the removal of the audio jack from phones getting far more attention.  However, Creative were up to the challenge and showed off their new USB-C to 3.5mm SXFI Amp for headphones as well as the Aurvana SE over the ears headset and Aurvana Trio earbuds. 

The amp is quite impressive, with an Asahi Kasei Microdevices AK4377 32-bit DAC that can drive headphones with up to a 600Ω impedance, and provide 120dB SNR from 24 bit/96 kHz input and provide 2.0, 5.1 or  7.1 channel sound.  TechPowerUp took a listen to all three products and compiled a review for those who want high quality audio from their phone.

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"Creative finally brings to market its Super X-Fi technology built over 20 years of R&D. It aims to be a radical new change to the audio world by not only offering extremely convincing surround sound using stereo headphones, but generally enhancing the audio experience even for mono recordings provided you have a certain set of compatible devices."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: TechPowerUp

ASUS Announces ROG Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly Motherboard and Matrix GTX 980 Ti

Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards | November 9, 2015 - 10:49 AM |
Tagged: ROG, Republic of Gamers, Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly, Matrix GTX 980 Ti, Headphone Amp, E9018K2M, DAC, asus, 10GbE, 10 Gbps Ethernet

ASUS has announced two new products for their Republic of Gamers lineup today, and while we saw the Matrix GTX 980 Ti at IFA in September (and the Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly was also on display), there are further details for both products in today's press release.

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ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly motherboard with Matrix 980 Ti

The motherboard in question is the Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly, a Z170 board with an external headphone amp and 10Gb/s Ethernet add-in card included. This board could run into some money.

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The ROG 10G Express expansion card

While other Maximus VIII series motherboards have high-end audio support, the Extreme/Assembly further differentiates itself with an included 10Gb/s Ethernet card. ASUS has partnered with Tehuti Networks for the card, which in addition to 10Gbps also operates at conventional 100/1000 Ethernet speeds, as well as new 2.5/5Gbps over CAT5e.

“ROG 10G Express is the enterprise-speed Ethernet card, powered by Aquantia® and Tehuti Networks: these key partners are both members of the NBASE-T™ alliance, and are working closely to create the new 2.5Gbit/s and 5Gbit/s standards that will be compatible with the existing Category 5e (Cat 5e) cabling and ports. With PCI Express 2.0 x4 speed, it equips Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly gamers for next-generation LAN speeds of up to 10Gbit/s — or up to ten times (10X) faster than today’s fastest onboard consumer Ethernet.”

This will certainly add to the cost of the motherboard considering a 10GbE card (without the 2.5/5Gbps feature) currently sells for $239.99 on Amazon.

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The ROG SupremeFX Hi-Fi amplifier

If you’re an audio enthusiast (like me) you’ll be impressed by the attention to audio, which begins with the audiophile-grade ESS E9018K2M DAC chip found on other members of the Maximus VIII family, and capable of not only native PCM 32-bit/384kHz playback, but up to dual-rate DSD (DSD128). The external headphone amplifier features the Texas Instruments TPA6120A2, and has a very high 6V output to drive the most challenging headphone loads.

What about the Matrix GTX 980 Ti? Full specifications were announced for the card, with boost GPU clock speeds of up to 1317 MHz.

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  • Graphics Engine: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • Video memory: 6GB GDDR5
  • CUDA cores: 2816
  • GPU clock (boosted):
    • 1317MHz (OC mode)
    • 1291MHz (gaming mode)
  • GPU clock (base)
    • 1216MHz (OC mode)
    • 1190MHz (gaming mode)
  • Memory clock: 7200MHz
  • Memory interface: 384-bit
  • Display Output: 3x DisplayPort 1.2, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x Dual-link DVI
  • Dimensions: 11.62 x 5.44 x 2 inches

Availability and pricing information for these new ROG products was not released.

Source: ASUS ROG

Creative Introduces Sound Blaster E5 Portable USB DAC and Headphone Amp

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2014 - 11:44 AM |
Tagged: usb, Portable Audio, headphones, Headphone Amp, DAC, D/A Converter, Cirrus Logic

Creative has added a new member to their portable Sound Blaster "E" series lineup with the E5. 

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This new multi-function DAC and headphone amp features a reference-grade D/A converter chip from Cirrus Logic, the CS4398, which supports up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM audio (and technically DSD 2.8MHz/5.6MHz, though this does not seem to be implemented here). In addition to the realistic analog reproduction possible from a high quality chip like the CS4398, the Sound Blaster E5 provides amplification via a Texas Instruments TI6120A2, which Creative says gives the E5 a "best-in-class 600 ohm headphone amplifier".

Another aspect of the E5 that sets it apart from the previous E1 and E3 models is the inclusion of optical digital input/output, to go along with USB and dual 3.5mm headphone jacks. The two 3.5mm jacks can simultaniously drive two pairs of headphones, and on the back of the unit there are additional 3.5mm jacks for microphone input, line input/output, and these double as optical input/output via mini TOSLINK. (This might be geared for portable use, but would serve as a fine external sound solution for desktops as well!)

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The input stage of the E5 uses another Cirrus Logic chip, the CS5361, enabling high quality recording options from various sources at up to same 24-bit/192kHz. While supporting external microphones (as well as line/optical input) the E5 also has "built-in beamforming CrystalVoice microphones for audio recording and calls". And while the E5 is employing Creative's SBX sound processing chip, this DSP can be switched off with a button on the side of the device - a welcome option for serious music listening from high-resolution source material.

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The Sound Blaster E5 also supports digital input from iPhone and "select" Android phones (listed compatible devices include the Samsung Galaxy S4/S5, Galaxy Note 2/3, and Nexus 5/7). For portable use the E5 has a built-in rechargeable 3200mAh lithium polymer battery, which Creative says will provide up to 8 hours of playback per charge.

The Sound Blaster E5 will be available in October for $199 at Creative's online store (and likely various other retail outlets).

Source: Creative