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If the discrete sound card is dead, somebody forgot to tell EVGA

EVGA NU Audio Pro 7.1
(Image credit: EVGA)

At the beginning of the year, EVGA surprised us by releasing a discrete audio solution, adding yet another product notch to its belt. Now as we get ready to enter 2020, EVGA is again launching a discrete audio card, the NU Audio Pro 7.1.

It's a little confusing because there are actually three solutions comprising the new Pro lineup—NU Audio Pro 7.1, NU Audio Pro, and NU Audio Surround. Each one has its own listing, but they're not actually three cards. EVGA is basically selling one main card, and an optional daughter card.

The NU Audio Pro is the actual sound card, and it offers 5.1-channel digital audio (2-channel analog). To get 7.1-channel audio, you need to plug in and connect the optional NU Audio Surround. The NU Audio Pro 7.1 listing is not a separate product, it just bundles the two together. Hence the three separate listings. EVGA's thinking is that users who are not ready for 7.1-channel audio can skip the daughter card, and upgrade later if they wish.

Other than being a bit confusing at first glance, the downside is you need to fork over a second PCI Express slot for the full package. The two cards then connect to each other by way of a mini DisplayPort cable.

As with the first generation NU Audio solution, EVGA again teamed up with Audio Note to build the new Pro lineup. EVGA is touting higher quality components this round, including Seiryu capacitors that are exclusive to the NU Audio Pro.

"Made using a slightly modified production process, these capacitors were designed from the ground up to improve the audio at every frequency," EVGA says.

The card also features AVX F95 audio tantalum capacitors. I'm not up to date on the happenings in exciting world of capacitors, but EVGA says the benefits of these are that they "lower distortion, create a darker background, yet still give a dense lush feeling to the audio."

Some specs at a glance:

  • Audio DSP—XMOS xCORE-200
  • Output—up to 7.1-channel analog, 5.1 channel digital
  • Dynamic range—123dB playback, 121 dB recording
  • Playback (stereo)—up to 384kHz, 32-bit
  • Playback (optical)—up to 192kHz, 24-bit
  • Headphone amp—yes (16-600ohm)
  • Recording format (line-in)—up to 384kHz, 32-bit
  • Recording format (mic-in)—up to 192kHz, 24-bit
  • I/O—stereo out (RCA L/R), headphone out (6.3mm), line-in (3.5mm), mic-in (3.5mm), optical out (TOSLINK passthrough)
  • Interface—PCIe x1 Gen2, mini DisplayPort
  • Power connector—1x SATA

(Image credit: EVGA)

RGB lighting is part of the package, because c'mon, even toasters can have RGB lights. As it applies here, there are three different lighting zones on the side of card, and they can react to audio playback. There's also a new cover and EMS-shielding backplate, the latter of which EVGA says is the most requested feature that didn't make to the first-gen card.

The NU Audio Pro 7.1 (main card + daughter card bundle) is available to preorder for $249.99, which represents a $50 discount over the list price (apparently EVGA is getting a jump start on the Black Friday deals, or doesn't want to be overshadowed by them). Both the NU Audio Pro and NU Audio Surrounded are listed as "coming soon," with no mention of price.

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).