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Lifewire / Emily Ramirez
Crystal clear, powerful audio
Quality components from Audio Note, WIMA, and Nichicon
Good value for its $250 MSRP
Pricey for everyday gamers and film-watchers
No native 7.1 surround sound support
If you care about audio, it’s hard to beat the EVGA Nu audio card’s performance for under $300. It’s a beautiful-sounding card with thoughtful engineering and intuitive software features.
In 2019, many audio enthusiasts claim that sound cards are obsolete, inferior to external amplifiers and DACs of the same price—the EVGA Nu Audio Card proves them wrong. This is not just a card for gamers, it’s a card for audiophiles. EVGA partnered with Audio Note, a well-regarded, high-end audio company, to design a card that could hold its own against systems four times its price. While the Nu costs only $250, no corners were cut in its manufacturing. It provides crystal clear, powerful audio and a fully-featured suite of equalizer software that is sure to please even the most demanding listeners.
The EVGA Nu Audio Card’s internals are jaw-dropping. To make the Nu, EVGA partnered with Audio Note to engineer a product with sterling components. Naturally, many components are from Audio Note themselves, but EVGA has also included capacitors from WIMA and Nichicon, well-respected names in the audio electronics world. Should the ADI OP275 op-amp (see: What is an op-amp?) not satisfy your needs, you can swap it out. The design features top of its class noise reduction (SNR of 123 dB), and its headphone output supports headphones containing between 16 and 600ohms of impedance. If you don’t want to deal with plugging your headphones into the back of the case, there’s a front panel connection on the card’s side, which is directly tied to the main headphone output, meaning no loss in quality. The only inconvenience is that to provide this promised performance, the Nu requires a SATA cable from the computer’s power supply. However, the power does not go to poor use— all that extra juice is piped to an onboard, ultra low noise linear power supply (this keeps audio clean and undistorted by your PC components’ electric signals). Nu even has a sizeable heat sink to keep this high performance supply from overheating.
The EVGA Nu Audio Card is not just a card for gamers. It’s a card for audiophiles.
On the exterior, the EVGA Nu has a sleek gunmetal grey case with black sides. It looks classy and understated, while the RGB-illuminated EVGA logo provides a welcome pop of color. The card support up to a 5.1 setup, with a 3.5mm line-output, a microphone input, a 6.3 mm headphone input, a 3.5mm line-input, and an optical S/PDIF output. Each of these promises minimal noise, below 120dB SNR. It’s a little disappointing that it doesn’t offer 7.1 channel support, but the ports present are of extremely high quality to make up for it.
Installing the card is a fairly straightforward process. Pop the EVGA Nu into a vacant PCIe slot, plug it into the PSU via a SATA cable, and plug in the header if you’d like to support your computer’s front headphone jack. Once installed, download the drivers from EVGA’s website, and you’re done. Now make sure your computer’s default audio output is the Nu audio card through the Windows sound menu.
The EVGA Nu Audio Card may have RGB lighting, but its sound is where it truly shines. Using the Sennheiser HD-800 and the OPPO PM-3, we found that the EVGA’s audio was clear, crisp, and rich. In fact, it performed no worse than the OPPO HA-1 amplifier, a $1,300 system. The only note to make is that the EVGA does not have a neutral sound signature; it seems to have a bit of a house music curve (See: what are sound signatures?), with recessed mids and bass. This signature makes listening to mids-heavy genres, such as metal and orchestral, a little dull, but it really brings electronic music to life. If you prefer a different sound mix, the mix of frequencies can be modified via the Nu software’s EQ settings to suit your preferences. It will not noticeably distort your audio.
Using the Sennheiser HD-800’s and the OPPO PM-3’s, we found that the EVGA’s audio was clear, crisp, and rich.
The Nu card is a powerful beast, so be mindful of the volume: we had to keep it at around ten percent for a comfortable listening volume. More importantly, its sound stage is remarkable. Gamers will be incredibly pleased using the Nu, as it will make it much easier to locate footsteps, gunshots, and other elements. As a note for those looking for “gamer-oriented” audio solutions: you will want an audio setup that provides good, accurate audio, and that has the ability to modify the audio to emphasize the treble range. For the Nu, if the default signature does not offer enough treble for you, you can always adjust it in the EQ software.
The EVGA Nu’s software is quite limited in the features it offers, but it has all the necessary enhancements (bass boost, treble modifier, and voice clarity EQ presets are all available). As a result, using the software is simple and intuitive. It gives the user control over headphone volume, speaker volume, left and right panning, a surround simulator, reverb, volume stabilizer, noise reduction, and frequency adjustments. For those that love tinkering with equalizer levels until they get the perfect sound, the software lets you create and store six custom presets.
At a retail price of $250, the EVGA Nu audio card is a steal for what’s on offer. A lot of audio setups twice its price cannot compare in quality. If you have headphones over $300 or a speaker setup over $500, the Nu audio card is a worthy investment, though it may be a bit steep for casual users.
The EVGA Nu is easily one of the best sound cards we’ve tested, and while that $250 price point might be off-putting for occasional PC users, it represents an excellent when you consider its performance against the competition. The Nu performs as well as (or in some cases better) than many sound solutions several times more expensive.
The Sound Blaster ZxR, which also retails for about $250, is not a match for the EVGA Nu audio card as far as audio quality is concerned. The only reason to get the ZxR is if you are really attached to its robust EQ software or you cannot stand the aesthetics of the Nu.
In a slightly more apples to oranges comparison, the Modi and the Magni are a very popular DAC/amp combination that retail for $99 each. The Schiit stack and the Nu will both produce spectacular audio. If you want to keep upgradability in mind, choose the Schiit stack, as it’s fairly easy to swap one component out for another. If you want to reduce desk clutter, choose the Nu—if you’re comfortable messing with PCBs, you can even upgrade the op-amp. You won’t regret either choice.
Then there’s the xDuoo XD-05, a portable amp/DAC that offers clean, crisp, balanced audio for about $200. The Nu audio card and the XD-05 perform equally well, offering a pure, powerful experience that audio enthusiasts will love. The XD-05 is an excellent choice for those that want to listen to great audio on the go, while the Nu may be a better choice for those who want to EQ their audio or install the card and never think about it again.
A great card at an excellent price.
If you are looking to obtain seriously good audio, whether for gaming or for music, it’s hard to find a better value than the EVGA Nu Audio Card. With components that produce sound on par with $1000+ audio setups at a very attractive $249 MSRP price tag, we strongly recommend this audio card.