3-6-19 Review, Sennheiser HD800, Burson V6 Vivid Op-amps, v0.1.2.3 driver, v0.28 firmware

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2019/03/06 22:54:35 (permalink)
I've waited to post my review as I wanted to do an in-depth side by side comparison of onboard audio, my Soundblaster AE-5, and the EVGA NU Audio.  I also tested against the DAC in my WooAudio WA7.  Here's my personal opinion.
  • What equipment did you use?
    • PC with Asus TUF-390M Motherboard, i9-9900k cpu, 64GB G.Skill ram, PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750W PSU, EVGA RTX 2080 TI, Dual Samsung NVME Pro M2 SSDs, latest Win10 Pro build as of 2019-03-06.  Sennheiser HD800 headphones.
  • How you did you test the card?
    • Small handful of games, I'm more of a music person.  I tested flac lossless audio files played using foobar2000, as well as a few DSD files. Music played included a combination of classical, rock, pop, single instruments (Piano, Violin), and some techno/trance.
    • I tested the stock op-amps and then I installed Burson V6 Vivid Dual op-amps and ran the same tests
  • What did you enjoy the most about the EVGA NU Audio Card?
    • The simplicity.  I tested with the stock op-amps and then with the Bursons.  The Bursons definitely added more volume and a more immersive sound stage, but the stock op-amps are impressive out of the box, I was happy with both, but leaned towards the Bursons for my style of music as they add a little extra clarity and volume to the music which I love.
  • What improvements would you like to see?
    • Driver stability / improvements.  It seems like the driver isn't intelligent enough to auto-adjust based on the sound source.  I had to continually move between 96000, 192000, and 384000 for testing.  I was disappointed that I couldn't use 384000 for many apps and had to step down to 192000 or 96000.  It'd be nice if the card recognized it couldn't play at that rate, and auto-adjusted so my games, apps, and general sound sources wouldn't "freeze" or "hang" until I set it to the right value.  Having an option of "play at the highest rate possible based on source" so you can set it and forget it would be great.
    • Because the driver isn't smart enough to play at the highest rate, supporting app or game profiles would be great so you could set it and have it remember based on the source app, even if I have to set it manually for each app/game, that's better than how it is now where it's flipping back and forth adjusting it.
    • 5.1 surround support, Dolby Digital/DTS support
    • If you're sticking with a digital output, I would have liked to have seen a Digital Coax output too.  Optical is fine for most people, but I have distributed audio in my house with multiple surround sound rooms and optical has its limits.  I can go further distances back to my receivers over Coax.  I have to use converters to achieve this using optical which just adds more pieces to the mix.
    • Better power source options.  I have an extremely minimal cable setup in my rig, essentially power and video card and that's it.  I don't have any SATA drives, the absolute minimum number of fans, so having to install another set of cables off my PSU to power this card was annoying.  It would have been nice to use a PCI-Express connector or something similar so I could piggy back off my current cords and keep my system clean.  Now I have this stupid cable dangling across my case to get to this card and there's no real easy way to hide the cable to keep the machine clean, but this is a knit pick.  I'm sure I'll come up with a custom cable solution for this soon enough.
  • What was your overall impressions?
    • The first card I received had an issue with the right speaker on the headphone jack, at first it sounded like interference and scratchyness, but then I tested the SPDIF and Line outs and it wasn't present, only on the headphone jack and only in one speaker at mid-high volumes.  I RMA'd the card and the new one was perfect, the issue was gone and everything worked perfectly.
    • The clarity and cleanliness of the sound is genuinely impressive.  I didn't think it would stand far apart from the AE-5, but running side by side it definitely had an edge on the AE-5.
    • The ability to drive a 300ohm headphone at decent volume is pretty awesome, but the AE-5 also had this capability.  The AE-5 definitely was louder and put out more power to the headphones than the NU Audio card, but both drove the headphones loud enough that I wouldn't want them on my head because it's too loud so at that point it doesn't matter too much.
    • EVGA Support has always been fantastic.  The fact that they engage with their community, take the feedback and work to rectify issues rapidly is stellar and one reason I stay so loyal to this brand for all of my video card needs.
Overall the EVGA NU Audio card definitely sounded better than all 3 of my other options.  It wasn't significantly better than the AE-5, only marginally, noticeable but not dramatic, until I installed the Bursons and then it became pretty clear there was no contest, the NU Audio card was at the top of the mountain and stood well apart from the others.  If I didn't own any of them and only could purchase one, I'd pick the NU Audio hands down.
I'll be curious to see how the AE-9 sounds since it too supports the ability to switch op-amps, but historically Creative has made some missteps in the driver department, and support means a lot to me even if I have to choose the #2 product simply because I just want my stuff to work, always.  When you can get that support and have the #1 product it's a no brainer and that stands out with this card.
Well done EVGA.  If you can make some driver improvements, especially around the sample rate and auto-selection of matching it to the source without my intervention this card would be damn near perfect.
I'm looking forward to additional updates with drivers.

3 Replies Related Threads

    FTW Member
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    Re: 3-6-19 Review, Sennheiser HD800, Burson V6 Vivid Op-amps, v0.1.2.3 driver, v0.28 firmw 2019/03/07 21:53:27 (permalink)
    Veratu very nice write up there 
    What are your speculations as to what an Burson V6 Classic would sound like, going off of what their little graph showed in comparison to the Vivid you have.
    I have an NU on order, should see it next week. Been toying with the idea of getting both an Vivid and Classic to try out

    New Member
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    Re: 3-6-19 Review, Sennheiser HD800, Burson V6 Vivid Op-amps, v0.1.2.3 driver, v0.28 firmw 2019/09/27 19:04:07 (permalink)
    did you run the v6 op amp with an emi shield or did you use a socket extender?
    iCX Member
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    Re: 3-6-19 Review, Sennheiser HD800, Burson V6 Vivid Op-amps, v0.1.2.3 driver, v0.28 firmw 2019/09/29 09:31:20 (permalink)
    you cant use the emi shield when using V6V,V6C,V5 since they are tall and only V5i can be used with EMI shield

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