Discrete sound cards may not be as essential to getting decent analog audio output as they once were, but Asus seems to think gamers will find a competitive advantage by adding one to their PCs' arsenals. The company is expanding its discrete audio lineup with a trio of Strix cards: the Strix Raid DLX, the Strix Raid Pro, and Strix Soar 7.1. Behold:
All three of these cards promise the usual 192kHz/24-bit sampling we'd expect from any high-end sound card these days. The guts of these birds-of-prey are pretty interesting, though: the Strix Raid DLX includes an ESS Sabre 9016 DAC with an impressive-sounding 124dB signal-to-noise ratio, while the Raid Pro and Soar models use Sabre 9006A converters with 114dB SNRs. A C-Media CM6632AX chip handles signal processing. Nichicon and Wima caps provide power delivery, and a 600Ω headphone amp should be able to drive most gamers' cans. The Strix cards can also produce up to 7.1-channel surround sound.
Since these are gaming-specific cards, the story doesn't end there. Asus includes a desktop controller with the Raid DLX and Raid Pro that's got a big honking volume knob. The "Raid Mode" button triggers custom audio profiles built and stored in the company's Sonic Studio software. (The Strix Soar does without this knob.) Sonic Studio offers a handful of "enhancement" options that are supposed to improve in-game audio, along with useful functions like a software noise gate to reduce background noise in voice chat. Sonic Studio can also show an in-game overlay called "Sonic Radar" that shows the position of sounds like gunshots and footsteps.
No word yet on when these Strix cards will be available for purchase, or for how much. We've contacted Asus for more info.