These days it is easy to get systems with integrated almost everything. 

Whilst this is great for a standard user but it is hardly a match in performance compared to a custom build one. 

Asus is set to launch the Xonar U1 External Audio Processor in six colours with a promise to "improve the laptop or PC’s underachieving audio", as stated in their press release.



The style of this little device reminds me of playing Space Invaders on the old Apple II or a metallic pine cone.  The external unit means ability to eliminate electromagnetic interference (EMI) and noisy circuits on a mainboard.

Under the hood is a variety of audio processing capabilities designed to please many crowds.  There is the:
  * Environmental Audio Extensions (EAX) and DirectSound hardware acceleration aimed gamers;
  * Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Digital Live 5.1 transcoding capabilities pitched for the home entertainers; and
  * Dolby Pro Logic IIx combined with a high quality Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) for the audiophiles.

The Array Mic Technology with advanced noise cancelling algorithm claims suppression of ambient noise up to 20 dB.

One detail that is on offer is the Headphone Amplifier, with claims of achieving the best listening quality with most stereo headphones. 


For those who are that way inclined, the specifications are:
  * THD+N< 0.005% @ 47mW x2 / 32ohms;
  * THD+N< 0.006% @ 88mW x2/ 16ohms;
  * 96dB SNR;
  * >1.1Vrms full-scale output voltage for >8 ohms load; and
  * Frequency Response (-3dB/48KHz): 20~20KHz for 32ohms.

No pricing or availability has been announced at this stage.  It will certainly be interesting to see if it can live up to all the claims.