It is a custom sound card, completely shielded and separated from the rest of the components so it has very low THD and SNR. ASUS always has done a fantastic job at producing the best sound cards. They have made Creative Labs an irrelevant joke in the consumer space as a result.Closer look at that strange riser:
Digital out is hardly ever used anymore even by audiophile types like myself. HDMI passthrough has become the prodominant, go-to technology because it allows for lossless surround sound, something S/PDIF cannot do. The only useful thing I use onboard audio for now is headphone listening and ASUS has some of the cleanest, most powerful headphone output systems in the entire PC industry.I can't understand why they scimped on the Audio interface; why no digital out? Why no support for 7.1?
Well if there are dual m.2 pcie 3.0 4x....that's worth it... i would be even a little bit jealous of that, as none of of atx or micro atx boards have that..I don't know why, but I love how its simplified with no hdmi or display ports, even how the sound io is reduced and monotoned to black. $199 quite high no?