With its highbrow hi-fi spec, Xonar Xense from Asus is part of a relatively new trend of sound cards that are looking to win back audio buffs who have been avoiding the pitfalls of PC sound processing by offloading everything to an external amp, or sticking to vinyl.

Armed with processors and other components more commonly found in stacking amps and CD players, it began with cards like Auzentech's Prelude and Asus's own Xonar DX2, and includes Creative's new X-Fi Titanium HD.

By their very nature, these sound cards are niche, and in danger of falling over into the dreaded audiophile category, where power conditioners and dowsing rods supposedly make a difference to the perceived sound.

Gamers, and anyone who never owned a pair of speakers larger than their car will, wisely, look to spend their money elsewhere.

Audiophilia isn't just about profligacy, though. The Xonar Xense does throw in a Sennheiser PC-350 headset and all the features you'd expect in a quality headphone amp, which makes the overall price just about bearable.

The Xense card itself has a basic spec similar to Asus' own high-end Xonar Essence STX (£150) or Creative's X-Fi Titanium HD (£160), and includes a pair of £100 headphones. That's an overall saving of roughly £70, and delivers something close to a studio experience.

What's not to like about that?