Generally, the “free” onboard audio found on PC motherboards is good enough for most people, but the lower sound quality and lack of extra features lead more discerning types to buy sound cards. Well, Gigabyte seems to be targeting that audience with its G1.Sniper Z87. Billed also as a “gaming motherboard,” the G1.Sniper's onboard audio offers “high-performance hardware audio processing, with cutting-edge audio technologies including the SoundBlaster software suite.”
Nice acid-green-and-black colour scheme
Sound Blaster? Yes indeed, powering that software is a Creative Sound Core3D audio processor, the same one you'd otherwise buy on a card. In the G1.Sniper's case, the Core3D output is fed to a swappable op-amp chip (Gigabyte doesn't say which one is included), and there are “Gain Boost” switches to enable 2.5x and 6x amplification modes. All of this is isolated from the rest of the motherboard to prevent noise pollution, and expensive green Nichicon capacitors provide the filtering.
Onboard audio on steroids; that guy's pulling the op-amp
For those who will plug in an audio interface anyway, Gigabyte has you covered. On the back panel is a gold-plated USB port that “minimizes potential fluctuations and ensures the best audio experience possible” by providing “clean, noise-free power delivery” to your device. This sounds kind of dubious, but hey, we'll take it. The onboard audio's 3.5mm audio jacks and S/PDIF plugs are also gold plated.
This port isn't limited to USB audio stuff, mind you
Apart from the premium audio treatment, the G1.Sniper Z87 looks like most other gaming-targeted boards. You have your garish colour scheme, you have your overclocking support and onboard switches; you have your support for dual graphics card configurations, you have a Killer E2200 NIC, and, of course, there's support for the latest Haswell CPUs from Intel.
Rear panel: PS/2 for old keyboards/mice, three USB 2.0, four USB 3.0, coaxial and optical S/PDIF, HDMI, DisplayPort, and 3.5mm jack cluster
Ultimately, pricing is reported to be planned for around $170 and the boards will hit shops sometime this month. You'll be deciding whether the premium Sound Blaster audio really matters to you, as, for just a little bit more, you can get something like the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING. That board in particular, while having a weaker audio subsystem, can handle three videocards at once and more SATA storage drives, while doing pretty much everything else Gigabyte's entrant can do.