We rather like the Asus Xonar D2 soundcard, going so far as to give it a recommended award. So, you can imagine the interest aroused in the office by the announcement of an external, USB, counterpart. Obviously not having to scramble around inside a case is a great enhancement, while the specs don't appear to have taken too much of a hit either.
As with the D2, the Xonar U1 looks awesome, coming in a variety of shiny colours. On the technical side, it offers 5.1 channel sound through S/PDIF, which could be a great feature for a notebook, or even a PC with no free PCI slots. There's also EAX and DirectSound support and each unit comes bundled with a noise cancelling microphone, which will please Skype users or gamers alike.
Sadly no pricing or availability information can be found as yet, but we're waiting on an update from Asus so we'll let you know if we get any. Considering the fairly large gap in the market, we figure that Asus could really be onto a winner here if the price is right, especially as, unlike ExpressCard solutions, the U1 can be moved between a home PC and laptop with relative ease.