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#1 Aug 02 2011 at 7:00 PM Rating: Decent
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A couple days ago I was watching some random Youtube video and realized that I wasn't getting sound out of one of my speakers. I switched a few cables around to see if it was a problem with the speaker itself, and well long story short, I eventually tried plugging in an old sound card I had lying around and it turns out that the speakers were fine, the on board sound from the MB was the issue. The sound was actually pretty decent until it started dropping speakers for no apparent reason, which is why I was using it. The old sound card that I used to test the speakers runs all six speakers fine, but I can definitely hear a drop in sound quality, so I'm in the market for a new one.

Now that the story is out of the way, I'm not really up on what makes a good sound card these days. After browsing around Newegg, I see that 7.1 is the new standard configuration, my speakers are only 5.1, but I assume there are 5.1 settings on most cards, so that's not an issue. Aside from that I have no clue really. The two things I'm most interested in are clear sound and reliability. I saw some cards that cost twenty dollars and some that cost nearly two hundred dollars and they seemed to have similarly good reviews, so I'm not sure I can trust them on this one.

I have a set of Logitech G51 speakers that I won from one of the FFXI fan art contests a few years back (Just the fact that SE sent me a 150 set of computer speakers almost makes up for all of their colossal blunders, almost...). They are 155 watts and 5.1 surround. I rarely use headphones, so I'm not too terribly worried about that when it comes to picking a card. I'd really appreciate a few suggestions if anyone has any.
#2 Aug 02 2011 at 8:12 PM Rating: Excellent
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I personally have this one in my main gaming machine.

Any of the PCI express soundblaster X-fi cards should do the trick though. This is their newest one, however I feel it sn't really any improvement over the one I have, especially given the price

At the budget end is this one:

You should be able to find any of those cheaper.

Soundblaster occasionally has driver issues, and recently they haven't been updating as often as normal. That being said, they are about the best gaming card with effects out there at the moment, and once they are installed they are usually very reliable. M-audio makes some really nice ones for high end audio capture for music mixing, etc, but they are kind of overkill, and lack the gaming surround sound effects, which really help in FPS.

Depending on when your speakers were actually made, the cabling may have changed a bit. Older 7.1 speaker sets for example use a 3 wire attachment, newer ones use 4 wire.
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#3 Aug 03 2011 at 12:18 AM Rating: Good
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The Xi-fi Fatal1ty cards are really nice--it's hard to beat the sound quality in the creative lines. Used to have one, just one word of caution if you are shopping sites like newegg/amazon/ebay: DON'T GET A PCI CARD.

I goofed and got a PCI and not a PCI-E version of a card. It sounded great and all, and for most purposes it was perfectly fine. But for intense gaming, it would periodically drop speakers and I'd have to set it to 2-speakers and back again to recover them. Never did get a fix for it. It seemed to be an issue with the data rate or something that simply goes away when you go to PCI-E.

I wound up going with an Asus Xonar DX PCI-E (7.1 and all those goodies). It's bottom end wasn't as robust as the Fatal1ty was on my speakers, so I had to do a lot of fine tuning with the EQ and all, but otherwise it does a good job and is stable in games. Positional audio even works in FFXI, seems to be more noticable then with the PCI Fatal1ty I had. Took me a while to get used to hearing spells go off beside and behind me and all (campaign really spook me at first)...but it was pretty cool.

Edited, Aug 3rd 2011 2:19am by BDHERTZER
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