I recently purchased a Soundblaster X-Fi Xtreme Music card (shuddering at the name as I did so). Upon installing it, I found that there is apparently no way to connect it to the front audio i/o on my chassis, nor to switch between headphones and speakers without disconnecting and reconnecting them at the rear of the case.
Is this accurate? Or is there some way of working around the card's deficiencies? I'm rather stunned that a $120 sound card lacks these connectors.
I've run into the same issues you describe. The only chassis I've seen contemporary enough to have the same headphone/mic connectors as on the X-Fi, Audigy, Live! is actually the Dell Metroplex chassis that my XPS 600 came wrapped in. Given the disdain for Dell that many have, that surprised me.
Most cases come with the AC'97 connectors which are often seperately/singly wired (no header) making them a dream to connect (facetiously stated) to the oh so high-end onboard sound of most mobos. It's not really the X-Fi that's lacking, it makes me wonder if the connection they offer is proprietary, perhaps Cookie-Cutter types like Dell know they're going to be using Creative-based cards and implement the necessary headers whereas general case manufacturers have to be more neutral and support the AC'97 standard.
I'm have my JukeBox in the venerable Cooler Master Centurian 5, and ran into the same thing you've described...dissapointing on an otherwise unstoppable chassis.
Is there any way around this? Should I try to exchange the X-Fi for another sound card? I was told recently that I ought to look into an Auzentech sound card, but they seem geared toward 5.1 and 7.1 speaker setups only. If I lived alone, that might be an option, but room-shaking sound is a bad thing when people in the house want to sleep.
If I did exchange it for an Auzentech, could I connect the front audio? Or am I screwed no matter what?
The AuzenTech Explosion DOES appear to have the right header for these chasis front panel connecotrs. It also has an optical out and gold output jacks. ...but how's it sound and how developed are the drivers? Hmmm.... If you really want to connec those chassis jacks to your card give it consideration. 7.1? The X-Fi has 7.1 as well. I'd think most contemporary cards are 7.1 capable.
Mostly I'd like to be able to switch between speakers and headphones without messing about with the cables in the back. Front audio connectors seem to be the best way to do that. I've read a few good reviews of the Auzentech cards, but really I have no idea how good they are. Someone somewhere will be willing to give a stellar review to any product.
As for the 7.1 sound, I know any decent sound card supports it, but it looked as if the Auzentech card was designed only for surround sound. But that's just from a cursory glance and a few reviews.
I'm not positive on this, but I'm fairly certain the AuzenTech cards will do 2-channel stereo. The NewEgg reviews I read seemed to point to one negative issue in common: Immature drivers. That's something to give serious consideration to.
That site gives step-by-step instructions that I think even I could follow (which is saying a lot, trust me ) for connecting an Audigy 2ZS or X-Fi card to front panel audio. The only problem is that there's insufficient power for the microphone. I haven't the slightest clue how to correct that.
I also think I won't try. I've found an adapter that will let me plug my headset into a front USB port. It isn't cheap, but I'd rather buy that than pay $100+ for that daft Creative Labs control panel thing.
I saw that site this morning too. Clear instructions, but I don't quite want front panel connections that bad. A USB solution actually seems pretty good, but you'll be bypassing the X-Fi altogether won't you? (Except if you use the USB Mic and then the X-Fi's speaker out?) 8O
So every set of USB headphones is its own sound card?
Eh, well, if it works, it works. I don't feel quite competent to go about making my own warranty-voiding custom connectors, and I balk at shelling out $100 or more so Creative can take up one of my drive bays just to give me headphone/mic connectors (along with lots of connectors and knobs and dials and doo-dads that are doubtless of inestimable value to those involved in professional music creation or who have vast and impressive stereo systems, but which would for me be nothing more than little holes that collect dust and have to be cleaned out periodically).