I'm currently in the process of building a new PC. The thing is, I cant use my old soundcard any more (for one, I hear crackling at full volume, for another: I need a coaxial/digital input for my new headphones (X-TATIC 5.1).
Basically, these are the 5 to consider... I think (any other suggestions?).
• Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic
• Sound Blaster X-Fi Extreme Gamer Fatal1ty Professional Series • Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum • Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty • Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro
The cards above are the only cards capable of coaxial/digital input.
The cards in bold are a leap up in price range as they come with an X-Fi I/O Drive Upgrade:
The Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic and the X-Fi Extreme Gamer Fatal1ty are not in bold as they comes on their own (there is another upgrade to give it coaxial/optical input – see below).
None of the cards above actually have build in coaxial/digital inputs but need an extension such as the one above (the x-fi extreme gamer normal version is not compatible with any of these).
There is a cheaper version of the upgrade kit above which is simply a coaxial/digital input/output extension: Sound Blaster Digital I/O Module.
Therefore, I would ideally like to get the Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Music or the X-Fi Extreme Gamer Fatal1ty along with the Sound Blaster Digital I/O Module (not sure what the differences are - any ideas?)
That is unless you guys can highly recommend one of the others over the X-Fi Xtreme Music. Basically, I would really like to know the differences between each card.
(n.b. The new PC will be for high quality gaming and music, therefore this choice is quite important for me)
You could check out the Auzentech range of sound cards that have coax in and out as standard such as the X-Meridian. I have that card and it's sound quality is superb better than the X-FI xtrememusic that i also have installed in my PC. However if you wait there is a new card coming soon from them that is based on the X-FI chipset but with better sound quality.
I can only talk about the X-Fi Elite pro that I use.
The I/O box is huge, but very very good. I use it for my recording studio. The recording quality is excellent, the playback quality is excellent and it is very very configurable. Rear of unit has optical in and optical out and spdif in and spdif out, so I think this covers your requirement (sorry, I use all analogue inputs, even for keyboards- and then digital recording - bit of me has to stay old school!!). I don't know if it effects the digital inputs, but if you link direct to sound card the SNR is 112dba, when you use the I/O box it goes to 116dba which is a very good quality indeed.
Also, the Pro I/O box does look pretty kewl on your desk and has enough knobs on it to impress most girls!! I feel that this is important as few computer things do impress girls.
The bad point about this is that when I bought it with the old "hope the missus doesnt notice this bloody expensvie soundcard I've just bought" plan, she walked into the room and said "Oh, whats that, looks expensvie". Coz its too impressive!!.
Don't know if this has helped you in any way at all, but I can definataly reccomend the Pro Elite.
Could you give us a bit more info on what you want to do? What are you going to use the extra inputs/outputs for? Does this have something to do with the breakout box?
You can buy a 2-Way Toslink Digital Audio Splitter for $10 which will work with any card (and is cheaper than the Sound Blaster Digital I/O Module anyway)
All you really need to do is pass the stream thru the sound card to the xtatic breakout box - it's decodes your dolby. You could use the optical input for your playstation - use the splitter if you have more than one device to connect.
I doubt you would be able to input from multiple devices without somethin' freaky comin' outa yer sound . . .
Well, as you said, I want to connect the box that came with the headphones so that I can actually use their 5.1 abilities. Thats basically what the inputs are for (only for the PC, it doesn't work with the Wii... ).
Thanks for all your help guys, its been really useful!