What sound card for gaming AND recording?

What if one wants to do audio recording *and* play games/movies/music on one's 5.1 speaker setup?

Some background: I record from MIDI and sometimes from microphones (vocals, acoustic guitar). For MIDI, I have a MIDI electric piano. For microphones, I own a preamp with digital outs, but its several years old and never was top-flight to begin with. Two PCs ago, I used an M-Audio 2496 to handle MIDI; I don't remember whether I connected the piano thru that interface as well. The trouble was, it didn't coexist well with a SoundBlaster or other gamer-oriented card. And it wasn't a capable gamers' card.

And now I've got an even more basic problem: I have only one PCI slot! I have a Striker Extreme motherboard, Q6600, EVGA 8800 Ultra, Logitech Z-5500 speakers, and a fan in my open SLI slot. (When will I learn not to get SLI mobos when I never get around to actually using SLI?)

Does any sound card do double duty? With my last PC, I bought a SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro to try to have it both ways. It's a good gaming card, but I only spent a little time recording with it, and I don't know whether it makes sense to use it as a recording card. Also, the danged four-pin power connector on that X-Fi seems slightly damaged, as I can't get a power cable to stay on it. So for now I'm using the Striker's onboard sound, SoundMax 8-channel ADI 1988B audio (NOT the old AC97), which supports DTS Connect and Dolby Digital. It sounds pretty great in movies and games; I'm not sure what I think of its music reproduction.

Any advice on what I should buy, if anything? Is the X-Fi sound for games any better than the Striker's onboard FX card? Is the X-Fi Elite Pro a respectable recorder for MIDI and some analog input (perhaps thru my digital preamp)? And does the X-Fi Elite Pro still come with that damned four-pin power connector?
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More about what sound card gaming recording
  1. For any sorta gaming you want the X-treme Gamer 7.1 Amazingly loud and clear sound.
  2. the x-fi should be good enough for some recording work. i am currently using mine with cubase studio 4 and it works fine with latencies of <10ms. mine is the extreme gamer, so i dotn really ahve enough ports for audio recording, although i should imagine it would be fine. audio mixing/mastering is very good, also with low latencies.
    beware though, if you're using vista (as i am) then the x-fi drivers are a little unstable (although its not a huge prob tbh)..
  3. I am using Vista 64, so thanks for the heads-up on that.

    So which X-Fi would be optimal? I've used the Elite Pro before, but the tiny little four-pin power connection broke when I took the card out, annoying me no end. Is the Elite Pro as good a gaming card as any other X-Fi model?

    Also, the breakout box on the Elite Pro is large and not easy to place in a crowded PC work area. I noticed that some X-Fi models have a front-panel connection. Is it for a five-inch bay or a 3.5-inch bay?
  4. itotallybelieveyou said:
    For any sorta gaming you want the X-treme Gamer 7.1 Amazingly loud and clear sound.

    Can you enlighten us what an amazingly loud SC sounds like? tschhh.....
  5. Yeah, I've been looking at the Auzentech Prelude with interest, but I gather its software doesn't yet fully support DTS or Dolby Digital? Also, I don't think it has MIDI I/O, though I think you can buy a separate I/O box for it that includes MIDI. Anyway, that card is certainly a possibility.

    The Elite Pro has a breakout box but no front panel thingie, unless I'm mistaken. The breakout box always struck me as long and awkward, and I especially dislike the power connection for it -- a flimsy little floppy connector on the card itself.

    To complicate things further, now I understand that Creative will soon be introducing PCIe versions of the X-Fi.
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