I am one of those poor guys that is pretty much stuck with a 2.1 system due to lack of space and location for a surround system. I have quite good speakers and sub, with excellent sound with my old PC. I bought my new PC with help from this board, thanks to all who helped with the spec, I love it.
I purposely left out a soundcard to simplify my build, and give the onboard sound a try due to my lack of surround speakers. Well, the sound leaves much to be desired, and I can't even get the mic to work for Ventrillo and Teamspeak. The mic doesn't seem to work in Vista at all. Also, i wear headphones about 50% of the time I am on the PC.
So, I want to purchase a good sounding card, mostly for gaming, that will work well for my 2.1 system, and hopefully not have issues with Vista.
Any thoughts? I can spend around a hundred bucks, give or take, and should I reconsider a surround system? Is it worth it? I have a great surround system on my home theater, and I am not sure equal sound on my PC would be much better than my good 2.1 system.
Thanks in advance. I am really happy with the advice I got from this board in the past, and I look forward to similar advice once again.
BTW, here is the basics of my system,
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-P35C-DS3R
Video Card: EVGA GeForce 8800GTX 768MB 384-bit GDDR3
CPU: Q6700 Kentsfield 2.66GHz
RAM: 4 GIGS SDRAM DDR2 800
OS: Microsoft Windows Vista 64
Hey buddy, I'm running a very similar setup to you...8800gtx, e6700, xfx 680i, 4gb pc6400, Vista 64.
I currently run a set of 2.1 Logitech z2300's which are right up there with the best 2.1 pc speakers you can get with 40W RMS per speaker and 120W RMS sub. Anyway I'm using an creative X-Fi Xtremegamer card and although I initally had a couple of problem I now have it running perfect with the latest drivers and the sound is incredible. The best bit I find is changing between the gaming mode and entertainment mode, better frames and sound placement with gaming, but much richer sound when in entertianment mode, with the obvious sacrifice of it using more cpu resources.
I know quite a few people have had trouble with the X-Fi cards but I found that with a bit of patience anyone should be able to get them working fine, and once they are they are excellent.
Oh and btw I run a 2.1 setup over a 5.1 mainly because I don't like the clutter involved with a 5.1 setup and also the price for a good set of 5.1's eg the z5500's vs my z2300's. And also I play very few FPS games and as they are the ones that really benefit from suround sound I can't justify having it for my predominately RTS games.
If you can really tell the onboard audio is bad then you must be to some extent an audiophile so in that case definitely the X-fi extreme is the way to go, id reccomend the one with the 64mb of onboard ram over the normal one if you want really high quality sound enabled.
If your surround system is in the same roon as the computer, try running the computer through the receiver. I have to use a Ground Loop Isolator to reduce static. Don't remember what it cost but it was pretty cheap at Radio Shack
I'll second that bluegears b-inspirer recommendation. I just picked one up about a week ago from the egg and I couldn't be happier. Basically I was unwilling to put up with the crash related issues with windows vista x64, 4 GB's of RAM and an x-fi from creative (you just can't rely on creative to release timely driver updates). and the c-media Oxygen HD chip seemed like the only viable alternative. The sound coming out of my 2.1 creative i-trigue L3800 (at true 24 bit, 192khz) is simply mind blowing ... I didn't realize how undpowered my old audigy 2 zs had become.
Some might complain about this sound card not being ideal for games, but the fact that most games are VGA bound and not CPU bound means the difference in FPS is usually going to neglible, and even w/o EAX or OpenAL support, turning on Dolby's virtual speaker and setting input to 8 channel the surround sound in games is some of the best I've heard ... the 2.1 speakers really do seem to do a decent job of emulating surround sounds and positional audio.
This card (or one of the HT omega's with the same c-media chip) will really reveal the quality/defects in your mp3's; I've already had to re-rip several of my old albums from their 192 vbr to 320 to get a fuller range of sound.
I'm not bashing the x-fi chip, I'm sure it's great
It's kind of weird that you can't use mic with your onboard sound card. Most if not all boards from Gigabyte use realtek chip for on board sound and as far as I know their driver for Vista is way more reliable than Creative's. Have you installed the latest driver from http://www.realtek.com.tw/downloads/downloadsView.aspx?...
BTW, off topic question:
Did you have any problems installing vista 64 with 4gb ram?
Yes, I had to step down to 1 stick of my 2x2 GB GeIL esoteria chips, and this will happen if you try to install with 4x1 GB modules too. After running the installer, it was simple enough to pop the second chip back in before activating windows ... otherwise you might possibly trigger Vista's effing reactivation routine :S (though to be fair this usually only happens when you change two or more components at the same time.)