i am getting a new pc with this mobo and im interasted to know if the intergrated 7.1 is anygood, im using the logitech g51 surround sound speakers. Is it good for gaming and does it support the latest EAX standards? if not what is a good descret gaming sound card that isnt crazy expensive and i really only need 5.1
A good sound card can produce more 'voices' at once than onboard sound. If you run 3DMark03 there is a sound test that plays a sequence with no sound, then 10 voices, then 30 to show how it effects frame rate. My onboard could not do 30, my Xi-Fi does, and you can hear the difference.
The realtec AC97 sound chip supports up to 64 simaltanious voices. To put that in comparision, most games have a default config for 32 in their .cfg files (I had to manually up the number of voices to get sounds in Mass Effect to work right, for instance). The AC97 also supports up to 7.1 surround, and has very good quality for an onboard sound chip.
That being said, if you want a sound card, DO NOT GET A CREATIVE. Creative admits their sound cards have issues on NVIDIA based boards, 790i included. I tried an X-fi extremegamer, and games were unplyable due to the screeching sound that came out of it. I had to switch back to onboard sound while i changed to a diffrent brand.
I recommend either the Razer Barracuda AC-1 (PCI) (for gaming) or the ASUS Xonar DX (PCI) or D2X (PCI-e) (for movies/home theatre systems). Both blow X-Fi's out of the water, and support EAX 1 and 2, and have thier own functions for getting the same effects that EAX 5 produces (only though a handful of games support it).
I believe X-fi's have copped a bit of an unfair wrap after Vista was released, working with XP you should have no issues and even now the Vista drivers are quite solid.
I own a PCI X-fi Fatal1ty with front IO and run Vista Buisness without issue, they are great cards and good sound quality. the new PCI-e variants in the Titanium series look good but i have no experience with those.
Asus is in the process of release a couple more cards that are more entertainment and recording orientated but the Xonars have great reviews everywhere, most ive seen when pitted against the X-fi the reviewer tends to lean towards the X-fi