In June 2009 I bought a new computer with a Gigabyte GA-790GP-UD4H motherboard. My previous computer had an adequate onboard sound card, so naively assuming it would similar I went with the onboard Realtek. I soon found out that MIDI reproduction was awful and analog recording not good either. So I bought a Creative X-FI Xtreme Audio (PCIe). MIDI and analog audio recording quality were much better.
However (and you saw this one coming), the thing is driving me up the wall. From day one whenever you play a sound you have a 50% chance of it coming out in what I call "tin can mode" (it sounds as though you're in a tin can). Stop and restart playback once or twice fixes that. A few weeks ago I was switching back and forth between 96 Khz/24 bit and 48 Khz/16 bit. That had the odd result of causing all sound to come out of only the left speaker. The solution was to uninstall all the software, pull the card and then reinstall everything. However, now I can't monitor line-in anymore which is a nuisance. Creative's supposrt desk suggested a 3rd party utility......
Bottom line: I am seriously considering replacing it with something that actually works properly, but I am a bit bewildered by the offerings and would appreciate some suggestions.
I (still) use Windows XP, but am planning on upgrading to Windows 7 sometime this year. With the available slots on my motherboard a new card will have to be PCI-Express. I don't do any gaming at all (most cards seem to be targeted to gamers; logical, since that is undoubtedly the largest market). Midi reproduction should be good, with for example a saxophone actually sounding like a saxophone. I do a lot of analog recording through line-in, mosty LP records and VHS video tapes, so the quality of analog to digital is important. I use either 3.5 mm or RCA jacks (RCA are the white and red plugs, right?), so high-end/professional style connectors would probably be awkward for my purposes.
Sound effects like being able to change acoustics from padded room to stadium to metal box are irrelevant (and probably unavoidable). At my local supplier I can get (aside from Creative) Asus and Auzentech products, haven't seen HT (?) that I read about now and then.
Hmm...the ASUS Xonar DX seems to make the most sense, although Auzentechs offerings should also do the job...no need to overpay for a gaming card. (The Xonar DS makes even more sense, but its PCI, which you said is out of the question)