I currently have a Sound Blaster Audigy2 Value, but the drivers are no longer up to date (I have a old vista version or something, I got sound but buggy here and there)
I have Windows 7 x64, Logitech X-530 speakers (I don't use them pretty often) and Sennheiser HD555 headphones (I do pretty much everything with those).
So I would like to buy a new sound card, and I need your help !
PS. Not directly connected, but I plug my headphones in the headphone jack on my speakers, does it impair quality or something ? Should I just plug them directly in the soundcard or it doesn't change anything ? And if I use a cord extender (cheap stuff) to plug it in my sound card, does it ? (the HD555's jack is too big to fit in between my speakers jacks and it's a pain to unplug them/replug them everytime I wana swap)
Well I just hooked up my x-fi titanium again. I'd taken it out because of driver trouble in windows vista but it seems to run better in win 7 (either that or creative finally got their openal driver working). I run a 5.1 speaker set though
For you if you are willing to spend the money I'd go with the $200 ASUS Xonar Essence because it's got a headphone amp, it's based on the x-fi chip, and ASUS isn't going to go out of business anytime soon and leave you in the cold.
Xonar is the best, but games like Bad Comapny 2 will use internal sound processing which means any cheap onboard soundcard will sound about as good.
Obviously there's a lot of different things to affect sound quality, but "gaming" sound cards are all but dead.
The developers of Bad Company 2 had an interesting interview that dove into their sound system. They had a few reasons for not using hardware accel in their game, the biggest being quality the second being portability. They said modern cpus have so much power, they could use the CPU to do High-def internal calculations that no HW accel sound card could do and the resulting sound was A LOT better. They said anything a "gaming" sound card could do, they could do 100x better.
Now-a-days you just choose a sound card based on the quality of the DAC. But I bet the Xonar coupled with a 300ohm headset could sound pretty f'n sweet.
HW accelerated sound would've reduced the sound quality dramatically and made the game harder to port and also make the sound less predictable.
I have a lowly i7 920 and this game usually sits around 25-50% cpu usage. The few percent of my cpu the sound processing uses would've hosed a sound card.
It really depends on what they are doing. You can always find something a particular piece of hardware is bad at.
What the X-fi chip is really good at is playing a bunch of 3d positional sounds at once. A software solution isn't going to touch that. However if they want to do some processing the just X-fi can't do or something it is particularly bad at then yeah software is the way to go.
Think of the X-fi as what a fixed function pipeline is to graphics. Anyway the next generation of graphics cards will probably do it all in cuda or opencl. I tend to think the most import part of a sound card is it's DAC.
What you said is pretty much what I was going for. HW Accel'd sound worked fine for WinXP generation games, but now we want High-Def mixing/calculations. Bad Company 2 essentially has a physics engine for its sound.
They could let sound cards handle all of this, but CPUs don't have an inherent limitations like sound cards do. They'd need to really "beef up" current sound hardware, then you still Have the problem that even modern low end CPUs have nothing to do even on the hardest of current games.