Sound Card Advice

Hello All,

I just wanted to get on here and post about a delima that I am having with choosing a new sound card for my gaming pc.

Here is the story as it stands right now. A few months ago I got a really nice new home theater system (will post components at end). It works out that my computer and tv setups just happen to be right next to each other. So I like to use my tv and home theater system as my audio/video source for gaming occasionally. This poses a problem though with my new home theater system and my computer setup. The sound card that I was running (Dynex 5.1 bought at Best Buy based on the VIA Envy24HF chipset) cant encode Dolby Digital or DTS from the optical out to my reciever. So with this, I decided it was time to get a new sound card that supports Dolby Digital Live and/or DTS Connect. After looking around on Newegg and my local MicroCenter I decided to go with the Turtle Beach Montego DDL sound card. I figured this would pair great with the Turtle Beach HPA2 headset I was planning on getting as well.

However, after recieving the card I have had nothing but problems with it. I am not 100% sure whether it is hardware or driver related still at this point. I have spent some time sending emails back and forth with Turtle Beach Tech Support trying to resolve the issue with no luck really. I wont go into the details of the problems right now since it would be a lot of text and this post is going to be long enough already. If someone out there would like to know the issues that I am having however I would be more than happy to repost back explaining the problems. Technically, I have everything "working correctly" but I am not happy with the way I had to achieve it. I have gotten approval from Newegg to ship the card back and they will waive the restocking fee due to the card being defective. So with this said, I am looking for another new card to try out.

After having to go pick up my new suits I bought at Mens Warehouse for job interviews I decided to swing by the nearby MicroCenter and check out their selection. After spending sometime there pondering I decided on one card that they carry. This card is the Auzentech X-Plosion 7.1 Cinema. I have looked at multiple reviews and this card has scored really well. It has all the features I need (5.1 analog setup for computer speakers and headset and optical setup that supports Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect for the home theater system). While still at MicroCenter I got on my phone and looked at Newegg for anything else they had that would work for me. After searching and looking up reviews for these cards I decided that the HT Omega Striker 7.1, HT Omega Claro, and HT Omega Claro+ would be canidates as well.

So this leaves me with 4 total options (Auzentech X-Plosion 7.1 Cinema, HT Omega Striker 7.1, HT Omega Claro, and HT Omega Claro+). From the info that I found the Auzentech X-Plosion 7.1 Cinema and HT Omega Striker 7.1 are basically the same card (based on the C-Media CMI 8770 chipset) with the Auzentech having some upgraded components (oamps, etc.) while the HT Omega has a front panel audio connector (I wouldnt use this). It just happens to work out that the HT Omega Claro and HT Omega Claro+ and the same cards as well (based on the C-Media CMI 8788 chipset) with the Claro+ having upgraded components over the Claro. Right now the price points are the following:

Auzentech X-Plosion 7.1 Cinema $99.99 (MicroCenter)
HT Omega Striker 7.1 $89.99 (Newegg)
HT Omega Claro $159.99 (Newegg)
HT Omega Claro+ $174.99 (Newegg)

So this leaves me a very tough choice on which one to get. Now before I go any further, I have looked at basically all the options for sound cards. I have given serious thoughts into Asus Xonar, Creative Labs X-FI, higher end Auzentech and HT Omega cards, etc... and these cards are the only ones that will work for my setup. Either they dont have a feature I require, they arent PCI bus, connector conflcts, price, etc... So please dont recommend another card that I havent mentioned because I probably have already looked into it but it wont work. These are my 4 choices...

Here is the use that I want to get out of it. I will be running a Logitech z5300e 5.1 computer speaker set and Turtle Beach HPA2 5.1 headset via analog inputs. I will also be running a optical audio cable to my Denon AVR890 reciever for my home theater system (why I need Dolby Digital Live and/or DTS Connect capability). The primary use of this computer is to game but I do listen to music quite a bit as well. I do all my movie watching on my TV through my Playstation 3 so movies isnt a conern. I perfer to listen to my music in 2-channel form so I am not concerned with any "virtual or matrix" support in that field. On the gaming side, I do like my 5.1 surround sound for gaming so that is where the computer speaker/headset and home theater system needs to shine. I also do like having a "virtual or matrix" effect for gaming though if the game doesnt support 5.1. However, if there isnt any actual settings that would allow this in the drivers it isnt a huge deal since my Logitech system has a matrix option on the volume controller and I can just set my reciever to ProLogic II or DTS Neo to get my virtual surround sound on that end. This just leaves the headset at a loss but that isnt a huge concern (I use my Logitech system 90% of the time). I woud say that this is really the main points that I am looking to get out the card.

Now to be honest, The price of the Claro cards is really more than I want to spend on a sound card but if they are worth it I am willing to spend the money on them. So this brings me to my question, which card do you guys think I should go with? Is the higher C-Media CMI 8788 on the Claro cards really worth the price increase? If not, would you recommend the HT Omega Striker 7.1 or Auzentech X-Plosion 7.1 Cinema? etc...

Here are my computer and home theater setups as they stand right now.

Computer Setup (OC'ed):

Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit
Motherboard: MSI P7N SLI Platinum
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad q9550
Memory: 8gb G.Skill DDR2 pc6400
Graphics Card: 1.28gb EVGA Geforce GTX 470
Physx Card: 512mb EVGA Geforce 9800GT
Sound Card: Turtle Beach Montego DDL
Hard Drive: 80gb/(2x)500gb Western Digital IDE
Power Supply: Thermaltake 850watt TR2 RX
Case: Xigmatek Midgard-W
Monitor: 25" Hannspree HF257HPB
Speakers: Logitech z5300e
Headset: Turtle Beach HPA2
Keyboard: Logitech Illuminated
Mouse: Razer Deathadder
UPS: Geek Squad GS-1285U

TV Setup:

TV: 56" Samsung HL-T5687S
Receiver: Denon AVR890
Speakers: Klipsch VC-25 Center
Speakers: Klipsch VF-36 Fronts
Speakers: Klipsch VS-14 Surrounds
Speakers: Klipsch SUB-12 Subwoofer
Console: PlayStation 3
Console: Xbox 360
DVR Cable Box: Motororla DCH-6416
Power Conditioner: Monster MP HDP 2500

I know that all the info really isnt needed but I just copied and pasted from my Steam profile page. I figure this might help you guys make a decision on which card I should go with. So please give me your guys input on this, I really would like to hear what you guys have to say! Thanks for your time and sorry for the long post!

Chris Stickles
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