Today I went to my friend's house and he made me try his headphones + soundcard and I was amazed at how heavenly the sound quality was. It made me realize that I really need a soundcard since my motherboard soundcard isn't really good.
His bundle is ASUS Xonar Essence STX Sound Card & Sennheiser HD 555 Headphones but I don't like the fact that there isn't any 3.5mm outputs. I need 3 of them because I have a 5.1 speakers set (Logitech X-540).
So I was wondering, what would be the best soundcard for my needs. Following is a list of what I want, in order of priority.
1) Plug my PS3 through toslink (s/pdf?) with support for 5.1 (dolby decoder?)
2) Headphones amp and a good surround emulation for headphones (with a 6.35mm output)
3) 3x3.5mm output in order to output in my speakers (X-540)
4) I have a midi keyboard controller that I use to play piano, and I would like an ASIO decoder to improve the latency time.
Any suggestion? I don't really care about the price, but I consider that >250$ is starting to get expensive.
The ideal setup I have in mind is having my speakers through the 3x3.5mm outputs, headphones in the 1/4" output and my ps3 in the toslink IN. A plus would be a midi input, but that's really not necessary.
I don't have any receiver/television so I use my pc monitor for my pc through dvi and for my ps3 through hdmi. That's why I need to output it's audio through toslink. I think the card also has to be able to decode dts signal, but I'm not sure (it has linear PCM so it should be fine?).
Currently, I take the component output from the ps3 and use a rca -> 3.5mm Y adapter and plug it in my speakers (or line in on my pc), but that's only in stereo. I want to be able to have surround sound from it, instead of the matrix mode offered by my set of speakers.
I could ditch the 1/4" and use a switch I have to switch between 2 3.5mm male inputs, but I would lose some sound quality since 3.5mm don't have any AMP (although I don't have any headset yet, and that's another 100-200$).
I don't have any preference for format, as long as it fits in my pc (MSI P55-GD65). pci or pci-e would be fine.
I already looked at this card but it doesn't have toslink IN, and that's my main priority.
Thanks for your help,
P.S. I've read that some people had drivers issues with vista, so I'd like to mention that I'm running Win7 Ultimate x64.
The main problem: Most soundcards lack a Dolby/DTS DECODER (not encoder). As such, you could go the Optical->3.5mm route, but only for 2.0 PCM. If you do get a soundcard with the necessary decoder, then this becomes probably the simplest option to work with.