I'm looking to purchase a set of Corsair SP2500 Speakers, and eventually - when I have the cash - I'm going to purchase a great dedicated Sound Card to drive them, since I can hear crackling line or EMI noise in the On-Board Audio of my ASUS M4N98TD EVO Mobo. (I hear it at the start of Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" as well as various other songs...)
So... what I need is a great high end sound card for my rig, which is 'current', that is, made recently - either close to or during 2011 - with proper Windows 7 drivers that will basically 'just work' without causing trouble. I admit, I was thinking about getting one of the Creative cards, but luckily, you guys saved me; I read that the drivers for said Cards don't work well at all on Vista / Win7. I'm seriously thinking about the Asus Xonar Essence STX... but then I read somewhere else (the Asus support forum) that that card, too, doesn't have up to date drivers, or might blue-screen a system, or something...
Thus, the only 'current' card I may go for is the new Auzentech X-Meridian G2, unless you can rec me something better. Thanks for whatever help you can provide.
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I was in a similar position 2 years ago. I went with something completely different.
I chose an HT-Omega Striker 7.1 card for my system, and it's never let me down. Whether gaming, watching movies, or TV, sound quality is always superb. It uses the C-Media CMI8770 audio chip, which some older (non-X-Fi) Auzentech cards also use. But, the Striker's big brothers (the Claro and Claro+) use the CMI8788, which happens to be the exact same chip the Auzentech X-Meridian has. The difference? The Claro cards have been using it for around 2 years, so their drivers are firmly established. Also, all HT-Omega cards feature Optical audio input/output, not just Coaxial.
Just another option to consider since you're looking pretty seriously at a C-Media CMI8788-based card already.
Not to sound like an HT-Omega fanboy or anything, but their Claro-halo and Claro-halo-XT cards have RCA jacks, just like the Essence STX. The halo-XT actually has a daughter-board sporting the standard 7.1-channel 1/8" jacks, in addition to it's built-in amp designed specifically for use with headphones.
I agree with MEgamer. We're talking about a 2.1 speaker system which, while excellent by computer speaker system standards, doesn't begin to compare to proper component monitors/speakers used in an audiophile's home stereo or home theater. What are you really going to use them for anyway, listening to music? Watching a movie in 2.1 or simulated 7.1 (dts Neo PC) from a 2.1 system? For that, I see no need to spend $200+ on a top-tier sound card. Not when there are plenty of sub-$100 cards that perform almost as well.
It's not like you're pairing it up with a $500 Yamaha amp and $1000+ worth of hi-fi speakers. If you were, then yeah, go for it.