I've got an x-fi titanium and some old gigaworks g500 310watt speakers. I've been thinking about upgrading to standard receiver system but there seams to be an issue:
For gaming most sound cards need separate outputs for each channel, while most receivers want optical/digital spdif inputs. The result is that you can't get more than stereo unless you use pc speakers which keep getting worse. Creative labs doesn't even make speakers as good as the ones I've got anymore and they're not all that great to begin with.
Logitech recently stopped making their z-5500s, so what does that leave us with?
So let's set a generous price limit here and say I've got $700 to blow on an amp/speakers just for gaming. What's the best you can come up with?
I'd like at least 5.1 surround (bonus points for 7.1 or more)
Also bonus points if it has an aux input so I can play audio from two sources at once (without switching between them), though the aux input only needs to be stereo.
I think the OP means that you can only get actual (not virtual) multi-channel sound, such as 5.1, with speakers. That's not totally accurate, as you can buy headphones like the Psyko 5.1, which does have 5 actual speakers and 2 subwoofer things. I wouldn't recommend it personally, because I bought one and thought it sounded like garbage. What's the point of "true" 5.1 audio if the sound quality is terrible?
I do agree with the assessment of the PC speaker market... it seems to have disappeared. I have a set of Logitech Z-680s from college and would be hard-pressed to find a comparable set on the market today, IMHO.
OP - not to be counter-productive, but is there any reason you're not interested in trying some good quality headphones (e.g., Sennheiser, Audio Technica, BeyerDynamic, etc., not any of this "gaming headphone" crap) combined with either CMSS-3D (which your X-Fi has) or another sound card w/ Dolby Headphone? Based on personal experience, I expect you'll be pleasantly surprised with the result. In my opinion, you'll get much better quality audio, with accurate -- albeit virtual -- surround sound.
As for headphones, I've never liked them. A lot of it has to do with the way I view video games. I suppose I'm a hard core gamer, but I prefer to enjoy playing a game more than being good at it. I just enjoy speakers over headphones because I don't like having a lot of stuff attached to my head, and it's a more relaxing experience.
I've done some research and found a few receivers with direct 7.1 inputs (Samsung seems to be the best company for this), and am looking into getting a 5.1 speaker set and adding a pair (to 7.1). My goal is to find a setup for around $500 that destroys the logitech z906 system.
Some receivers still can use 7.1 inputs; depends on the make and model really...
As for headphones, the focus is currently on high quality stereo headphones, especially since you have tech like Dolby Headphone to map a 5.1/7.1 signal onto a 2.0 output. I'd go so far as to argue that for headphones, this is superior to "true" 5.1.
Finally, you can get 5.1 out of SPDIF via a soundcard by using Dolby Digital Live and DTS-Connect. And soundcards like the ASUS HDAV 1.3 and Auzentech HTHD now feature HDMI outputs, so you can get surround that way if need be,
I'm thinking about getting a Samsung HW-C700 receiver ($320) and some Onkyo SKS HT750 7.1 speakers ($250). Probably should move this thread to home audio. Anyway the samsung is nice because it takes 7.1 direct input.
I've got a sound blaster x-fi titanium which is good, but I suspect an asus card would be better. I think the only things to look for in a card for surround gaming are 7.1 output and a high signal to noise ratio.