I am building a computer with Realtek ALC892 audio built into the MoBo. I was wondering if I would get a noticeable sound improvement from purchasing a discrete card, and if so which one I should purchase. I have a 5.1 speaker setup for my computer, but my headset is USB (G930, which does not use the computer's audio). It is a high end gaming rig, for games of all types (including FPS games).
The short answer is yes, you would see an improvement.
The Creative soundblaster x-fi titanium might be a good choice for games, it has more features and *claims* to not slow you down. I own this card and I really like it (although you have to be very careful to install it properly or the drivers will bug you forever).
According to many people I trust, the Asus xonar sounds even better than the x-fi, but you'll take a noticeable FPS hit in games. This card can emulate some of the technology that is on the creative card.
It's a personal choice, and if you care about sound you should never listen to people who say "I can't tell a difference."
I am curious about the same thing, I have a pair of Klipsch x10i earphones and just got new Klipsch image one headphones and am curious if I would notice a difference between a soundblaster live 5.1 and my realtek onboard on my 1366 gigabyte motherboard. It's GA-X58A-UD3R
quickmana - plz, no offense to you, but FYI - you will most certainly not take a significant frame rate hit from using any discrete sound card vs. a creative x-fi. This is creative marketing when games used EAX. In Win Vista/7 there is no EAX. On top of that, CPUs and GPUs are so much more powerful nowadays that there is no loss of frames when the CPU handles the audio processing. I saw benchmarks circa 2005 showing this was the case...
I got an Asus Xonar DX, mainly for the SPDIF output, but I did get some time to hear it versus Realtek onboard audio.
I was using some cheap 70 dollar Logitech x540's, and even with those speakers there was an audible difference. Cheap sound files like mp3s sounded louder and clearer. Not a huge difference, but definitely enough of one that even a cheap set of speakers and untrained ears from someone such as myself could notice.
So if you really care, a decent soundcard will probably help you, and the Xonar DX can be acquired for 60 dollars on sale. Some people say it's better for music that the X-Fi?