Whats the best sound card for under $200???

First off, I am building a new computer and wanted to know what sound card you all would reccommend for under $200. It will primarily be used for playing mp3s and gaming. I use my small stereo system as my speakers, so many times I will dub the mp3s onto cassette tape to play in my truck. I used my previous sound card to record my guitar onto my computer and then combine with drum loops (multi-track recording in Cool Edit Pro), so I will be doing some recording as well.

1) Must be windows 2000 compatible
2) Must have good mp3 playback
3) Must support several, or all, gaming APIs
4) Must have good recording ability.

My previous sound card, the MX300, did a great job but with a KT133 chipset and Windows 2000, its all but impossible to get to work. The new cards I am mainly looking at are the Sound Blaster Live Platinum 5.1 and the Hercules/Guillemot Game Theater XP.

The Game Theater really looks attractive because it gives me actual RCA outs to connect to my stereo, so I don't have to deal with headphone cables and adapters losing quality. I haven't heard many people talking about the Game Theater in this forum, so I wanted to know everyones opinion on this card/rack setup. The Platinum looks appealing, but its a bit higher priced and doesn't give me the RCA outs. I might be able to get by with even the XGamer or such, but I don't know the difference between all the CL cards. They have like 5 cards out there and I kinda get lost between the advantages and disadvantages between them.

The only thing keeping me from buying the Game Theater is its lack of revies. The only reviews I've seen have said its a great card but is only so-so in recording, and since I may be doing some recording from my guitar as an input, this may affect me.

I will be attending a computer sale this weekend, so I wanted to get everyones opinons for what I should get before I actually purchase something. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR OPINONS!
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  1. man, you gonna get some amount of opinions on this one, including mine, but anyway, i wonder why people are saying that MX300 does not work on KT133, cos its all fine with me. for the sound advise, i personally will not get SBLive! line, cos they all are the same thing, but higher priced models have more software-games bundle and Platinum has Live!Drive, that's it, nothing speshuall: same chip, same drivers. Anyway, there are cards in 99 bux range, get one of those better, save money, sound quality in present cards is almost the same, MX300 is the best for me still, so cant help you with this one... sigh

    Post, we'll do the search... :wink:
  2. Go for the platinium 5.1ch, It's the best sound blaster,It has an adapter that is fixed under the cdrom, and it has a remote control.
    The price is 180$, so go for it.
  3. First off, Diamond is out of the multimedia game so support there is also out.

    Secondly, the entire Live! Line is essentially the same card and mediocre at best. The sound is thin and high, crackling problems abound and the drivers are "less than optimal" (tongue squarely in cheek).

    All that being said, there is a card that has excellent sound (superior to the Live!), all kinds of gaming support, mp3 accelleration and great drivers for $99US - the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz / VideoLogic Sonic Fury.

    The sound blows the Live! line away and you get more for the price that Creative Labs could hope to match. It even has 6 speaker sound capability and digital out should you wish to go that route in future (although personally I do believe digital speakers are a crock).
  4. I would also choose the VideoLogic SonicFury.
    The sound is much, much better then the live! series, and it uses half the CPU power when you are gaming and playing mp3s compared to the Live! card.
    The drivers are very good for win2000. I have not had one single problem with the card with my Abit KT7A mobo.

    -- Avatar_
  5. If you actually want to *record* audio with decent sound, you might want to invest in a *real* audio card.

    Echo's Mia (www.echoaudio.com) is selling for around $200, and that's a steal for the sound you'll be getting. It will also, of course, play your games and mp3's real nice, but it's not some cheesey home theater thingy; it's a pro audio card.

    Also, echos gear has known issues with certain AMD/Athlon chipsets: "Motherboards using the AMD 750 chipset are not compatible with Echo Digital Audio hardware."


    Never cut what you can untie. -Joubert (1754-1824)
  6. For recording there's also the MidiMan stuff...

    But it's definitely not an all-purpose offering.

  7. Sort of off-topic, but what are your opinions of the Hercules Gametheater XP? I know its not directed at the professional market but in some reviews I have read it surpassed the Soundblaster Live Platinum (and it has cool connecters too). Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what your guys think.

    I'm new, so take it easy on me.
  8. The Hercules card uses the same chipset as the Santa Cruz but the sound is supposedly a bit more rough-edged and the highs don't reach quite as high (almost, though). The drivers are a bit more rough-edged as well. However, it too beats the CL stuff handily.

    I have no first hand experience with this particular card but here's where I read about it:


    Enjoy... <g>

  9. I love my sound blaster live 5.1 OEM. All SB 5.1 cards use the same hardware. Get the X-Gamer if you want bundled games (MDK2 Theif2 DeusEx Unreal Tournament) or the Platinum if you want the live drive and remote. The 5.1 OEM vestion is only $66.

    I am very picky about my music and have not experienced any crackling or distortion whatsoever. I also have two friends with the similar cards (live platinum and live value) and they have also had absolutely no problems.

    I use my system for placing internet phone calls and I am very pleased with the recording quality. I am using a cheap mircophone headset that cost $4 and still there is ablsosutely no static even when it turn the gain all the way up.

    As to the SB Live 5.1 sounding thin and airy I would have to emphatically disagree. I could of course deleberately or acidentally make them sound that way by playing with the settings but luckily there is a control that will reset everyting back to the defaults.

    Anyway my friend with the 5.1 Platium has an ASUS A7V witch I think uses the KT133 chipset and has no conflicts.

    Just remember cheap speakers can make any card sound bad. I personally perfer Altec Lansing.
  10. Philips Acoustic Edge. I have one, it is great. You'll find it for around $80. Works with all kinds of speakers in 2, 4, or 5.1 setups. Sound quality is great, it compensates MP3s very well--I am hearing parts of songs that I had missed hearing before with my old aureal card, even with compensating software/equilizers. Suppors EAX (it works, I use it in team fortress.:P) and A3D 1.0, although I haven't tested the A3D yet. If you're going to use it for win2k, you will need to use the latest driver update from philips' website. Check it out, there's not one review of it rating it less than outstanding, so you can't go wrong. It also has a nice 512-voice wavetable whenever you feel like listening to MIDI.:P

    <font color=red>=P
  11. I've had crackling with the Live! on the ALi V, KT133 and even i815 chipsets. Posts by others on Usenet corroborate my statement - it's a long-standing issue with Creative Labs on a variety of chipsets and dates back about two and a half years without any resolution to this day. I myself have a month of back-and-forth correspondence via e-mail with Creative Labs' so-called "technical support" (and I use the term **very** loosely) on this subject.

    The Santa Cruz **doesn't** crackle in those same environments. The Monsoon MH-500 system I own has very detailed and much clearer high end than the Altecs I've listened to and they will show up the slightest flaw in what a sound card reproduces (including internal PC noises like CD-RW operation if the card isn't properly electrically designed which, I'm sorry to say, the Live! is not). Sound artifacts and characteristics that aren't aparrent in much of the Altec line (I listened to the ATP3, ACS45-2, ACS340 and even the ADA310W models before giving up on the line finally) are easily distinguished with the Monsoons.

    As an aside, the Altecs to me all had common characteristics (in varying degrees) of great midrange and deep somewhat boomy bass (not tight) but noticeably fell off on the imaging and high end (just listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Riviera Paradise" and you'll see what I mean).

    Back to the subject at hand, I've had two different people come over to my place who bought the Monsoons on my advice and had them hooked to their Live! cards (of various varieties). They listened to them hooked to my Santa Cruz and both said the same thing: "why is **my** sound so thin and high"? I explained about the more robust audio characteristics of the Santa Cruz including the improved S/N ratio and they took the Live! stuff back and switched. They can hear the difference just as I did and of course didn't end up lining Creative Labs' pockets unnecessarily because the Santa Cruz costs less while providing better sound.

    I'm sorry but while the Live! may be great for the harsh "boom boom" environment of gaming, when it comes to the much more demanding and detailed environment of music it just can't cut it. What makes it a particularly bad buy (in non-politically correct language: "rip-off") is the extra cash Creative Labs asks for the various models while essentially giving you nothing better in return.

    Bottom line: for decent sound under $200 (actually, for decent musical listening sound *period*), almost anything *but* Creative Labs . I'm partial to the Santa Cruz.
  12. If you say you hear crakling I belive you. My friend has an ASUS A7V and a Live Platinum 5.1 and has not had the same problem. Personaly I think that maybe the hardware is defective. Have you tried putting the crackling card in another PC? Anyway hardware of software creative deserves any lose of buisness your experinces warrant, but I am still very happy with my SB 5.1 and so are my friends.
  13. Go check out the following Usenet groups or do a Google (now that Deja is owned by them) scan:


    There are **lots** of folks there with the crackling problem. It's not a new thing - Creative Labs products of the previous generation started exhibiting it and it has followed through to the current one. There are an awful lot of folks who will never touch another Creative Labs product again, myself among them, because of this and other issues and the way they are ignored by the company.

    I'm glad you and your friend didn't have the same problem - you're some of the lucky ones.

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