I know very little about sound cards, this being my first build, I'm being very scrutinous with each part I put into my PC. I'm currently using an Astro A40 headset, but I don't have a sound card on this PC. So, my question is this: will a sound card increase the quality of my audio significantly, or will it just be a waste of money and time to install? If it will have a noticeable effect on my audio quality, what sound card would you recommend? Keep in mind, even though I've spent three hours reading what sound cards do, I'm still very inept with the whole thing, a good explaination would be nice.
I don't think I can offer you a professional answer, but I will tell you that I bought a soundcard about a year after I built my PC and the sound quality over the speakers increased dramatically. I didn't skimp out on my speaker system though and that is the key. I have a (now discontinued) altec lansing speaker system that is 2.1 with 200 watts of power. If you notice when you buy PC speakers, many of them are less than 50 watts. Before the soundcard, the speakers could get loud, but there would be a little distortion if I turned it way up. Now with the card, I can max out the volume on both the speakers and the PC and the clarity of the sound is amazing. Crisp highs, DEEP lows.
I think you may want to do what I did. Get your system up to max without the soundcard for now. Get all the bells and whistles you need now to get you off the ground, then revisit sound later, when you have extra cash. I gamed and watched movies for a year (or more) before the card with no complaints, only now, I'm glad I have such superb audio quality.
I've used both a soundcard and onboard sound on my system, and can't tell the difference on my Logitech Z506 speakers or headset. At any rate, a decent soundcard will be relatively cheap, circa £20-£30, so use the onboard sound first. If you're not happy, go for a soundcard.