First off ask yourself a few questions...
1) Are you more interested in features like 6 channel audio, eax, 5.1 surround, 3d sound and all that or are you more concerned with high quality of sound?
2) How much money are you willing to spend?
3) What extra equipment do you need to buy?
If your concern is for good quality sound, with transparent drivers, I would suggest a Creative SB-pci128 sound card hooked to your home stereo. Yes it's only stereo but the sound quality is amazing!
If your concern is for the advanced trickery, you are going to take a hit in sound quality and you will need very complicated speaker setups but the result can be equally breathtaking... positional audio is very impressive stuff, but the raw sound quality just isn't there.
For high quality sound reproduction it's usually best to invest in a simple sound card and a high quality amplifier and speakers. Even a moderately priced mini-stereo has better amplifiers than most "computer speaker" setups. Add in a couple of decent speakers and you got a winner. (Plus you get the benefit of cassette, CD and fm listening without turning on the computer.)
Golden rule: Good speakers will sound good, even with a moderately priced sound card but even the best sound card connected to crap speakers will always sound like crap.
I'm not really familiar with this kind of work but I'm suggesting a few things through reading other more knowledgable guys' posts in different forums:
You want to look for the likes of M-Audio Delta series or Echo Mia. These are true home-studio recording sound cards with great sound quality and able to handle multi-track recording at high qualities. If you're serious, you also want to add active monitor speakers and a second playback only sound card (the likes of M-Audio Audiophile2496).
Your best bet is to search and find sites or forums dedicated to this kind of job (on Google for instance).
M-Audio, Echo, Korg, Digidesign, Emagic, Mark of the Unicorn and a few others I can't think of at the moment all make cards geared for high end or pro-audio. Depending on your needs a TeraTec card may work as well. One think you have to realize though is that your pro-audio cards are not going to do as good a job in the gaming department as say a Audigy2 or Hercules. Having two sound cards is definately a good decision if you need the best of both worlds.
1) I'd like surround sound for a nice gaming experience but I've got my BOSE speakers and stereo system for serious DVD watching. The sound that I listen to is important but I'm mostly concerned about good mixes for my DV videos and music mixes.
2) and 3) I'm trying to keep it under $200 with no extra speaker purchases. My headphones are good for monitoring and my speakers are good enough to hear what my videos will sound like on the average/mid television set with a stereo hook-up.
It would really depend on your setup. I'm running a Mark of the Unicorn audio interface and the built-in C-Media (or whatever it is) on my ASUS A7V333 del mobo with no conflicts. I've seen another person use his laptop, a Creative Extigy, and DJ software for DJing clubs. He uses the laptop, output for monitoring in his headphones and the Extigy out into the club's system. I can't say for sure what combination will work and what will cause problems, but I would guess newer hardware and OS will give you less problems, if any.
As an experienced DJ and audiophile, let me jump in the fray.
For $200, you can get a lot. There are many good brands out there. Stay away from mainstream brands like Creative, Aureal (if you can find any of their cards, that is), Guillemot, and Turtle Beach.
I will require a bit more information about what you want to do. For studio monitoring, you will want speakers. Headphones don't have the dynamic properties of speakers. This being said, you will have to spend $1,000+ to get good monitors, without the amp. This is if you want to quality production. If not, then decide on your budget accordingly.
I also would like to know what you need to hook up to your computer. Keyboard? Guitar? Multiple inputs? Multiple outputs? Analog? Digital? MIDI? Soundcards can have an insane number of interfaces, so you need to know what you want going in and coming out of the card. I myself use an M-Audio Delta 4/10, which has 1 stereo analog input and 4x stereo analog outs. This gives me 3 stereo outs to my mixer and amp, one stereo out to my monitors, and a pair of inputs should I need to hook up any external sound sources. There are also RME and Audiotrak, which provide other configurations and price ranges. I don't know what you want, so really can't comment all that much.
For multiple sound cards, it greatly depends on what software you are using. When using PCDJ, it doesn't like multiple cards that are the same, as it can't differentiate between each card for each channel. When using BPM Studio Pro, some configs won't work, because of IRQ conflicts (mostly Windows' fault, but if you need help with that I can give some advice). You really have to do some research to get a valid response.
So, think about what you want this card to do, and what you want to do ultimately, and when you know, write back, and I can give a recommendation at that time. Good luck!
"(This is concerning all „normal“ soundcards witha stereo output e.g. Soundblaster, Terratec) A sound card driver can ususally address only one soundcard. It is not able to recognize the presence of two equal soundcards in the PC. For this reason generally two different soundcards must be used. When the latest Terratec from November 99 are installed soundcards of different manufacturers must be used, e.g. Soundblaster live + Terratec DMX. In every way the use of a multichannel soundcard is to be preferred because they are much easier to install and are mostly cascadeable."
Let me lay it out here. I am getting back into filmmaking for the first time in 10 years (when AVID was new and I was working on a flatbed) and with the pittance I make while living in NYC, I'm not exactly rolling in dough. I've been playing accoustic guitar for a while and just got myself an electric guitar- so that's the primary music device I'll be using. I've also got a Gemini turnable and I'd also like to occasionally do some recording with my condensor mike.
As for video production, I've got one nice condensor mic and a Sony TRV-740 Digital 8 camera. Of course, it'd be great to have a shotgun mic, a Lavaliere, a DAT recorder and a Canon XL1S camera but that ain't gonna happen anytime soon- not if I plan on eating in the next 2 years.
When I move into my new shoebox apartment with my girlfriend, I'll be able to rotate my desk chair but that's about it. I've got some really nice BOSE speakers and a nice basic stereo setup that I'll probably run my system through.
I'm looking for a solid sound card that's going to get me as far as I can go with what I got until the next lottery check arrives (or this economy breaks and I can get a REAL job).
Creative is what I know and their stuff is in my price range, but I'm REALLY hoping to find something else (based on all the 'glowing' commentary I've been reading on these forums).
ALSO: Does anybody know of a really good online shopping place outside of NEWEGG? I love them, but they're a little short in the soundcard market.
Well, then you want something with a good number of quality inputs (analog only, I'm assuming). You will also need a pair of analog outs, it would appear. That way you can plug the card into your stereo and plug headphones into the stereo.
Now, your "price range". Would this be around $150US, or what? Because as I said earlier I can recommend high-end RME, or low end Audiotrak. Frankly, from what you say, it looks like the Audiotrak Maya 44, with 4x mono (2x stereo) in/out with 2x2 stereo jacks 6,3mm. Additional digital output SPDIF, if you want it. It looks like it runs about $200 Euros (not sure of exchange at this very moment though). It looks like M-Audio and RME will be out of your price range.
Personally, I'm getting an RME card as soon as my paycheck is deposited. I'm bloody sick of my SBLive!, and I don't want to rely on my onboard, as good as it may be.
There are lots of configurations out there. You can get cards with as many as ten mono outs and four mono in, as well as midi plugs, S/PDIF and optical plugs. If there is something you are looking for, post it here.
I've been considering the Digi96/8. However, my concern is that I would need an optical-analaog converter, and that may lose whatever quality I sought by spending the extra $$$ on an RME card. I really haven't decided yet, but I will within a month or so.
A music stóre where I live (Stockholm / Sweden) still sells the Audiotrak INCA 88, it sells for 400$ and has 8 inputs. It's about twice as much as I first intended to spend on a soundcard but that was before I really got into buying something that can handle recordning as well. At first I was just out to get a basic card for playing music, movies and games, I looked at soundblasters and Hercules cards around 80$. Then I heard of th Audigy 2 platinum ex that could handle 6 channels recording, everything seemed really good until I started to look around in different forums. It looked good from just reading the specs.
Now I've become more interested in recordning (both home and with the band) so I'm looking something more professional.