This is going to be a long review because I just purchased this and I want to answer some questions that I couldn't find answers to before I purchased it. If you want the 1 word summary, it's "INCREADIBLE"!!
I was upgrading from a Fortissimo 1 sound card. I understand that this is not a great card, however I was using the optical out to connect to a DTS receiver. Essentially the sound card was doing nothing but transferring data and my nice receiver was doing all of the work. This made me apprehensive about upgrading to the Audigy 2 because I wasn’t sure if I would notice a difference from my optical card. (pause for a quick side note) You can NOT hook this card up digitally to a receiver. I LOVE this card, but I feel this is important for customers to understand this fact, and very deceiving from Creative. The digital output on the card uses a proprietary digital signal. For the techs out there, a normal (electrical not optical) digital signal is a sine wave. The crest of the wave registers as "on" and the bottom of the wave registers as "off". The creative digital-out uses 8 points on the sine wave to create the signal. 1 point for each audio channel. This will only work with computer speaker sets designed for this type of proprietary signal. It will not work with home theatre receivers because it is not a standard digital signal. (now back to my review) With the Audigy 2 ZS I would need to hook everything up using analog THX certified monster cables. Essentially it boils down to weather my receiver will sound better decoding the digital signal (old card), or if the Audigy 2 ZS will sound better decoding the signal and then passing it to the receiver for amplification. I honestly could not be happier with the results. The Audigy 2 ZS sounds 10 times better than my old setup. Everything is MUCH more crisp and well defined, and the low end sounds AMAZING. I’m not talking loud bass, I’m just talking really really tight and smooth. I could not recommend this card more. It is THE BEST upgrade I have made to my PC in years, and for around 90 bucks it's a steal from Newegg.
I also wanted to touch a bit on the setup, because I couldn’t find any reviews anywhere that explained how to hook up the analog outs to a home theatre receiver, and Creative made it a little tricky. First, the 8 channels use only 3 mini plugs as connectors. How you ask? The first connector is an easy to find cable. It's a mini -> 2 RCA. This is the same cable you use to hook a Discman up to your receiver. The other 2 are weird. They are mini -> 3 RCA. The only use I've ever seen for a cable like this is hooking up a DV camcorder to a TV. If you are using monster it is called a CAMAV cable. The first plug feeds your front right and front left speakers. The second plug feeds you rear left, rear right, and side left speakers. The third plug feeds your side right, center, and sub speakers. I could not find that info anywhere before buying and experimenting. I use a double receiver setup with two 5.1 receivers. The second receiver has some unused channels, so later I can expand as far as 10.2. I highly recommend this setup.
I also HIGHLY recommend this card. Like I said before, I am blown away by the sound quality. I've never heard a computer sound so good. And like always, Newegg was incredible. I ordered on Monday and received it on Wednesday. It's like magic. :-) Thanks Newegg!