Considering im only using stereo (my sony stereo system) on my computer, i have no need for 5.1, although everything seems to be 5.1 or higher in our days. Im only looking for great performance at 2.0 with mic working under vista, obsiously for a low cost, so what would you suggest?
I was looking for a Audigy SE or X-Fi Xtreme Audio, but some people complain about the audigy under vista...
The Audigy SE is just a software card, ie, the real processing is done on your CPU and it just acts as a way to plug more things into the computer and act as a device for the software to function with (emulation, and EAX). That's why it's $30. You essentially are paying for the software when you do that though.
The X-Fi Extreme is a gaming soundcard really. Hardware wise, most of those higher end creative cards are the same really, with only minor differences in which hardware decoding they support. The software bundles differ sometimes, but ultimately are the same.
If all you're doing is using a little stereo setup and just want a microphone working in Vista, I'd suggest you look to your motherboard. It's no doubt got built in onboard sound. It'll do stereo and mic just fine. Save your money. If you can't because there's no onboard or it just doesn't work properly, two options: 1) Get updates Vista drivers for that motherboard and for the sound kit on it; 2) Do what you're doing now and look for a new sound card.
Ultimately, the Audigy SE will do what you want. I always just refrain from recommending it because I feel it's a waste of $30 since that card doesn't actually do anything. However, anything above that is completely overkill for your needs and you'd be again, wasting money on features and abilities that you can't or won't even use. Luckily the X-fi extreme audio is only $50.
Given the situation, I'd recommend the X-fi extreme audio over that audigy se.
Note, there are other companies than Creative. Diamond Monster series, TurtleBeach and some others we don't see often all have solutions in the $20 range that match your needs and go beyond. Just hit up NewEgg -> Input -> SoundCards and check out the reviews.
X-Fi will be the best card from Creative. I've owned and used Audigy, Audigy 2, Audigy 2 ZS, Audigy 2 something another, and an x-fi.
The x-fi quality is better than the Audigy series. Though I'm not sure it's all that noticeable for normal usage.
The software, on the other hand, is much better with the x-fi series of cards.
However, if you really want the best quality, in my opinion, now, go with m-audio. Their Delta 1010LT card is amazing! Yes, it's overkill, but you may can luck up and get a deal on a used one or even a new one on eBay on occasion. I mean if you end up getting a $100+ sound card, and spend less than $50, then who cares if it's overkill.
Otherwise, I'd just suggest onboard audio. Frankly, unless you're recording for CDs or something like that, then onboard audio nowadays should do all of what you would want to do, and at good enough quality.
I have onboard audio, but it really sucks, the sounds is like a old radio playing inside a pool..
I'm using a SB live!, and as you might know, that card wasn't supose to work under windows vista, although im using some third party drivers, which makes it work ok, but the problem is with older games like unreal tournament, when the game has direct sound enabled, the game crashes, and when direct sound is off the game runs but with a annoying background sound, and also, the sound is somewhat delayed..
And yes, i tried various drivers, all of them show the same symptoms.
Now I wouldn't go with x-fi. I don't know much about the other ones, but I know that x-fi has some bugs. I work with the on daily basis and a lot of people complain about those cards. They tend to make a crackling noise from nothing and there is no way to stop it. It can be very annoying.
Well now I don't say that all of the cards does it, but lot of them do. So it is up to you.
Click Here. Diamond MM ExtremeSound. $35 after rebate. Has vista 32 driver support. Though don't bother if you use x64 Vista. Or even cheaper, at $15, the older ExtremeSound: Click here. Again, only good for up to 32bit Vista.
Personally, I'd go for an Omega, Asus, Auzentech, etc. But you'll be paying $80+ for them.