I placed an order for a new build yesterday and I have been debating whether or not to keep the sound card.
I currently own a set of Klipsch Promedia 2.1 speakers - these are 4 years old and are the wired version (worked excellent with an X-Fi). Am I going to get much out of these with that card for music and movies?
I also play games still and I am interested in getting a "high end" headset like this:
I feel that with the equipment that I have and the headset that I want, I would be better off with a Creative Z card or a different Xonar pcie product.
What do you think??
Last item, if I keep a card like this one thing that I just started thinking about was the music files I have. I do have some old mp3 files but I am curious if it would be to my advantage to get those files in a different format or perhaps uncompressed. Also for movie playback I intend on getting a bluray drive, I don't know if the audio tracks would be a leap forward vs. Dvd.
Input on this would be helpful too!
The Xonar Essence STX is known for it's 124dB signal to noise ratio (which is huge) and it's superior DAC (digital to analog converter). The Sennheiser PC360 you referenced at newegg would work well though you would need 1/8" to 1/4" (or 3.5mm to 6.3mm) adapters for both the audio out and line/mic in ports. Not sure if the PC360's come with them... I had an old pair of Sennheiser HD280's that did. Having said that, your Klipsch speakers also uses a 3.5mm plug... so you'll have to decide if you want to use a splitter at the Xonar's headphone input or a Left/Right RCA to 3.5mm adapter to utilize the red/white RCA ports on the Xonar. I would recommend against the splitter, since I don't like the idea of potentially introducing interference on such a quality sound card. Also, on the same token, I do recommend connecting your audio gear directly to the sound card and not through other ports like some cases have on the front for convenience. If you're getting into this level of audio quality, you want to remove as many sources of interference as possible.
Since the Xonar only has outputs for 2 channel audio (except if you count the digital out, but that kind of defeats the purpose of getting the Xonar for its awesome DAC) your speakers and possibly new headphones will work great with music, movies, and gaming. And you can only move up from there... that soundcard supports headphones that have far more quality than anything I can afford at the moment. If you eventually want to upgrade to a 5.1 or 7.1 surround speaker system, you may want to steer towards a Xonar soundcard with 5.1 or 7.1 hookups.
Of course, like you pointed out, the sound quality will only be as good as how it's encoded. It all depends on the acuity of your listening, too, if you can tell the difference. If you have a track that was encoded as a 64kbps mp3 several years ago that somehow wound up on your PC from the good ol'e Napster days, yeah you may reap some benefit by getting a version that's encoded higher.