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I'm looking for recommendations people have for a good/great Sound Card:

  • Price vs Quality
  • Configuration software
  • Compatibility with various operating systems
  • How it should connect: Externally, PCI, PCI-E, etc...

With this question I'm attempting to discover if there is something out there people are "raving about", and would strongly recommend and why.

There are other questions talking about aspects of the system to "skimp on", if there's even a need for a separate sound card and discussions on the more important components of a motherboard, where the quality of the Sound Card is outlined as "pretty good on expensive motherboards"

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closed as off-topic by Tog, Mokubai, random Apr 25 at 13:33

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking for hardware shopping recommendations are off-topic because they are often relevant only to the question author at the time the question was asked and tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs." – Tog, Mokubai, random
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'm currently running the Sound Blaster Audigy SE by Creative. It's an excellent little budget PCI card if you want a little step up from onboard sound. Never had a problem with it, I actually kept it from my last build.

To answer your main questions...

Price vs Quality

For less than $40 and free shipping, I don't think you can complain for this excellent card.

Configuration software

The card comes with an installation CD covering everything you need.

Compatibility with various operating systems

Its common for me to have 3 or more operating systems installed on my machine. My sound card has worked with every one. Linux, Windows 7, Windows XP, FreeBSD, Solaris... it's worked flawlessly on all of them. Albeit you might have to do some driver hunting, but it works perfectly fine.

How it should connect: Externally, PCI, PCI-E, etc...

This card specifically is a PCI card, so make sure you've got one to spare!

Disadvantages?

The only nitpick I have is that it didn't come with a remote control, but for less than $40, I didn't really expect it to. It's not a necessity for me really anyway.

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This card uses software mixing instead of hardware mixing, which has a small performance penalty (not necessarily important), but means you have to have software mixing working in Linux. The old Sound Blaster Live 5.1 from the 90s is actually a better card than this one. –  Neil Oct 14 '10 at 19:42
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Since Vista has been supporting pretty much all of the required audio processing on the CPU rather than using the sound card, the only reason I can imagine for a sound card is better shielding to avoid noise, or higher bitrate / sample-size support.

Personally the only concession I have made is buying a set of USB headphones with an in-line sound module in the cord, so that it is external to the case where most sources of noise are, and I have not looked back.

Note: This one obviously only applies if you are a Vista / Win7 user.

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