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>> arguably the best sound card on the planet, the Xonar DG, is all of 30 measly bucks. I'm sorry to break it to you, but there is no such thing as a good internal soundcard. There may be mediocre internal soundcards, but the best you can do internally is mediocre. If you want a good soundcard, or "Audio Interface" as the manufacturers like to style them, the simplest way is to simply discard every computer component manufacturer from your list. M-Audio ( ) is good, E-MU ( ) is also, though I trust them less since Creative bought them. Presonus ( ) is also pretty well regarded, though I have had driver issues with their products. Firewire is best (lower latency), though USB is more prevalent. No matter what you go with, expect cranky drivers. There are alot of other brands that make audio interfaces, but I do not have personal experience with them. Fundamentally, there is a difference in design philosophy between audio interfaces and generic soundcards. Audio interfaces almost never support any sort of onboard "enhancement" crap. EAX, etc.. is out. If you buy something like this, it's because you want the most accurate representation of whatever you are playing possible, not some DSP processed garbage. Greater Bit-Depth : 24 bit recording/playback is pretty much universal Greater sample rate : 24 bit / 96 Khz is common, many support 192 Khz. Openness about ADC/DAC and op-amp selections : This is not as common, but a some manufacturers explicitly state what devices they use in their analog sections, which you can then look up. Whatever soundcard you use may be nice, but it's still just a internal soundcard. Please don't claim it's better than it is. Personally, I use a M-Audio Firewire 410 as my daily soundcard. The firewire interface is getting cranky in it's old age (I think I've had it 5 years), but it still works, and all I have to do is disconnect and reconnect it about once a week. I mostly listen to music, but I do occationally use it for record >> .wav dubbing, and it works very well.
Toggle Commented May 5, 2011 on Who Needs a Sound Card, Anyway? at Coding Horror
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May 5, 2011