Just think about it this way. If usb isn't a viable form of decoding.... there would be no usb dacs. Food for thought. And flexibility is up to the user. If you don't need the volume knob and portability, flexibility would be zilch.I myself have an older model, SB X-Fi Surround 5.1 (Non-pro) USB. It's flexibility for me is zilch, I use the optical output to a NFB 12. But it's my only option as I game on a laptop and can't replace the card.