Originally Posted by uchikoma
Hmm...this has turned out to be a harder decision than I thought it would. My activities are split between music listening and gaming so it's a toss-up. On the flip side, if I upgraded my sound card to say a Creative X-Fi Titanium HD then I get decent results on both music and gaming...so I think I'll just use the upgrade money towards a higher end sound card (and I'll be building a new computer within the next couple months that'll require a PCI-E sound card anyways so this kind of works out)
That said (and going off the original topic): what about the ASUS Xonar equivalents?
You would do well in considering the Titanium HD, as it is a significant upgrade from the XtremeMusic in both general audio and in gaming terms. You won't feel sound quality lacking with it, and you will have a plethora of features due to it being a soundcard and not a separate DAC. Do note I like DACs, but they have a rather specific purpose, while you do several different things that do require support from the hardware in order for you to obtain ideal results.
If you do plan on doing any kind of gaming that requires audio performance, positional cue accuracy, 3D effects and such, then you can entirely dismiss Asus cards. Despite all the advances happening in the audio world, the reality is that only cards that have a X-Fi DSP chip are really gaming capable due to having hardware support for both advanced audio present on adequate audio renderers as well as the DSP chip itself improving gaming audio (when those options are selected) even on regular sounding games.
Just so you have a better understanding of what I'm talking about, your XtremeMusic can outperform the best currently available Asus card with "gaming" support. That's how important it is to have the DSP chip in your audio hardware. Now, don't misunderstand me, (some) Asus cards are quite good and are good value for your money, but it's all about who they're targeted for, namely they are music and movie cards above all else.
Since your budget allows you to consider the Creative X-Fi Titanium HD, the only equivalent alternative from Asus, the Xonar Essence STX, has basically the same sound quality but with a harsher signature, also in part due to its integrated amp, and lacking any real gaming audio support. You should be aware that initially, Asus advertised gaming features far more and made false claims that it supported features that are only available on Creative cards, with Asus being heavily sued because of that.
With that being said, the X-Fi Titanium HD is the best purchase you can make given your listening habits.