There are so many different sides to this, and it's getting confusing to a certain point now. I don't know how many more 50+ page forum threads I can continue reading, so I'd like a general recommendation here in a simple, straight-to-the-point answer.
My last sound card was an X-Fi Xtreme Gamer sound card that I uninstalled sometime last year due to stability issues in Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit (i.e.- BSOD, computer lockups, dropped audio, etc.). I currently use the onboard Realtek ALC892 chip on my current motherboard and it's currently dropping and cutting audio at random now, and I'd like to go back to a dedicated sound card. I've tried an HT Omega a few years ago and promptly returned it to Newegg since the card always blue-screened Windows 7 when I powered on the computer. A replacement card bought at another PC store showed the same issue. So, I'm avoiding any and all cards from HT Omega.
My current system runs Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit.
I currently do the following on my computer in terms of audio:
- Listen to lossless music (FLAC, ALAC)-- mostly JPop/JRock, Classical, Country (Yes, Country...), Indie, Alternative, and a lot of acoustic performances.
- Play computer games-- new releases and some old games.
- Watch movies on Bluray, Netflix, and movies in MKV with 5.1 FLAC audio.
- Voice chat with friends over Skype while we play PC games together.
Since I started to teach myself programming to make computer games, I may take a crack at creating music tracks in MIDI instead of using royalty-free music. But, that'll entirely depend on how good I can do that, so this part is entirely optional.
I looked at three cards: Creative's Sound Blaster Zx, Titanium HD, and ASUS cards such as the ROG Phoebus.
So far, the pros and cons that I found about the three after reading so many forum posts and reviews:
(Not my opinions, but stuff I've picked up on other websites and this website.)
Pros - Hardware accelerated audio, MIDI, and OpenAL and ASIO support
Cons - X-Fi DSP supposedly has a buggy issue with 4GB memory address on systems using 64-bit OS or PAE enabled OS; driver instability under Windows 8 in rare cases.
Sound Blaster Zx
Pros - Better sounding for PC games and HD movies over Titanium HD; more features than Titanium HD; 600 ohm support vs. 330 ohm in the Ti HD.
Cons - ACM unit softens audio for headphones plugged into it; very little to no difference in terms of music listening over the X-Fi Titanium HD (entirely subjective opinion).
ASUS Phoebus ROG, STX, and other mid-range/high-end ASUS audio cards:
Pros - Great for music and HD movies, and home theatre setups
Cons - Driver issues under Windows 8; buggy, crackling sound in some games-- it's a hit or miss in various games; lack of visible support from ASUS altogether in terms of fixing driver issues.
What are your recommendations? My friend suggested I ask on this forum instead of a PC hardware forum since you guys know more about audio in general than other websites.