* Prices may differ from that shown
Gaming enthusiasts will be aware how important sound is to games espcially when it comes to first person shooters. Most computers have onboard sound cards but they aren't always good at picking up the little details of many games for example footsteps.
There are many expensive sound cards available that gamers will use, but to be honest, a mid ranged sound card can achieve a very good audio experience.
Asus aren't well known for making sound cards, but it is a brand that I know and trust, so I went for this mid ranged card as opposed to a Creative Soundblaster. The Xonar D boasts 24bit 192kHZ sound that has a decibel rating of 107. It also features a 7.1 channel surround sound. These are technical jargon that probably wont matter much, especially if like me, you use headsets.
So what are the requirements to use this sound card? Your motherboard probably already meets it - you will need a free PCI slot. On my system, in order to use it, I had to disable the onboard sound from the BIOS settings - this may not be required. It really depends on your BIOS so it helps to be aware of this.
Once the card is placed and the sound drivers are installed, load up your favourite game and you can immediately hear the difference. Sounds are much clearer, sharper and feel more accurate. Footsteps for example in MW3 feel as though they are actually in the real world and you can sense the direction easily. Not only does this enchance your awareness but it also helps you to be ready for that killshot or that flank. Your tactics can be changed simply with being able to hear out for things which would normally not be heard on an onboard sound device.
Many times I was even accused of cheating because I was always able to anticipate enemy movement and ready myself. As surprising as it may be, sound does make you a better gamer, especially with first person shooters.
In terms of other playback, well needless to say that everything is a lot clearer. I mean listening to music and comparing it to onboard sound you can pretty much make out the huge improvement in audio quality - especially if the music is high def. Similarly movie playback experience is also boosted.
The audio drivers come with a variety of features ranging from sound environment settings, equalizer and a plethora of other settings which is tiresome to write about.
Personally speaking, Asus here have a good sound card, although it still probably lacks compared to more expensive Creative cards.