I'm in the market for a new sound card, as I can't help this feeling that I'm missing out on something! My computer came with a Sound Blaster Audigy II. I realise that there's a host of selections out there, but I'm looking for something that will make my usage of Garritan Personal Orchestra really stand out! It would be great, too, if this audio card could also serve as my midi in/out device. I'm flexible with regard to budget, but would prefer to cap it at $250.00 - unless there's a "to-die-for" recommendation I should consider. (I'm clueless!)
My current computer system: Gateway 510 XL PC, Pentium 4, 3.00 GHz CPU, Windows XP Home Edition, 120 gb hard drive, 150 gb of RAM, internal Creative Sound Blaster Audigy II sound card.
I am not sure a new soundcard will help make GPO "standout" since recording is done all inside of your computer.
Consumer "Audio interfaces" provide reasonable sound playback, and I would think the Audigy has good playback (digital to analog conversion). These interfaces are poor however, when it comes to audio input (analog to digital conversion).
How's the latency from your Audigy? If it's good, you're probably set. If not, you can move up to an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 to improve it. The next step is the Echo MIA-MIDI or Audiophile 192, which both have balanced I/O for lower noise. To reduce the noise level further, you need to get the audio circuits out of the computer. There are some nice 1394 (Firewire) solutions that do that. To reduce it further still, go with an optical output to an external D/A converter.
But I agree with Martin. If your latency isn't bad, consider a monitor upgrade. Some people here have been raving about Blue Skys. Next step? room treatments...