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Discussion Starter #1
I am building a computer for my music room and I was wondering what are the pros and cons of going with a usb sound card vs a regular pci sound card. It is a 2 channel setup, and all I really need is optical out and stereo out analog every now and then.

I would like to get the best sound possible for <$100.

Will I get better value going the usb route or pci? (or maybe something else that I don't even know about yet!)
 

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You'll get better value going PCI, simply because external cards must have a separate enclosure. The advantage is that you can use an external card on a laptop, and the in/out jacks are more accessible from desk height rather than climbing behind your computer.

If you go PCI, I recommend SoundBlaster X-Fi. Great sound quality and nice software features. And if you are interested in multi-channel, for $5 you can buy the Dolby Digital Live upgrade which encodes all your PC sound into DD 5.1 in real time, and outputs that over the optical output. Awesome for movies and games on the PC!!

I have a spare X-Fi if you are interested. My new computer has no PCI slots, only PCI-express. So I had to buy a PCI-express X-Fi card and now have my 9-month-old PCI X-Fi sitting here back in its original box.
 

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To answer your original question "USB vs PCI", in theory PCI would be better since USB has a shared bandwidth; but this might not a problem in the real world. It would depend on what other USB devices you had connected to the PC.
 
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