Asus Xonar DX
Asus has only recently started making sound cards, but the low cost of this card will probably have Creative Labs worried.
Asus's Xonar cards are aimed at gamers. The Xonar DX slots comfortably into any PCI-E slot and is powered by a four-pin connector. It has 3.5mm analogue 7.1 outputs, but the optical S/PDIF out shares a socket with the 3.5mm mic/line in.
Asus uses software to implement Creative's EAX environmental sound standard, which means you can use the Xonar with any EAX-compatible game. We tested it using the same settings in Prey and Call of Duty 2 that we used to test Creative's X-Fi Titanium. The Xonar's reproduction of the EAX 3.0 effects in Call of Duty was virtually indistinguishable from that of the X-Fi. We liked its interpretation of Prey's EAX 5.0 effects, although pulsing sounds lacked the immediacy of the X-Fi. The card also supports Dolby Digital Live.
The Xonar DX isn't suitable for audio production, but it's great for music and games, and provides good audio quality at a reasonable price.