Creative Sound Blasterx G5

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Pros:Of course this is a massive upgrade from motherboard audio. The Creative software is full featured without being over-the-top. The virtual surround sounds fantastic when played on an amplifier that does Dolby PL2 decoding. Headphone amp is clear and powerful. Makes old encoded audio files come to life. Ideal for gaming laptops. Works fine swapping between my desktop and laptop (with the software installed on each). Cons:The built in USB port is not worth the trouble it creates. Added to the sound device is a Etron USB hub, and if your system already has Etron USB hub(s), you may have problems. I finally had to use a different USB port on my desktop machine to keep it from messing up my keyboard & mouse input. It does not support encoded 5.1 output, such as Dolby Digital or DTS, which was kinda clear from the documentation. The S/PDIF output is not directly available as an output device in Windows. Overall Review:I've been blown away at how good some of my old Windows Media Audio files sound when played through this device. I know some of that is the audio engine and the virtual 5.1, but the level of detail is certainly from the higher quality DAC. The built-in USB port is unnecessary, as any machine you would use this with other than a tablet will have ports available. No way a serious gamer would connect an input device to the port, nor would anyone use it for data xfer. The port may also be the reason for system instability in some installations. Amazing sound coming from this portable DAC/AMP sound card! Previously was using the Sound Blaster Z card, but my model was missing the 600Ohm headphone amp, so I decided to get this instead of another PCIe card, also, the Z card just wasn't able to run my Beyerdynamic DT 990 250Ohm headphones without having to adjust the volume higher, and even then it sounded like it was missing some details in the audio. Overall, this has been working very well! The 7.1 virtual surround sounds much better than the Z card, with the virtual surround set to around 25/100.