Best Sounding 2 Channel Sound Card

Its times like this that one realizes how limited their PC knowledge really is. I've been reading sound card reviews for about an hour and am no closer to knowing which one is best for my purposes. I have over 15,000 MP3 files on my PC, most recorded above 190. I want to connect my PC to my main stereo (McIntosh C2200 tube preamp, Mac MC352 SS amp and Merlin VSM-M speakers).
Looking to get the best sound practical without spending a fortune. Mostly just use it for 2 channel playback. Some recording, but not much. Is the Soundblaster Audiology II Platinum pretty good or should I go for something more exotic? Most the more expensive units seem to focus on recording. Thanks in advance... Jim

If you are looking for the Quality stuff look in the Pro "corner". Proffessional (for use in Recording Studio's)sound cards are far superior in sound quality to the computer game sound cards. Terratec is one name that produces real quality (24/96 and other) Sound cards at affordable prices.
I'm killing myself here!

For the first time in 2 1/2 days, I finally feel as though I have something to contribute to this website! I have literally been wowed by all the information available in regards to high end audio. A whole new world has opened up to me! hahaha! And I'm loving it!

Ok, here's the lowdown...

Just like all the fine high end audio equipment available on this website, there's a whole new world that exists out there for computer based music. About two years ago I began my research, to build the ultimate computer based music studio. To put it mildly, my brain is buldging with information. I purchased the Echo Layla 24 - a 24bit/96khz, 8in/8out audio interface for my Dell PC that allows me to record 8 channels simultaneously. It's a great card. One of the best available in fact. I really like the company Echo all around. The service has been exceptional, and they provide driver updates regularly. Check them out at

The Echo Mia has received good reviews and has all the ins and outs you'll need, including an S/PDif out, allowing you to stay in the digital domain, should your amp have an optical in.

The folks at M-AUDIO - - have come up with a real jem. It's called the "Revolution 7.1"

I bought it yesterday for $149 Cdn. which translates to about $100 US. Without getting into all the technical mumbo jumbo this card walks all over anything Creative has ever put out and that includes the SB Audigy 2 platinum which retails in Canada for about $350.00. (yikes)

It is very easy to install and configure, the sound is truly unbelievable. I was shocked.

Give this card a try. You'll be amazed.

Actually the way I understand it that soundcard is unimportant. I think the better way to achive good jitter free PC sound is to bypass souncard and use optical or coax output going to recever or amp.
...even better if your digital PC sound out of digital output goes to digital amplifier/receiver, like HK or Sony receiver. That way your digital signal is not converted to analog and stays digital all the way.
The RME & M-Audio are great soundcards, but I have to agree with Chelentano on this one.

I decided to go with a Xitel Pro HiFi-Link, glad I did.
I upgraded the USB Cable to a Monster Ultimate Hi-Speed 2.0

The Digital Coax cable is *temporarily upgraded* to an Acoustic Research Performance Series going to the Coax input of my tubed Dac.

The sound, depending on streaming quality, is pretty darn close to my transport at times.
For the best sound get a good proaudio card like by RME, Lynx or Digital Audio Labs. Use the digital output to connect to an external DAC. My card is the DAL CardDeluxe and it supports toslink, RCA coax, and AES/EBU via a TRS adapter. Other cards support USB digital output which I hear is very good, but I have no experience with it.

Don't think that you are just going to add a sound card to a PC and get great PC Audio. You need to be concerned with power supplies, power conditioning, digital cables, external DAC, and the actual OS configuration tweaking of the PC.
The RME Digi 96 PAD is a nice sounding card (the DSP 9632 is better, but abour 2X the cost).

The Apogee Mini DAC (external with USB input) sounds great for $1100.
For nonstudio use of a computer, even putting in a sound card is a waste of money. As good as some of the cards listed above are, the only logical choice is to use the spdif from the motherboard. All you need is an output for the digital signal. Good soundcards are required for mixing, and even not then. The real question is: if you're not going to connect the computer to the regular system, then what type of speakers would be the best. The newer computer speakers, or possibly nearfield speakers that are bi amped. So, anyone have suggestions or experience with near field speakers?