Help me build a fine PC sound system

I’m looking for current suggestions to a great sounding desktop audio outfit which is pc driven or based completely.
Currently I’m using a Creative labs $50 USB sound card, and an Altec Lansing 2.1 desktop speaker system $200..

It really isn’t bad, and loads of fun. It allows me to play back lots of files & CDs I probably would not play too often on my main stereo.

So… I'm looking for recommendations of USB sound cards and a 2.1 speaker setup. Prefferably with both mechanical and software vol control, which will noticeably improve upon the aforementioned gear..


What are your picks for:

USB sound card
2.1 speakers
2.0 speakers

…… that will sound better than my above listed stuff? Actually it’s OK, but playing a setup disc it is easy to perceive how many areas of the bandwidth simply aren’t being honestly reproduced… but that’s about the only way to really highlight it’s shortcomings. Otherwise.. it’s well, fun…. And inexpensive.

Mainly the focus is for PC but if it will work with Macs too, that's great!. If it can integrate into a preamp or receiver or DAC too, that would be very nice, but not an absolutely necessary option.

Remember, the idea is a stand alone very, very nice sounding PC sound system first! It should be capable too of replaying file types from 16/44 to 24/192.

Do try to make the rig as inexpensive as is possible, so some reasonable and thoughtful blend of value to performance should be the real guideline.

I’m thinking too, as full range as is possible and likely a sub needs be in the mix… but nothing nutso.

Over achieving and high value items, front and center!

This might be fun…. Wadaya think?

Many thanks!
At work, I use a Toshiba Laptop w/ iTunes > USB > PS Audio DL III > Audioengine A5s and am very happy.

...add a preamp and powered subwoofer if needed.

Good luck!
Thanks so far... to everyone.

actually a 'stand alone' system is the aim. No iPod dock, no dedicated DAC, no dedicated int amp or receiver.

So active speakers, and a USB or fire wire sound card that is a step or two up from what I have now... it's nearly ... well, it's old IMO.

If the sound card has SPDIF out, fine. if not, that's fine too.

Self contained stand alone, high value, not high cost.

Some sort of arrangement for $< $400 or so.

I'm blessed to have plenty of junk around to integrate any of my desktops into... preamps, receivers, DAC, converters, but prefer to go with a pc rig that needs no other assistance.

If, this proposal by todays' standards IS NOT CAPABLE of showing a noticeable measure of performance as opposed to what I have now... well, just say that.

I figured $400 - $500 ought be plenty to spend on a desktop sound system... if not, do tell.

This might fit your bill, USB in so no need for soundcard!

I was wondering when some votes for active speakers would land.

Jim, I run a PC with firewire going to an MAudio firewire to spdif converter, into a Music Fidelity XDacV3/PSU into a Cayin A-50T which powers B&W 685 speakers. Windows7/J River 15. The sound is pretty excellent considering the cost. PC is a custom Gateway, Twin internal 300Gig 10,000 rpm WD Black drives, 4 gigs ram, quad core Intel. I like the MAudio converter so that (1)I keep away from the dreaded usb protocal and (2)I am not limited to any dac with either firewire or usb input. With the spdif converter, I can have anything (except the Ayre, which I think sounds poor anyway).