Right now I'm using an Audigy SE with Sennheiser HD280s; it sounds pretty good to me, but I've never been able to experience a really proper setup (i.e. a high-end sound card paired with a headphone amp), so what sounds good to me might sound mediocre to someone else. I've been really stuck between what to get, but I've finally decided that if I do get something, I'm probably going to get a Xonar DX and pair it with a PA2V2 amp. I'm just curious as to how big of a difference this is going to make. I don't want to drop $110 dollars on a setup that will only make a tiny difference. Also, does anyone have any suggestions/alternatives that might produce a better sound quality for around the same price?
The average driver/cone produces something like 5% THD in the midbass area. A soundcard will produce something like 0.02% THD. The lowest quality soundcard might produce 0.05% THD. The difference of sound coloration between the sound radiator and a soundcard is over 100 times.
Upgrading your headphones/speakers is 99% of your sound quality. Tweaking electronics has extremely low returns per dollar.
Thanks again for all the help,
I have both a PCI and PCIex1 slot so I'm all set with that, but now I'm considering the Auzentech Forte because I've found it for relatively cheap online and the integrated headphone amp will allow for high impedance future upgrades. Any thoughts on how this would fare compared to a Xonar DX?
I've decided to go with the Auzentech Forte. I heard the DX and the Forte are both pretty comparable when used with speakers, but the Forte pulls ahead when used with headphones, and I'm going to be primarily using headphones. Thanks again everyone for the help.