Looks like I missed this piece of news from a few days ago. The Tech Report have an extensive sound car roundup comparing everything cards from Hercules, Turtle Beach, Phillips and of course Creative - The Sound Blaster Audigy is no longer our only option when it comes to high-end sound card solutions.
In most cases, the differences we uncovered here aren't anything to write home about. The Muse XL was notably slower than the rest in the benchmarks, but otherwise everything was pretty even. As for the listening tests, all of the differences we heard were the results of back-to-back tests, but no matter what we said about any of the cards, none of them were objectionable. The days of ISA Sound Blasters that hiss like a cat are gone; unless there's a really bad card out there that we didn't include, the state of PC sound today is that even the worst card sounds pretty darn good. If one were to listen to any of these cards by itself, one probably wouldn't find any gross deficiencies in audio quality (with the possible exception of the overdone EAX effects in Serious Sam, but we're not sure whether to blame that on the sound cards or the game developers).More information at The Tech Report.