It is not a company most people have heard of, but BlueGear makes soundcards, and their newest is the HDA X-Mystique 7.1.  The cards are priced for someone on a budget, but do offer 7.1 and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound for those who don’t want to pick up a Creative card.  Read the whole review at Penstar Systems.
“The sound card market is a very strange one these days. When Creative released the Sound Blaster series computer sound really took off and there were quite a few solid competitors in the market at that time. The big chip firms were Ensoniq, Creative, Cirrus Logic, Aureal and others. Through the years though, due to market pressures, buyouts, and legal action we now have only three major manufacturers of standalone sound chips. I am not simply talking audio codecs and the integrated sound functionality on the chipset level, but true standalone sound chips that work independently of the CPU. Creative just released their X-Fi series of chip which brings some incredible DSP prowess to the table and continue to produce their Audigy 2 and SB Live! 24 chips. VIA has carefully nursed their Envy series of chips to be a solid product for a wide range of products from the average desktop to the recording studio. The last big audio chipmaker is C-Media.”

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