Here's a perspective based entirely on my opinion. If I were going to spend over $160 on a dedicated sound card I wouldn't spend it on a PCI interface soundcard. To me this is an investment that would be made for long term (i.e. the soundcard would travel with me through various future upgrades). With that said, the PCI slot is slowly fading from use in favor of motherboards that have a full complement of PCIe x1, x4, x8, x16 slots. So personally I'd be looking for a sound card with PCIe x1 interface if I were you. In no particular order here are the sound cards I'd be considering in light of your budget; HT | OMEGA eClaro 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Cardhttp://www.newegg.co...N82E16829271006
The other HT card you referenced in your first post
And personally, I'm not sure why everyone seems to have such a problem with Creative cards. Either I'm very lucky or a lot of other folks are technically challenged. It's been a long time since a Creative card has given me fits. My vanilla X-Fi Titanium, HD X-Fi Titanium and even X-Fi Extreme Gamer have been great cards, all work fine with Windows 7 64-bit and are problem free. I can say the same for previous Sound Blaster cards I had. My Audigy2 ZS was one of the best sound cards I ever owned and also worked fine with the latest Creative drivers for Windows 7.
I'd have to echo what some others have said about the logic of spending this much money on a sound card though. Now I wouldn't go as far as Waco and recommend onboard sound
because up to this point my dedicated sound cards have always sounded better to me than even great onboard sound. Especially considering output volume and clarity at higher volume settings. I don't consider myself an audiophile so the most I would look at spending on a sound card would be in the neighborhood of $100 dollars or so.
That would open up a few other choices;ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 Channels PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Cardhttp://www.newegg.co...N82E16829132006or if you absolutely must have PCI;ASUS Xonar D1 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Sound Cardhttp://www.newegg.co...N82E16829132007