I use an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 and like it a lot. I use it to record LP's, not much for playback. Very easy to use and records and plays back very nicely. There's one suggestion for you.
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As a professional recording engineer, I can tell you that the above mentioned Lynx is held in the highest esteem in recording circles. RME products are also excellent(what I use) but possibly slightly less highly regarded. Apogee is the other name at the top of the list, but will probably cost you 2-3x the price of the Lynx for the same quality.
The difference in sound quality between these and consumer/prosumer cards/DAC's is significant.
Lynx is absolute rubbish. Sorry to say that.
The drivers are absolutely hopeless introducing massive latency and they don't want to do anything about it!
We threw them out and replaced with RME which also runs on Linux.
I can tell you that the above mentioned Lynx is held in the highest esteem in recording circles
I have a few soundcards. My favorite stock card is the digitalaudiolabs CardDeluxe using the AES/EBUbracket and a Transparent Ref AES/EBU cable, but that might just be system synergy. I had a Neutrik connector made for the 1/4" TRS adapter needed to connect the computer to the Transparent.
Almost every sound card I have seen needs modification of some sort for audio application. Just getting rid of the dongle interface hanging off the back of the card can make any sound card sound much better. For the EMU 0404, I had a pair of RCA and a spdif inserted into it and gave up all the other options permitted by using the supplied dongle.
One nice feature about a soundcard is that you can use standard commercially sold interconnects. I use a Elrod Statement II powercord and a Transparent AES/EBU and the CardDeluxe currently, but the EMU 0404 is just as good or better. With the EMU0404, I use Valhalla RCA. With a USB solution, you are stuck with a lot of USB parts that are not sold from Audiophile companies.
From another Audiogoner who posted on another forum:
"Posted by Jon L ( A ) on February 23, 2006 at 09:53:09
In Reply to: Re: Suggestions on good sound card? posted by bobp on February 23, 2006 at 07:18:08:
That's a good recommendation, but it sounds like they're just looking for the source, not amp also. For soundcard with analogue output, EMU 0404 has always been a decent choice, but for 2006, they've upgraded the DAC chip to the brilliant new AKM4396, so a renewed interest may be in order, possibly with some simple output stage mods..."
There are a lot of posts for using USB but you asked about soundcards.
interesting thread comparing sound deluxe, EMU1212m, and EMU0404
another comparison to the sound deluxe etc.
my computer last year
Anyway, this is how I feel about soundcards and helps you answer your questions.