My on-board sound card was faulty since day 1. It's working, but in Windows 7 it snaps, crackles and pops more than a posse of dry cereals. I used XP for a long while and when I switched to 7 I had to get a new sound card just to get rid of the issue. I'm not very picky, but I do like a clean sound. My stand-alone card that I bought was a cheap Creative Audigy (under $30). To see its shared Mic In/Line In jack was, to say the least, f-frustrating. It didn't even cross my mind to check for that when I ordered it. To my surprise nobody (else) complained about it. Yes, I need two inputs and that's that. Older cards had separate inputs for mic in and line in, but not the newer, fancier ones. I usually use fancy as I pejorative. With the help of my biological brother (we look totally different, so I'm wondering about that) the on board aux was patched through to the panel - which had to be drilled to mount the new jack connector - and I used that as a secondary input. It worked, but they could only do so one at a time. There was nothing else I could do, so I just resigned myself. Until the card failed, that is, about 3 or 4 years later and without any obvious reason. The system would lock up, freeze completely. I tried a bunch of things (extensive RAM and CPU tests) without success. I started pulling cards out from the PCI slots and this is how I found the culprit. I reverted to my on-board cereal card and used it for months, 'till I finally gave in. My brother had a SB Live laying around and decided to try it out. The SB Live, otherwise a decent card, is apparently too old to work in Windows 7 (no drivers). It was high time I searched the market for a new card. I quickly understood that the sound card business is not a business anymore. There are so few options out there that my head spun. None of the lower to medium priced cards had separate inputs. Even the external sound cards - where space shouldn't be a problem - featured the same combo crap like their slot-mounted siblings. The more expensive stuff had - iirc - such an option, but I'm not prepared to pay hundreds of euros for this kind of functionality. I know, for these pricey cards you get much more than two damned inputs, but I just want a regular joe sound and them-damned-inputs. I bit the bullet and went for one in the cheap-o category. Xonar DG SI. I had to compare the specs to find out what's the difference between the DG and the DG SI. These acronyms... they're telling me nothing. I got the DG SI simply because it was available, I don't care about 5.1 or 7.1. To tell you the truth I was excited and glad to get rid of those crackles. There was also fear, and for good reason too. I plugged it in and in a couple of minutes I knew something was wrong. The drivers installed OK, the sound worked, but the level between the left and right channels was uneven. I checked my speaker configuration settings and they were correct (stereo, 2 speakers). I checked the software balance and it was even. I switched the speakers with my headphones, no improvement. I changed the drivers, same deal. Do I need to express my opinion? I wish I had a deep and enlightening conclusion. I don't. My conclusion is plain and obvious. Quality of stuff is degrading. Are we allowing this to happen because we suck, or is this driven by the machinations of a higher collective force that we can't control because we suck?