In our PC’s we have powerfull gpus and CPU’s today. One thing often ignored is Audio. Yes that realtek chip support multichannel, spdif, but sounds noisy and weak. As gamer you also suffer under audio-lags caused by bad drivers and hardware-implementation.
First I looked for pci-express cards. The affordable and audiophile customer cards from Asus would be a nice choice but are windows only.
Left over was an Firewire or USB Audiointerface ? – a matter of opinion in this days.
My choice was the Echo Audiofire 4, which I bought used at ebay and a PCIe Ti Firewire400 card:
+ good sound quality
+ stable and updated drivers for Mac and Windows even for Linux
+ nice aluminum mac-like design
+ 3,5mm mini-jack Headphone
– headphone can only be outed to one channel pair