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Many would still remember the good old days when discrete/separate sound cards and graphics cards were the norm and inbuilt sound cards were unheard off.
The Creative Soundblaster series were very popular then as a more premium solution. When integrated sound cards started become common they used pretty poor performing audio chips and the results were that even budget discrete sound cards offered a noticeably better performance.
Coming to this day and age, onboard sound cards have become much better. So much so that budget discrete sound cards have practically vanished from stores and only mid range and premium sound cards are available.
Creative had plenty of mid-fi and high end audio solutions a while back with their X-Fi series which launched in 2005. The X-Fi series chipset was very popular and was featured in both Creative branded sound cards as well as Auzentech branded cards. However Creative did not update their X-Fi audio processor even as competitors like ASUS launched some interesting products with their Xonar range that had features like a built in headphone amplifier and 192 kHz support which became rather popular and sought after.
Additionally Windows Vista and Windows 7 rendered many of the X-Fi capabilities redundant with the disabling of EAX support in games in addition to many other changes to the redesign of the audio stack by Microsoft.
With the launch of the new quad-core Sound Core3D audio processor, Creative has finally discontinued its X-Fi series and have launched 3 variants with the new audio processing chip. The basic Recon 3D PCI-E sells for about $99 and is a bare card. The card on review is the Recon 3D Fatal1ty Professional which adds a protective EMI shield to the card, a beam forming microphone and a red LED which glows inside your case. Finally there is the flagship Recon 3D Fatal1ty Champion which adds an audio I/O audio expansion bay. The audio I/O expansion bay can be purchased separately for the Fatal1ty Professional card but cannot be used on the basic Recon 3D PCI-E card.