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Well, Linux drivers are often made without any specification or help from the card maker, so they are sometime a bit buggy. Don't blame the coder, you better blame the vendor that keep the technical documentation secret and that doesn't make any linux driver.
Still, have you tried all options in the mixer? Some sound deamon (artsd of kde, most noticely) activate any single options your card may support. This behavior sometime result in "scratchy sound" or "echo ghost" in the sound as your card has some problem with certains options.
As example, make sure to disable the "3d surround" as most card will not play very well with this one. There is some other conflicting options as well, but you will have to guess the correct ones for your card.
Total Aggreement Total Surprise Totally Confused Why
I do not have a sound-card on my computer; however, I do have a very good on-broad device, the nVidia 3 nForce 250GB AC'97 Audio Controller. In Windows it runs so well that the only reason I can justify switching to a Creative Labs Soundblaster Audigy 2, 4 or, more likely, the X-Fi Elite Pro--their new card and external audio component with a remote control, is that I desire to import audio to be remastered into CDs for archival purposes. Both my AC'97 and the X-FI Elite Pro come with 7.1 speaker set up so that is clearly not an issue, though the cost of a good speaker set is. But when I added a second boot, Linux Fedora Core 4.1, what a disappointment. The sounds are primative compared to what an Apple or a Windows machine produces. I have played around with the sound a lot myself, even have created custom sounds for particular events, but the sound is not there. I have heard that Fedora is particularly bad with sound but have no facts to support that other than experience. .: I simply have to agree. Prehaps there is someone who knows what they are doing who could tell about how to get the most out of the sound system in Linux. I am thinking quite hard about upgrading to a Sound Blaster card now, not so much for personal reeasons anymore, but to do anything I can to get better perfermorance. I want the X-FI Elite but wonder if Linux supports it yet. So it goes . . . I am in full agreement. . . . But that creates the criticism usually leveed at Linux as an Operating System: While it is free software, one has to buy hard to make Linux run; whereas with Windows and Mac you pay for software but are pretty certain that your hardwhere will be supported. I had hoped to aviod that trap. But I cannot. I will have to pay extra to construct a Linux network and Sound systems at least now.
I'd like to make a comment on this:
"But that creates the criticism usually leveed at Linux as an Operating System:"
I think there are many other reasons where Linux gets it's best performance. This is servers, especially high end super machines, where Windows in turn cannot beat the challenge and for long will not. So you cannot expect to have a highly sophisticated professional operating system to meet absolutely all needs possible, server and desktop. For many many years it was a real challenge for many gurus to install Linux on a PC, but this is evolving. I read Hewlett Packard sold at least 1 million!!! servers with a preinstalled Linux.
I think it is not fair to compare all operating systems. This is a common mistake. We think that since it is so easy to install a Linux box today, it also means it is easy to manage. As for a Mac, you get the high quality for a certain price, where in turn you can install a Linux for free. In turn what is the flexibility of a Windows or Mac? Besides, after all a Mac is based on RISC Power PC processors specialized for a UNIX system. I read a lot of good things about Mac's, but I cannot afford this kind of a system in my country for my salary.
Buying a legal full price operating system does not always solve your problem. With your Windows installation you were just lucky Windows recognized your sound cards and had a proper driver installed.
As a good axample, just a month ago I reinsatalled my IBM Thinkpad with Windows. Next nothing was working. Why? Because the standard Windows installation was not capable to recognize all the new devices, next day I spent two days downloading all necessary drivers, including screen display and sound card drivers from IBM. So it is anoher mistake to think Windows is so easy too. In some cases it is a serious installation hog too, and this depends on your hardware. In turn I installed a Mandriva 2005 LE on the same IBM Thinkpad and after rebooting every device was supported without any additional downloads and all devices are working fine.
Finally it is up to the vendor to support a Linux system also, if you get a sound card of a vendor that does not offer a Lunix driver, he is a lousy vendor, don't buy that sound card.
I guess if someone expects a real good sound effect he should first find a better hardware solution. But also he should take a look and try to find which sound card has the best Linux drivers.
I am not any Linux or Windows guru regarding soundcards. For me on my Pentium III with an older Nvidia soundcard my sound is just perfect. I don't find any reason to complain. But I am not a musician. We all know poeple with those kind of interests will need more than a standard quality. I regeret Linux not always has all things set up automatically easy. The same will go with high graphics demands.
Finally, just read some articles in a computer magazine about protecting your Windows box. Oh my, what a complicated set of software you need to protect and regularly check the Windows installation. The articles were 20 pages long. It took me two long days to read and I find it quite a job (maybe full time) to use and maintain those issues, not to mention many ordinary people using a Windows box are completely not aware of the dangers that they can meet browsing through web pages using IE. So before anyone complains about Linux first read about those security measures in Windows you have to deal with.
As for me I finally got most of my multimedia running on my Mandriva 2006 , I got aMule runnig and I am not going back to Windows, at least at home.