Originally Posted by paleocons FTFW
Thanks, medion! By modern audio, did you mean onboard? Would upgrading my $100 speakers to a good receiver and better speakers help?
Yea, left out a word. I fixed the typo. As for a good receiver and speakers, this is a tad out of my element, so here goes.
Your output is largely based on your input. If you have crap input, then you will have crap output. There's just no way around it. Now, if all you're doing is listening to CDs or MP3, even an AC97 based motherboard will sound about the same as an X-Fi, with one exception, signal to noise ratio (SNR). AC97 is crap in this regard. Modern HD Audio is pretty damn good, but not quite as good as an X-Fi (and there's certainly better out there than an X-Fi). The better your speakers, the more easily you'll notice this difference.
But, there's a lot more involved here. I'm honestly not a home audio buff, so hopefully our resident experts will help you here. You should also consider registering at www.avsforum.com
as they have a LOT of useful feedback on these kinds of topics.