My question is, does anyone have digital speakers? Is there really a noticeable difference, and would it make sense for me to get some digital ones, considering that really the only thing I use that soundcard for is play games.
There's one thing to remember when shopping for a new sound system: Good sound systems produce good sound, bad ones produce bad sound. Buy good cables that are not very susceptible to outside interference and you probably won't notice a difference between the analog outs and the digital outs of your sound card.
I'd worry more about the frequency response of the system, how loud you can get before distortion, and the loudness of the speker "hiss" when there's no audio. And of course I'd worry about the cost if that was a factor.
However, most reviews for speaker systems are very, very shallow, and it might be hard finding out information about the speaker hiss and actual quantitative data about the sound quality when using a digital input versus an analog input. So good luck.
That being said, I'd go with a digital system. There's more room for interference with analog (e.g., cheap input/output connectors, poor board design, poor cables). With digital, you are almost guaranteed that the signal from your sound card will be perfectly intact when it reaches your Dolby Digital decoder. But then you have to be sure that the path from your decoder to the actual speakers (somewhere along the line the signal will be converted to analog anyway) is good--which brings me back to the first point I made about good systems being good and bad systems being bad. Even if your speaker system gets a perfect signal, if it's a poorly designed/manufactured system, you're not going to get a perfect reproduction of the sound.
As for recommendations, I would have recommended the Klipsch Promedia series of speaker systems if mine hadn't died within 3 months of purchase
. They're very good systems in their price bracket--crisp sound, low hiss, optical input to the decoder, DIN to the subwoofer (control module for the satellites). The subwoofer could be a bit more powerful though.
If you have the opportunity to get a personal demonstration of various speaker systems, take it. Online computer speaker system reviews aren't very good.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I'd also look for a system (or at least learn of a software solution) that supports 5-channel stereo. I can't stand having 5.1 audio in some applications, but then having only 2-channel audio when listening to a CD or something. If your system supports 5-channel stereo, you'll still be using 2 channels of audio, but it'll be coming out of all 5 of your speakers for a much fuller sound.This comment was edited on Nov 17, 00:45.