the p965 chipset can produce very satisfying sound, like what comes out of the asus p5b series, for example.
Intel p965 chipset doesnt have audio. The Asus P5B motherboard uses the SoundMax audio chip (AD1988). Some users experience problems with it; distortions (put global volume to 80% to avoid it) and slower WinXP boot time. I never had problems with it, never was annoyed the 1 sec slower xp boot.
However I bought the SB X-Fi Fatal1ty, my first Creative product in my 16years of PC user career. Have been avoiding that crap.
Reason was its a bit cheaper now and I wanted uber soundcard for upcoming ET:QW and I liked to hear how good Battlefield2 sounds, i play that most. Also wanted to finally have a real EAX soundcard other sound solutions i have had never sounded right or had probs in EAX (Aureal A3D, NForce2 etc.) . SoundMax audio doesnt have OpenAL support while X-Fi does and games like ET:QW (Quake4 engine), Company of Heroes and BF2 uses that.
Result of changing the soundcard so far:
WinXP booting is ~1.5secs faster compred to SoundMax.
BF2 sounds nice with Ultra High quality, very deep bass now (look at the jets flying with afterburner on sky) and much richer sounds. Although I cant hear enemy artillery starting anymore from other side of map. That helped to avoid it quite often but i think that wasnt supposed to be heard anyway.
SoundMax vs. X-Fi Fatal1ty
Total score 27438 vs. 27576 +0,50%
no sound fps 141,9 vs. 142,9 +0,70%
24 sounds fps 132,9 vs. 133,4 +0,37%
60 sounds fps n/a vs. 125,1
Not much gains there. And let me remind you that X-Fi drivers uses ridiculous amounts of system memory, at least about 15Mb.
BTW. In Windows Vista it is not anymore possible to use hardware acceleration in 3DDirectSound! Creative has announced that it will do drivers that do it anyway by translating 3DDirectSound commands to OpenAL. Time will tell if thats just marketing hype or are there any gains with it.