What is the best soundcard on the market right now for pci slots?
2 GB ram
any soundblaster card will give you exceptional performace and unless you're an audiophile there's no need to get top of the line, you won't tell the difference 99% of the time.
Needs do define "best".. Do you want to play games? Make music? Listen to music?
Mostly listening to music and playing games. I currently have a creative audigy platinum ex but its been malfunctioning so i wanted to get another one.
Bottom end- Audigy SE, which is like $29 US at Walmart.
Highest End- XiFi series, which you can now find a "XiFi Gamer" for around $100 USD. The one's with specific music editing/making toys can go all the way up to $400 US.
Middle-roaders include the Audigy2 and Audigy4 series.
You won't notice great differences in the audio cards, but you will detect great differences in the speakers. If you budget is limited, spend the money on speakers that are quality and protected so they don't get blown in the first few days that you have them.
I would buy the speakers first, then buy the speakers later (Even if you have speakers now). Buy the audio card with what is left, or buy it later, if budget is an issue, because bad speakers can blow an audio card. Good speakers can make even a bad audio setup, even integrated, sound pretty good.