I remember sound cards in general being a mess back in those days. Here is everything I remember about the subject...
The first PC that was actually mine was a Gateway G6-400 (440BX, PII 400, Riva 128, ES137x) and I remember wanting a "real" sound card due to driver woes. Honestly, I was a total newbie at that point, and the (24.4kbps dialup) internet of 1999 didn't provide answers the way it does now. I ended up with some non-Creative card that totally killed Windows every time the drivers were installed... I don't even remember what it was now. Probably something I wish I'd kept with the original box. Eventually I got myself a second hand Aureal Vortex 2 SQ2500 ($50 on ebay!), which I thought would be the only soundcard I'd ever need. Sadly, Aureal was basically already dead at this point, so driver support died off almost immediately. On top of that, I found the A3D implementation in a my favorite games to be really glitchy. In others (and especially the tech demos) it was completely amazing.
Eventually I ended up with a Sound Blaster Live! which was an absolute MESS with drivers at the time. I'm sure it had some redeeming qualities, but I remember having issues even getting it installed most of the time after reinstalling Windows 98 (which I did a lot back then). I remember trying to get downloaded drivers to work and nothing would work for it... only the drivers that came on the CD.
At some point in here I attempted to use the onboard audio on an ECS K7S5A, which was absolutely horrid. It "worked" fine but the sound quality was so bad. I honestly still can't believe it was so audibly muffled and crummy sounding.
After that, I was reading these wonderful stories of Turtle Beach sort of carrying A3D torch via Sensaura on the Santa Cruz, so I bought one of those. It was a great card, but the 3D audio also sounded pretty messed up to me in a lot of games then too. Poor implementation again most likely, and at this point A3D problems weren't being fixed. It was a great card though. Definitely one of my favorite cards that probably could have stayed relevant for many many years if only they had made 64bit drivers for later operating systems. It's great for 98 and XP though.
Then in late 2003 I got my Abit NF7-S 2.0 Nforce 2 Ultra 400 motherboard with the MCP-T and Soundstorm... which surprisingly worked much better in the games of that time than all of my previous cards. It could even do real time matrix encoding of analog audio signals for my ancient (early 1990s) Kenwood Dolby Pro Logic surround receiver. This completely blew my mind and is an almost undocumented feature because it was such an uncommon setup. But it got me surround sound with real speakers (using only a standard 3.5mm jack), even if the rear channel sounded funny and was just there to make noise.
Eventually I got an X-Fi because EAX5 HD or whatever was supposed to be great... then Vista removed DirectSound3D, basically every game after that dropped hardware based audio features (even though OpenAL was still around) and the rest is history. The last new sound card I bought was a Xonar DX, and I still use it almost 10 years later. Now its just outputting 2 channel audio via toslink to an SMSL SD-793II external DAC+headphone amp. Emulated hardware 3D effects are still wonky in older games, but 3D positional audio is incredible. One of the best audio experiences I've ever heard would be setting my system to 8 channel mode with dolby headphone enabled and using the "Sound Physics" mod in Minecraft. Reminds me a lot of what A3D could have been if it had stuck around. 😀
Anyway, that was my experience with sound cards. It was a complete mess. I enjoyed having all the different features to play with in the 98-XP era, but drivers were so bad back then and Creative stomped out the competition shortly after this period, so none of the alternatives really stuck around long enough to be as good as they could have been.
Now for some blitting from the back buffer.