The article on PCs not being ready to be the "hub" of home entertainment/music yet seems wide of the mark. I use mine a lot. Having a large collection on the hard drive from various sources (ripped from CD, LP, Audio Tape, recorded from radio, downloaded from internet) means I am able to search and play them easily, burn audio CDs and MP3 CDs and export to portable devices easily, as well as stream internet radio through the house.
I have two amplifiers connected to my sound card, stereo speakers in dining room, lounge, and other speakers in study, bathroom (you have got to have music to shower by) and garage (for music while you work). It's all cabled- I'm not even interested in wireless after experiencing the poor quality with a wireless laptop "connection". I haven't bothered with surround sound as all CDs and radio broadcasts (both internet and FM) are still in stereo, as is most TV. I have a Leadtek DV2000 so I can hear FM radio as well as analogue TV on my PC, record it (and supposedly schedule recording, when I decipher the software).
Unfortunately I can't have a card with AM radio, but not to worry, the local stations are going to switch to FM next year. I'm waiting for a digital TV card that incorporates Digital radio before I update. I haven't found any on Internet searches yet. I don't purchase MP3s from the internet as CDs are cheaper and better quality, even if ordered from the USA on the internet (as many are not available here). In the USA it is legal to rip these to hard drive, convert to MP3 and listen on a portable device. My portable device is a portable CD/MP3/AM/FM radio player, so it does it all except record. It runs 70 hours on 2 AA batteries, just testing 2500mAh NiMH rechargeables and they last "forever". A CD can contain up to 999 tracks, 70 hours of audio, there is a sleeve for 2 extra CDs. 210 hours is plenty for a holiday, and the other functions mean I can listen to the radio or purchase and listen to a CD while "out and about". It has line out to connect to an amplifier/car stereo too.
Coming problems for PC audio seem to be the new formats which are intended to be incompatible with PC- Sony's superaudio CD (which Sony says will play at standard CD quality on normal CD/DVD players), DVD audio (ditto) and who knows what HD DVD will bring? So long as the music keeps playing at stereo quality there should be no problems. I recently dusted off some old LPs of Beethoven Piano concertos and played them, then played a Deutsche grammophon CD of one and while they both sound great, I think the LPs have the edge. I remember at the time CDs were replacing LPs (being an old fogey) that audiophiles were complaining digital wouldn't capture the full breadth of sound, despite being more convenient and not prone to dust and scratches (you should see the way some people treat their CDs!). The CD revolution won the argument, but now I see the proponents of super audio CD and DVD audio are using the same argument for their products-Sony even advertises its superaudio CDs as producing sound closer to LP records!
Dr Philip Dawson