Every time I go to a lan party
and I ask what's in somebody's machine, they say "Celeron
blah blah. Oh, and this kickass Sound Blaster Live
. It's the best thing ever".
I got a new sound card recently. All I wanted was something cheap and with PCI. I ended up with an AW744 Pro, which cost me $45AUD (probably $25 US or less). On the way home, I read the manual; it had a lot more features than I thought. EAX, Sensaura, 4 speaker output, S/PDIF, DirectX acceleration... All I was going to use it for was MP3's.
Of course, I tried the extra features. EAX is really nice in Counter-Strike, and 4 speaker output is fun when I can be bothered hooking up the extra speakers. It didn't have Linux support at the time, but ALSA has pulled through recently to get some very nice drivers together (last time I checked they were in CVS, but they seemed 100% stable). The DirectX acceleration gave a small but noticeable speed boost. I was happy. I got a kickass sound card for practically nothing (my mouse cost twice what the card did).
So I start asking SBLive people what makes their card so special. The most common responses are "4 speaker surround", "EAX" and "sound effects". I calmly explain that I have all that stuff, and better driver support to boot. They don't seem interested, until I ask "How much did you pay for your card?"
This usually gets their attention a bit. They usually give a figure between $200 and $500 AUD. I say "Oh. Mine was $45", and then usually change the subject.
This is always a shock to people that I don't know particularly well. And to this day, I still can't figure out why people buy SBLive's when there are sound cards just as good, at under a quarter the price. Probably the same reason why people buy Voodoo 3 cards while nVIDIA is here.