I'm running with Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, using an HT Omega Striker 7.1 sound card. Its outputs include:
+ 4 3.5-mm (labeled 'Front,' 'Side Surround,' 'Center/Subwoofer,' and 'Back Surround')
+ 1 optical
+ 1 coaxial
From what I've been able to glean from other topics, I'm not really able to use multiple outs at once (unless, I'm assuming, it's the 4 3.5-mm jacks for a 7.1 surround sound setup). So, let's assume I want to hook up speakers for the following:
+ simple 2.1 desktop speakers (currently use Logitech Z4 speakers) next to the computer;
+ a 2.1 or 5.1 setup for the 32" TV hooked up to my computer (right now, the TV itself plays video only; I currently listen to whatever's playing on it through the desktop speakers, since I'm evidently unable to run an auxiliary cable from another jack on the sound card to the TV's 3.5-mm input to play through its speakers) - for this, I'm envisioning something as simple as higher-end computer speakers, that don't require an A/V receiver, but that just plug into an audio output;
+ 2.0 patio/deck speakers, located (obviously) outside;
+ the 5.1 A/V receiver (possibly expanding to a 7.1) in my living room upstairs; and
+ just for shits & giggles, possibly installing in-wall or in-ceiling speakers (2.0) in, say the kitchen or dining room or a bedroom
In addition to all the speakers and speaker wire, I'm curious what sort of device would be ideal for running from one of the audio outputs on my sound card to the aforementioned 5+ zones. I'm assuming the digital optical output is best, but if that one is used, am I still able to use one of the analog jacks so I can have my desktop speakers hooked up there, and then all the other speakers emanating from some sort of amplified distributor located elsewhere?
And, a related question: if I were to want to run full surround sound audio to one of the 5.1 or greater setups, would those speakers still be receiving the true audio quality, or would it somehow be reduced to 2.0 or 2.1, and then simply spread across all 5 or 7 channels?