I finally gave up and RMA'd the card (it's only taken me since August!) It was a brand new retail unit from Ebuyer so no problems there, they even collect by courier. I tried different variations of the software and drivers but to no avail, I also tried disconnecting the front panel with no change. Since I had to pack up the card for return I broke out the Extreme Audio Card that came with my Maximus formula board, the speakers fit in but unfortunately because the output jacks are slightly different I don't get anyting from my two side speakers, the rest however, work like a charm. The Sound Blaster card was seated in the furthest PCI slot originally, the video card got my suspisions up because other than the Raptor (which I have now tried two) it was the only other constant that would appear to give me trouble. All I can hope is that there were some bad connections somewhere but as I am getting a direct replacement I'm not confident that I won't experience the same issues. Creative's recommendations were not too dissimilar to your own (maybe exactly the same, sorry can't remember), I dod find their recommendations on their website after talking with them over the phone. Everyone else's problems seem to be crackling noises which I only experienced very rarely when the sound was in the process of dropping out so all I can do is hope that the card itself was faulty and that I will never experience this again with the new card on arrival. I will of course post the outcome, and thank you for your help thus far. Cheers.