Thunderbolt has definitely opened up a plethora of interface options!
Finally replaced our firewire MOTU devices with Apogee Ensembles.
Onboard audio is full of noise, distortion and other bad things and most products with the name "Creative" in them are not much better particularly when dealing with drivers and i/o. The USB sound blaster is actually pretty decent though. But it lacks proper balanced outputs.
That's a $2500 'sound card'?