Computer motherboards have upgraded a lot over the last couple of years, especially with the integrated audio. They have improved so much that, in fact, the average gamer doesn´t really think they need a sound card.
Of course, there are exceptions. If you are an audiophile, dedicated gamer (esports), or looking to create your own media center, you will definitely want to improve your audio.
Dedicated sound cards are very powerful and provide many advantages and features that you don’t get with the integrated sound cards. But how do you know how to pick the best sound card out of all the available cards today? And what are some benefits of buying a sound card?
First, sound cards provide a lot more sound-clarity than integrated cards. You can also get features like headphone amplification, noise-free recording, and, most importantly, high-end audio quality.
So we tested some of the most incredible sound cards on the market in order to find the ideal sound card for you…
- 1 Top 8 Best Sound Card In 2020 Reviews
- 1.1 1 Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe RX 7.1 – Best Old School Gamer Sound Card
- 1.2 2 ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II – Best Premium Sound Card
- 1.3 3 Sound Blaster z pcie gaming sound card – Best Basic Gaming Sound Card
- 1.4 4 Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5 Hi-Resolution PCIe Gaming Sound Card – Best Sound Card for Headphones
- 1.5 5 EVGA Nu Audio Card, 712-P1-AN01-KR – Best Dedicated Gaming Sound Card
- 1.6 6 ASUS Xonar SE 5.1 PCIe gaming sound card – Best Affordable Sound Card
- 1.7 7 Creative Soundblaster Omni Surround 5.1 – Best External Sound Card
- 1.8 8 Creative Sound BlasterX G1 – Best Portable Sound Card
- 2 Best Sound Card Buying Guide
- 3 How Do I Choose A Sound Card For Gaming?
- 4 Not Using Headphones?
- 5 So, What Is The Best Sound Card?
Top 8 Best Sound Card In 2020 Reviews
1 Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe RX 7.1 – Best Old School Gamer Sound Card
The Audigy PCIe RX 7.1 is an excellent option for an integrated sound card on your computer. It is mid-priced and works well for gaming, music, and movies. With some great features.
These include the signal-to-noise ratio (106dB), which gives you excellent audio quality without interference. And the headphone amplifier (600-ohm), which will power even the best studio headphones on the market.
It also has several other features worth mentioning like:
- Karaoke functions and quality effects that are accelerated on the chipset.
- Low latency recordings supported by Audio Stream Input/Output drivers.
- Dual microphone inputs allowing you to connect two microphones and sing with your friends. Or you can use the second input to record while you sing.
- Creative WaveStudio and Creative Smart recorder are included when you buy the Audigy PCIe RX 7.1, so no extra software is needed. And you can immediately start creating your own content.
Thanks to the advanced chipset that comes with the Sound Blaster Audigy RX, the Creative E-MU, you can fine-tune your EAX settings. Using the powerful EAX Studio software, which lets you both control and perform detailed adjustments to all the EAX Advanced HD settings. For example, you can add environmental effects to your music, movies, and games.
If you are a gamer and you are considering buying the Audigy RX for your upping your gaming experience, you should think twice. Unless you are a nostalgic player and enjoy the list of games that used hardware EAX effects that this card still actually supports.
If so, you will get great quality effects and audio without affecting your computer’s processing power since the last generation games use the CPU for sound effects.
Great for movies…
If you are a movie fan and watch a lot of movies on your computer, the Audigy RX will impress. Because it supports a 7.1 multi-channel speaker output, it will give you an excellent cinematic audio experience.
If you need a sound card at a reasonable price, the Audigy PCIe RX 7.1 is a great option. The EAX effects will make the audio sound more vivid and lifelike. It is not the most powerful of sound cards, but it is better than adequate for the price. And it won’t affect your CPU. All in all, a great card that we can recommend.
- Audio Fidelity.
- Dual microphone inputs.
- A headphone amplifier.
- Could be better shielded for poor motherboard layouts.
- Does not include advanced software from other Creative cards.
- No S/P-DIF input.
2 ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II – Best Premium Sound Card
The Asus STX II is the sequel to one of the best audiophile sound cards on the market. In 2009, Creative was suffering from hideous driver issues leaving room for other manufacturers to fill the gap. Asus Xonar cards saw the light and beautifully filled that gap.
The market was filled with different sound cards to choose from. But if you wanted the finest, then the predecessor, the Essence STX, was the one to buy. You would have to buy an additional break-out card, though, if you wanted to use something other than just studio headphones. This is where the STX II stands out and triumphs.
With an industry-leading signal-to-noise ratio of 124Db, the audio quality is passed on from the Essence STX. The Ultra-low jitter, with premium TCXO clock source, is another fantastic feature. Thanks to the high-fidelity low-dropout regulators and WIMA, you get a clean and consistent power supply.
A 600ohm headphone amplifier gives you impedance with an additional gain for in-ear monitors. The STX II even uses celebrated MUSES op-amps and delivers a truly outstanding true-to-life musicality.
Well, we could go on and on about all the features and write numbers that no one understands, so better we just give you an overview instead.
The two main audiences for the Asus Essence STX II are audiophiles and those who want nothing but the best possible sound card on their computer.
Which category you belong to depends on how much you understood of the above. If you jumped up and down with joy when you read that the STX II uses MUSES amps, then you are already buying one because all the wants on your checklist have been checked.
For those who don’t understand what we are going on about but are sick of the current audio you have, we can assure you that you will not find a better-quality sound card on the market.
Is it incredibly expensive?
You get what you pay for. This sound card is very expensive, but if you happen to have high-quality speakers or headphones to connect, the difference is astronomical. Every sound sounds exactly as you wish it would, with a clarity that left our mouths open every time we played music or other media of our choice.
Since the STX II includes three OP AMPs and the 7.1 daughterboard, you can install an incredible array of audio devices onto the sound card and fine-tune them until you are satisfied.
The STX II also supports everything from low to high impedance headphones, studio monitors, and regular sound systems. The ASUS Essence STX II is a masterpiece, and if you have any interest in high-quality sound, you should get one now.
The ASUS Essence STX II is one of the best sound cards available, but it comes at a price, and many people would hesitate to buy a sound card for this kind of money. That is, unless they are either a dedicated gamer or an audiophile. We can, however, highly recommend this card and say that it is well worth every penny.
- Superior sound quality.
- Swappable OP AMPs.
- Quality components.
- Performs well with all headphones.
- Functional driver suite.
- 7.1 capability.
- Soundstage lacking some depth.
3 Sound Blaster z pcie gaming sound card – Best Basic Gaming Sound Card
The Sound Blaster Z is the first sound card Creative made in the Z-series. For a reasonable price, you will get good but unexceptional audio, 5.1 surround sound support, a really great microphone, and an EQ solution that suits gamers. Well, not only gamers but also movie lovers and enthusiasts alike.
Honestly, there are better sound cards on the market for the same price, but they don’t have as many features as the Sound Blaster Z.
Exterior and internal design and features…
The Sound Blaster Z has a nice exterior with a heavy red casing that protects the PCB from electrical interference. On the inside, the card has a Sound Core 3D chipset, a 125milliwat headphone amp, and high-quality Nichicon capacitors.
Sound Blaster Z delivers 116Db, which is lower noise interference than most budget motherboards are integrated with today. The Sound Blaster Z does offer ASIO support, 24-bit 192 kHz direct audio, and 5.1 surround sound.
The main channels include a mic input, a headphone output, three line-level speaker outputs, and an optical SPDIF input and output. Connecting the card is pretty simple, and it connects to any available PCIe slot you have on your motherboard.
The beamforming microphone is small and comes with a clip so you can attach it to the top of your monitor. This is an excellent addition from Creative, and it is plug and play ready. Honestly, there is nothing spectacular about this card, but it looks nice and provides the basic necessities.
Sounds good for the price…
The Sound Blaster Z sounds right for what you pay. It is better than a cheap integrated sound chip, but, in our view, the price is a bit much given that the audio quality isn’t that great. You could get higher-quality external amp-DAC solutions for the same price. Or you might be better off investing the same price in higher-quality headphones or speakers.
The software is nothing Creative would put on their feature list, and to be fair, the Sound Blaster Z sounds worse than high-end modern motherboard audio. Like the MSI Carbon Z370s onboard sound.
If your audio system is held back by Intel audio or Realtek audio, which are some of the cheapest and most basic configurations on motherboards, it is well worth it to buy this sound card. But otherwise, it is hard to recommend it.
Wrapping it up…
If you are a gamer who is looking for a treble-focused sound, this is a great option, but we would not recommend it to audiophiles. The Sound Blaster Z will deliver a good sound, but there are better options for the same price. The microphone and the EQ package add some value to the card, but it has some faults.
- Reasonably affordable.
- Comes with a beamforming microphone.
- Great EQ software.
- Sound could be better.
- No 7.1 surround support.
4 Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5 Hi-Resolution PCIe Gaming Sound Card – Best Sound Card for Headphones
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 is a small power package sporting internal AMPs and Sabre32 DAC, which can deliver 32-bit audio up to 384kHz. And to top it off, it supports RGB lighting.
The price may seem a bit rough, and it will definitely add to the total cost of your PC system, but it’s worth it. Yes, today, most motherboards include onboard audio, which for many, is “good enough,” but is it really? The Sound BlasterX AE-5 does make it worth buying an external sound card, and here is why.
Stacked with features to improve your audio…
We’re listing just a few:
- Sabre32 PCIe DAC.
- Discrete headphone amp up to 600ohm.
- Each ear cup in your headset can be driven by its own amplifier instead of sharing the same amp.
- BlasterX Acoustic Engine.
- Software Suite.
- Scout mode.
- Audio Enhancement which allows you to hear key details more clearly, like the footsteps of your enemy in FPS-games.
- Scout 2.0.
- Add-on companion app for mobile devices that shows you the location of where sounds are actually coming from, for example, from enemy players.
- RGB support.
Well, those are only a few of the features that are included.
So, what else do you get?
There are six rear audio outputs, with five of them being 3,5 mm jacks and the last one being an Optical SPDIF.
Since the Sound BlasterX is clearly designed for gamers, Creative definitely puts the focus on the headphone experience to make sure it stands out. And it shows by the discrete AMPs and separate grounding choice. This is, in our opinion, a superb option as most gamers use headphones/headsets when they play.
On the opposite side of the card, there’s a 4 pin PATA connector, which helps power the RGB. There is also a front panel audio panel.
The BlasterX is equipped with the Sound Core 3D chipset just like the Sound Blaster Z, which gives it great audio quality, and for the audiophiles, it includes WIMA film capacitors.
Is better sound and enhancement cheating?
The scout radar and the scout mode are two features that, in our eyes, are almost as bad as ESP cheats. Scout radar connects your mobile device to your PC and shows you the sound source’s location, like enemies firing at you. And the scout mode enhances the audio cues enabling you to hear your enemies as they sneak up on you.
It is a little controversial for us gamers, and we would not recommend anyone to actually use these features. Nevertheless, they are there whether you like it or not. Luckily, they do not perform that well. We found that the pointer, which the app showed us, in many cases was actually our player walking around.
For music lovers…
The contrast between the “good enough” motherboard audio and the Sound BlasterX is incredible. The level of clarity, even with cheaper headphones, is just unbelievable. So, imagine what you will experience with high-end headphones. Even with the cheaper headphones, you can easily select specific tones and instruments, which just isn’t possible with your onboard audio.
For the dedicated gamer…
Since the BlasterX AE-5 is clearly developed for gamers, we couldn’t wait to test it on some games. Even here, there was a distinct difference between the clarity in sounds. When playing FPS games, it became effortless to determine from what direction someone was shooting in live-fire scenarios.
In some games, we even found it a lot easier to determine if an enemy was above you versus walking around the sides of you.
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 is a great sound card. Even though expensive, it is worth every cent. It sounds better in every way compared to standard onboard audio. However, you would want to invest in a solid headphone/headset as well, just to be able to really enjoy the fantastic sounds you get with this card. No matter if you are a gamer, listening to music, or just watching movies. This is one of our favorite sound cards by far.
- Class-leading sound quality.
- Outstanding built-in DAC.
- Easy to use software controls.
- Clean Xamp Headphone Amplifier.
- RGB support.
- Molex connection needed for light strips to function.
- Strange location for the RGB LED light plug.
- Scout features are a little gimmicky and not recommended.
5 EVGA Nu Audio Card, 712-P1-AN01-KR – Best Dedicated Gaming Sound Card
When EVGA introduced the NU Audio Card at the CES, they boldly entered a new high-end sound card into the market. The EVGA Nu was also their first sound card. Their goal was to have a high-end quality card that focused on playing pack material as close to how the original creators intended it.
The EVGA Nu is packed with nothing but high-end components, like the Nichicon capacitors and audio-grade resistors. EVGA also added their own touch to the card and added customizable RGB, copper shielding, and gold-plated outputs.
Under the hood…
The headphone output has its own amplifier, which is also upgradeable. It’s a 6.35 mm jack, which minimizes noise and transient response thanks to a low impedance signal.
The AKM AK5572 32-bit ADC converts the analog signal to digital and allows for studio-quality line-in recordings up to 384kHz.
The I/O are all gold-plated and include stereo line-outs, the 6.35 mm headphone output, 3.5 mm line microphone inputs, and a SPDIF output. You also receive a couple of adapters with the sound card, a 6.3 mm-3.5 mm adapter, and a dual RCA to 3.5 mm jack.
The Nu Audio with music…
Listening to music with the Nu Audio is a sheer delight. We tried a variety of music sources and, the sound was excellent all around. Much better than the integrated audio solution. The more music we played, the more impressed we became by the sound quality of the Nu. Highs are clean and crisp, and the mids are clear, and the lows are solid and punchy. Everything sounded amazing, no matter what music source we used.
Watching movies with the EVGA Nu is almost surreal. We watched a couple of different movies, and the quality was excellent again all around. The Nu supports 5.1 surround, as well as in-game virtual surround. The sound quality was excellent, with clear, crisp highs.
Just like with the movies, playing games gave us the same impression. The sound was exceptional and sounded great through our headphones and speakers. The quality was excellent, and gunfire and explosions were as clear as we had ever heard them. The separation of different frequencies is just better all-around on the Nu.
Competitive pricing too….
The EVGA Nu Audio is pretty expensive, especially compared to integrated solutions. But EVGA isn’t going after the standard user. This sound card is for true enthusiasts, audiophiles, and gamers who want only the best. And honestly, the price is highly competitive if you compare the EVGA Nu to other similar products like the Sound BlasterX or the Asus Essence STX II.
Overall, one of the best sound cards we have tested. Amazing sound quality, no matter if you are watching movies, listening to music, or playing games. If you’re a gamer or an audiophile, you will love the EVGA Nu. We highly recommend this card for gamers just because of the incredible sounds and sound quality. No matter if it’s a racing game or an FPS-shooter, the EVGA Nu won’t disappoint.
- Fantastic, audiophile-grade performance.
- High-quality components.
- Tons of power in store.
- Excellent system-wide 10-band equalizer.
- Nice looks.
- Unobtrusive RGB effects.
- Early Software Suite.
- Microphone input isn’t perfectly clean.
6 ASUS Xonar SE 5.1 PCIe gaming sound card – Best Affordable Sound Card
Just like it states in the name, the Xonar SE 5.1 was designed for gamers. Packed with features, this sound card is nicely priced and highly competitive. The card itself is excellent for the low price, great audio quality, and nice clear sounds.
Some of the features…
The Xonar SE supports 5.1 channel playback, which makes this card worth its weight. The 300ohm headphone amp gives you an enhanced bass and a really nice clear, detailed sound, but has room for improvement. But overall, it gave us a clear, nice sound.
The signal-to-noise ratio is 116dB, and the sound quality is quite good. Not as good as the other cards in this price category but better than most integrated audio solutions that we have come across.
Xonar Audio Center software is included. It’s both really user-friendly and has an excellently intuitive interface. The interface actually made it very easy to use, and you can adjust and customize the settings to your liking. It controls everything from the EQ to the 5.1-speaker levels.
The Hyper Grounding Technology we found was very effective when it came to noise-blocking and reduced audio distortion, but it could be improved, not much, but still. However, there are certain flaws with the card, and there is room for improvement. That said, not many cards in this price class give you the same value for your money.
Is it for gamers only?
ASUS optimized this card for gaming, but it works just as well as for watching movies and listening to music. We wouldn’t say that this card is for the audiophiles, but it does give you a nice cinematic sound all around.
When playing games and taking full advantage of the 5.1 surround, it took the games to a whole new level compared to the standard onboard solutions. The sound quality was good. It was easy to distinguish where players were shooting from, and when playing racing games, you could easily tell where your opponents were.
The headphone amp…
The amplifier doesn’t give you that wow factor that some sound cards have provided us in this review, but it will do enough to give you a clearer sound and a “lower” volume. It will improve your sound quality and make it easier for you to hear directional sounds like an enemy’s footsteps in an FPS-game.
The final verdict…
If you are currently using onboard audio, you should have a look at this card. For the low price, it will impress you. The Xonar SE was designed for gamers and, although we doubt that hard-core gamers would settle for this card, it is more than enough for the average gamer. The sound quality is a lot better than the onboard standard audio solutions. And if you have a very limited budget, this is without a doubt the card for you.
- Good sound quality.
- 5.1 surround support.
- Xonar Audio Center software.
- Easy to install.
- There can be technical issues.
- Audio can glitch at times.
- Amp could be improved.
7 Creative Soundblaster Omni Surround 5.1 – Best External Sound Card
What would your first impression be if we asked you about a USB sound card? Would you think that it would be a useless card with little to no features and poor sound quality? Be honest, most of us would.
Luckily, times have changed…
Today, you can find excellent external sound cards that are high quality and packed with features. The Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 is an excellent example of what an external sound card should be in this day and age.
Packed with features, we had to make a list of the most impressive ones:
- USB simplicity and portability.
- Built-in dual microphones with CrystalVoice technology.
- Sound Blaster Omni Control Panel.
- Dolby Digital Live 600-ohm headphone amplifier.
- Scout mode.
- Comprehensive connectivity for both PC and Mac audio needs.
The Sound Blaster Omni is a small, light unit. It is actually a little smaller than a TiVo-controller. Even though it’s small in size and lightweight, it will still stay put on a flat surface.
Connect your surround system…
The front ports consist of line-in microphone and headphone jacks. At the rear, it has the micro USB power and data connection, one optical output, two RCA line-outs, a rear 3.5 mm line-out, and a center/sub 3.5 mm line-out.
If that wasn’t enough, at the top of the unit, there are two microphones, each on either side of the Sound Blaster logo. A big red knob is for the volume, and if you press it down, you will mute the sound.
There is also an IR-window on the front of the Omni, which can work with a remote. The remote would be ideal if you use the Omni with a PC connected to speakers, and you found yourself away from the computer but in the same room. If you are using headphones, the remote (which is not included) is not essential.
A lot of sound for a low price…
The Omni is very impressive for its relatively low price and improved our gaming experience quite a lot. We tested it on our ASUS TUF Gaming laptop, and we found it quite remarkable to be able to play games with the same sound quality as we get from our desktop PC.
The mic and noise reduction were also excellent, as we found out when we asked other teammates how we sounded. The Omni comes with a few tuning options like CrystalVoice, noise reduction, smart volume, and focus. The latter tunes the microphone array from narrow to wide. You can also apply a few effects to your voice to either make it more neutral or annoy everyone you are playing with.
Impressive audio options…
The Omni comes with quite a few audio options, with the SBX Pro Studio being the most important. You can choose from Surround, Crystallizer, and Bass. The surround slider will increase or decrease the effect while the crystallizer restores some of the fullness that is lost when the audio files are compressed. The Smart volume actually normalizes the volume and is very helpful in gaming to for hearing your enemies coming from further away.
Creative’s scout mode is in the app as well as a selection but, like on the Sound BlasterX, we do not recommend using this since it can be seen as cheating. It does not work all too well anyway and can sometimes be very confusing.
For the movie lovers…
If you prefer watching movies instead of gaming, the Omni comes with Dolby Digital Live, which recreates a surround sound environment, and it is way better for media than it is for gaming. The app also includes mixer and EQ options, both of which are very basic. You can create your own profiles to load your saved settings for gaming or for media easily.
We were pleasantly surprised…
The USB power fed amp was a real surprise. It works really well and powers the headphones without any problems. We were testing with the Sennheiser GDP 600, and they played really loud when the volume was turned up to max. When we tested FLAC files, the sound quality was decent, but it was not optimal. There is room for improvement. But considering the price for the Omni, it was definitely a good performance.
We do not recommend using in-ear headphones with the Omni since volume control is quite limited. You can risk blowing out your ear-drums.
Should you buy it?
The Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 is an excellent option considering the price. The Omni will make a world of difference if you are a notebook/laptop gamer. There is room for improvement, though, for example, the weight. It could be a little heavier just to help it stay in place. Though, it has the ability to power most headphones with some exceptions. It may struggle to power the really high-end headphones, which are better off with a dedicated amp.
If you don’t play games but mostly watch movies and listen to music, you would be better off spending your money on a DAC/AMP combo.
- Excellent sound quality for the price.
- Feature-rich software.
- Good built-in headphone amplifier.
- Can be used with almost any device.
- Should be heavier.
- No remote included.
8 Creative Sound BlasterX G1 – Best Portable Sound Card
The Sound BlasterX G1 is a small thumb-sized external gaming sound card built for gamers who are often on the move. We tested the G1, and we were quite amazed by the sound quality it offers even though there’s a lot that can be improved. It is not easy to fit everything you would want on a sound card of this size, but we feel some essentials for gamers are missing.
What do you need to know?
When Creative built the G1, their main goal was to allow users to upgrade their onboard audio. This is why the G1 has a native 7.1 channel input so it can deliver 7.1 surround sound to PC and laptops.
The sound card is very well-built, with a very simple design. You simply connect the USB to your PC, Mac or PS4, and you are set. The G1 is illuminated in red, which can become pretty annoying at times but nothing much to worry about.
Amazing considering it was built for gamers…
The G1 was designed and built with gamers in mind. Which is why it astonishes us that the sound card only has one 3.5 mm input. It is clearly designed for users that have mobile headsets or earphones, not for gamers. Most gamers have two separate 3.5 mm inputs, one for headphones and one for the mic. Sure, you can plug in a 4-pole jack, but you will lose a lot of isolation when recording.
We’re wondering why this is supposed to be a sound card for gamers. Creative limited this sound card to an audience that isn’t gamers. This is one of the worst errors we have seen.
But what features for gamers does it have?
The G1 comes with 17 preset audio profiles that enhance the gaming audio with surround sound, added clarity, and bass. It also supports Creative’s Scout mode, which again is more confusing than useful.
They did think of most gamers when they created this sound card in that the 17 different preset profiles have different settings for different games. If those 17 profiles aren’t enough, you can create your own profile and adjust the settings to your liking.
The Voice FX function lets you apply different effects and voice filters, which in some cases leaves you lying on the ground in fits of laughter.
About the sound quality…
The most important part of a sound card is, of course, the sound quality. We tested the X H5 gaming headset with the G1, and the result was amazing. The audio quality was just breathtaking. Not only is the sound quality highly accurate, but it is great for both music and gaming. And another great thing about the G1 is that it is portable and really easy to take with you wherever you go. It will allow you to boost the sound quality of any device with ease.
Breaking it down…
The lows extend well into the sub-bass, but it did feel as though the lower-end frequencies were cut off. The mid-bass has a great slam to it but feels at the same time a little uncontrolled. But considering the price, the G1 does an amazing job at the lows.
The mids are well reproduced and give a great sound. If anything, they are slightly pushed back due to the uncontrolled mid-bass slam. This can be seen as a negative thing by audiophiles, but given that the average user will be looking for a warmer sound, the G1 delivers.
The highs are well extended, giving off a nice sparkle at the top end. We found that the highs were flawless, but some might prefer them to be a little more sibilant. But, on the whole, it sounds fantastic.
The soundstage is one area where a lot of USB sound cards struggle. The G1 did absolutely fantastically, though. We were able to play competitive CS:GO using it.
For music listeners, we are delighted to say that the instrument separation was brilliant. Both the width and depth are well reproduced, and the tones are incredible. Compared to other small USB sound cards, the G1 is really good and provides a nice overall sound.
The final say…
The G1 really did surprise us in its sound quality reproduction. It does a truly fantastic job considering its price and size. The sound is accurate, and the soundstage really makes it a good option for both gamers and audiophiles.
We love that you can just pick up the G1, stick it in your pocket, and improve the onboard audio wherever you are. If you are looking for a cheap and portable sound card, the G1 is a must. Only real problem is that it does not have two separate 3.5 mm inputs.
- Sound quality.
- Pre-made software EQ.
- No separate mic/line input.
Best Sound Card Buying Guide
The sound card is an essential component of a computer and is often crucial to get the best sound out of your machine when gaming, watching movies, or simply listening to music.
As you might have learned now through this review, there are several benefits of buying a separate sound card, over and above the one already equipped on your motherboard. These benefits could be life-changing.
The sound card is plugged into your computer or attached inside to the motherboard to enhance the sound quality. It then converts digital data and transmits it to the hardware in analog form. A sound card is used for three main reasons…
A good sound card is critical if you want a quality sound when gaming online. It helps you in communicating with other players and enhances your gaming experience by improving sound effects and, of course, music in the game.
- Audio and Video Conferencing
Another important use for a sound card is video and audio conferencing and calls. Most users that are using the integrated onboard sound card often face difficulties in communication because of inaudible and crackly sounds. A sound card eliminates these problems and provides you with a top-quality sound and full clarity.
- Watching Movies
I think we all at some point have watched a movie on our computer and turned it off after two minutes due to poor sound. Having a good sound system just makes it so much more fun to watch movies.
Some onboard sound cards have such a low output that it becomes almost impossible to hear what the actors are saying. An upgraded sound card increases the output and clarifies the sound quality giving you a better experience. Combine that with surround sound, and you are in for a real treat.
How Does A Sound Card Work?
All of the sounds we hear are analog. A sound card’s primary function is to transform digital sound waves into analog so that the hardware can understand and retrieve the data. There are four main components in a sound card, the…
This is the digital to analog converter and is the most important part of a sound card. It allows data to be converted from digital to analog.
This is the analog to digital converter, which allows you to make digital recordings using analog sound inputs.
PCI or PCI-E
The component that connects the sound card to your motherboard.
Output and input converters
These are plugged into headphones, speakers, or microphones.
How Do I Choose A Sound Card For Gaming?
You should know and consider some key features before you choose a sound card, especially if it is for gaming.
The sound card you choose must be compatible with your PC or desktop. If your computer doesn’t support the sound card, it becomes useless since you can’t use any of its features, and you might end up having to return it. So be sure to check the sound card’s compatibility with your computer before buying one.
- Sample Rate
Another crucial component is the sample rate. The sample rate decides if the audio quality will be good or not. It is measured in kHz, as in most cases, the higher the kHz is, the better the audio quality you will get. Most sound cards are 96kHz or higher.
You can either get sound cards with 5.1 or 7.1 channels. Both are great for gaming, but if you choose the 7.1 sound card, make sure you have a compatible 7.1 speaker system so you can take full advantage of the sound.
Now that we have clarified the basics and reviewed 8 of the best sound cards you can buy, you are hopefully ready to make your decision. If not, we’ll give you our top picks as recommendations.
Not Using Headphones?
You may want to read our Best Computer Speakers reviews to make sure your new sound card can do its job!
We even have budget-organized reviews for the Best Gaming Monitor Under 300 dollars or the Best Gaming Monitors Under 200 dollars. Need even more cost-effective options? No problem! Check out our Best Gaming Monitor Under 100 Review!
Rather read comprehensive model reviews? We’ve got you covered; take a look at our in-depth ASUS VG279Q review versus our ASUS VG248QE Gaming Monitor review. Not an ASUS fan? Then check out our Samsung C 32HG70 review or our Aurus AD27QD review!
Back to sound cards…
So, What Is The Best Sound Card?
After carefully testing eight different sound cards, both internal and external, our top choice is the…EVGA Nu Audio Card
Even though the price is pretty steep, this sound card is just unbeatable. It is superior in every way, from the components to the sound quality. It is by far the best of all the cards we tested, and even though the Sound BlasterX and ASUS Essence STX II gave it a run for its money, the EVGA Nu outperformed both.
If you don’t have the budget to spend on the EVGA Nu and are looking for a cheaper sound card solution, we highly recommend the…ASUS Xonar SE
If you need a portable sound card, both the Sound Blaster Omni and the Sound BlasterX G1 are well worth it, but, for gamers, it’s gotta be the…Sound Blaster Omni
Enjoy your sound.