Are you tired of the unbalanced audio your computer’s built-in speaker is producing? Or maybe you are looking to greatly improve your computer’s audio without getting an audiophile speaker or headphones? Whatever your reasons are, there is a way you can enjoy high-quality audio with an immersive experience. All you need to do is get yourself one of the best sound cards on the market.
The computer gaming world is one that knows how beneficial these cards can be. This computer accessory provides an immaculate and unrivaled audio experience with deep basses, rich tones, and incomparable depth. However, not all sound cards are the same. This is why you need to be well-informed before deciding on the one to go with.
Not to worry though, we’ve got your back. We’ve selected ten of the best sound cards available on the market. With the cards in our review, you are sure to experience a whole new level of audio richness. We’ve also added an informative guide for newbies and pros who would like to add to their sound card knowledge. Let’s not hold you up and get right to it.
- The 10 Best Sound Cards
- Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 5.1 Sound Card
- ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II
- ASUS Xonar Dg Amp 5.1 Pci Sound Card Gx 2.5
- Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card
- ASUS XONAR SE for Gaming
- Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5
- Creative Sound Blaster Omni
- Sabrent SBT-SP6C 3D PCI Sound Card
- HyperX Amp USB
- Diamond XS51 XtremeSound 5.1 PCI 16 bit
- Sound Cards Buyer’s Guide
- What is a Sound Card?
- How Does a Sound Card Work?
- What Type of Sound Card is Best for Me?
- Which Sound Card is the Best for Music?
- What is the Best External Sound Card?
- Do Sound Cards Increase FPS?
The 10 Best Sound Cards
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 5.1 Sound Card
Feel your basic motherboard audio isn’t giving you the sound richness you deserve? Replace it with the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy and marvel at what you’ve been missing. This Audigy FX offers a 5.1 surround that transforms your speakers into a cinematic universe. Powered by SBX Pro Studio technology, this PCIe sound card is perfect for movies, music, and games.
You have the ability to control the SBX Pro Studio settings via the Sound Blaster Audigy Fx Control Panel for a more immersive experience. This card comes with 5.1 channel outputs that allows you to easily plug in existing multi-channel speakers. You also get a Studio Direct feature which disperses unprocessed music at a high bit rate of 192k 24bit. The Audigy also allows you to enjoy high quality audio in your headphone by providing you with 600 ohms of power.
With its microphone and line-in connector, you can plug in two different sources to your PC. Endowed with the ability to provide 160db SNR of crystal-clear audio, there’s no wonder why some experts feel it is the best sound card on the market.
|Connectors||1 x 3.5mm jack|
- Full audio customization
- Compatible Windows 8.1 and higher
- Clear sound through your headphones
ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II
If you want a sound card with the ability to deliver a performance that is 64 times better than what your integrated motherboard speaker delivers, then the Asus Sound Card Essence STX II may be the better option for you. Capable of unleashing a 124db signal-to-noise ratio, this 7.1 channel card offers sound adjustments through its swappable op-amp sockets. This means that you have the ability to create and tune different tonal and timbre combinations to get the perfect sound you need.
The Asus Sound Card Essence features a built in headphone amplifier, which allows you to listen to high quality audio at 600 ohms. You also get additional gain control options just in case your headphone has high-sensitivity IEM. This allows you to isolate ambient noise to get the best audio experience possible.
To take things up a notch, Asus decided to include Dolby Home Theater into the Sound Card Essence STX II. Now you can have a true home theater experience in your home with realistic and immersive sounds that suit your ears and puts you in action.
|Connectors||1 x 6.3 mm jack (1/4″) Headphone out; 8 x RCA (Un-Balanced) 1 x 6.3 mm jack (1/4″) (Line-in/ Mic-in combo) 1 x S/PDIF out (1 x Coaxial); 1 x Front-Panel Header|
- Comes with Dolby Home Theater
- Top-notch 124db SNR sound experience
- Swappable op-amp sockets
- Comes with additional op-amp swap kit
ASUS Xonar Dg Amp 5.1 Pci Sound Card Gx 2.5
The Asus Xonar DG is the cheapest in the Xonar lineup. However, the features it is packed with makes it one of the best sound cards on the market. It is a sound card that’s specifically geared towards gaming audio. That is why it features GX 2.5 and Dolby Gaming Headphone, which are enough to bring an immersive experience into your games.
Games are, however, not the only thing you can enjoy with this sound card. It is also great for listening to music as well as watching movies. With its 24 bit/96kHz sound quality, this sound card makes your music and movies truly enjoyable.
You also get a smart volume normalizer, karaoke functions, VocalFX and FlexBass. All of which ensures that you get the best sound quality possible. If you want a high-quality Asus sound card and you cannot afford the STX II, opt for the Xonar DG. You are sure to get an impactful value for your money.
|Connectors||3 x 3.5 mm jack (1/8″) (Front out/Side out/Center-Subwoofer out) 1 x 3.5 mm jack (1/8″) (Line-in/ Mic-in combo) 1x S/PDIF out (1x Optical (Toslink)); 1x Front-Panel Header; 1x S/PDIF Header; 1x Aux in (4-pin header)|
Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card
If you are looking to get an easy to install sound card that’s below the $100 price-point, then this PCIe card is for you. The Sound Blaster Z is a sound card you’ll find on every list of best sound cards. It sports a beautiful design and an incredible performance. The red frame it is designed with resonates nothing but the kind of quality Creative produces.
Its compact size makes it one of the most easy to install sound cards. The Blaster Z just sits in your motherboard like it is meant to be there. However, there’s more to it than its design. Purchasing this sound card means purchasing a high quality audio experience. It is a gamer friendly device as well as one that can be used for everyday music and movie purposes. It features five different 3.5mm for audio output and input, 600 ohm headphone amplifier, and 116db signal-to-noise ratio.
It also comes with two different software, Alchemy and Z-series control panel. The Z series software provides you with total control over the functionality of this sound card, including “Scout Mode,” tweaking microphone parameters, changing presets, and tweaking equalizers. Alchemy, on the other hand, provides EAX support for older games you may want to play. With the flip of a switch, you can easily toggle between speakers and headphone, which allows you to enjoy your audio without disturbing your neighbors or family members.
|Connectors||3 x 3.5mm jacks (Front,Rear,C/Sub) 1 x TOSLINK 1 x Amplified 3.5mm jack|
ASUS XONAR SE for Gaming
The Asus Xonar SE is the younger brother of the Xonar DG. It is a very affordable sound card packed with awesome features. Although it doesn’t have the immaculate design of the Blaster Z or all the functionalities of the Xonar DG, it sure is one good sound card for anyone looking to test the waters of higher sound quality.
This sound card features a 300 ohm headphone amplifier and a 192kHz 24-bit high resolution audio. These two features ensure that you get an immersive sound with a well defined, punchy bass. It also comes with Asus Hyper Grounding technology, which takes care of audio distortion and any type of interference.
The Xonar SE sports a low profile bracket, which makes it a perfect fit for most PCs. And users get to control their audio output, equalizers, and other features via the Xonar Audio Center, which has a spacious and intuitive interface. The relatively low price of this PC sound card makes it one of the best budget sound cards on the market.
|Connectors||3 x 3.5 mm jack (1/8″) (Front out/Side out/Rear out) 1 x 3.5 mm jack (1/8″) (Line-in/Mic-in) 1 x S/PDIF out (1 x Optical (Toslink)); 1 x Front-Panel Header|
- Very affordable
- Offers high quality output
- Can fit into most systems
- Allows full audio control
Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5
Creative is known as one of the most innovative sound card companies in the industry. So it’s no wonder that the Sound Blaster X AE-5 is the first sound card with a unique headphone amplifier, the Xamp. This headphone amp is discrete and produces crystal clear audio through its bi-amplification technology. Creative also designed this sound card with the Aurora Reactive Lighting System, which makes it display up to 16.8 million customizable colors.
The AE-5 is a SABRE32 Ultra-class PCIe DAC. This allows it to provide hi-resolution audio for music, games, and movies. Unlike some of the other sound cards in this review, the AE-5 produces 32-bit 384kHz playback and features a 122db SNR ultra-low jitter and distortion. It also supports Scout 2.O and Blaster X Acoustic Engine, which allows you to gain full control of the sound card’s capabilities.
The AE-5 is for the audiophile looking to take performance and experience up a notch. Whether you are listening through your headphone or your speakers, this sound card promises to deliver the best output you’ll ever hear, easily and efficiently.
|Connectors||1 x TOSLINK 1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) 1 x Front Panel Header|
|Sound Configuration||Sound Core3D|
- Unique headphone amp for audio clarity
- High resolution sound output
- Intuitive system to help you take control
- Supports Scout 2.0
- Displays beautiful Aurora lights.
Creative Sound Blaster Omni
This sound card is considered to be one of the best from Creative Labs. The Omni Sound Blaster is our first external sound card. Instead of sitting on your PC’s motherboard, this sound card is connected via USB. Its gentle red and black design ensures that it fits with most desktop decor. But the design isn’t all there is to it. The Creative Sound Blaster Omni comes with a plethora of features, which makes it one of the best sound cards on our list.
Let’s start with its built-in microphones. The Omni features dual microphones made with CrystalVoice technology. They ensure that the voice of the user is dispensed with more clarity and less distortion. Another feature that puts the Omni in the best sound card category is its Dolby 5.1 surround. This USB sound card ensures that your speakers get the most immersive and precise surround configurations. It also provides candid virtual surround capability for your stereos and headphones.
Other features that set the Omni apart from its peers is its volume control knob, which allows you to easily adjust and control your computer’s volume. And its SBX control panel, which allows you to customize both the sound card and the microphone in any way you see fit.
|Connectors||1 x TOSLINK 1 x 3.5mm jack 2 x RCA jacks (Front Out); 1 x 3.5mm ( Rear L/R ); 1 x 3.5mm (C / Sub)|
- Built in microphone
- One of the best desktop solutions
- Customization capabilities
- Good value for money
Sabrent SBT-SP6C 3D PCI Sound Card
High quality functionalities packed into an extremely cheap sound card is what you get when you purchase the SP6C 3D Sound Card. At a price point a little bit above $25, this sound card comes with a PCIe interface and 6 channel audio to provide an amazing 3D high quality performance. It is one of the best 5.1 channel sound cards that provides amazing audio that rivals what you experience in a movie theater.
The Sabrent SP6C uses the power of EAX audio technologies to customize internet audio and improve your surround sound. With its 6 channel DAC, you get to enjoy 5.1 sound and 3D audio on multiple speakers. It also features Echo sound effects and offers Karaoke key support. If you are looking for one of the best budget sound cards on the market with high audio functionality, then the Sabrent is the right way to go.
|Connectors||1 x Front-Out|
- Very affordable
- Offers high quality 3D audio
- Built with 6 channels
HyperX Amp USB
Did you know that your headphones have the capability to create a sound that’s better than what you’re used to? All you need is the right sound card and boom, you’ll have a significantly clear audio with no distortion. One of the best sound cards capable of doing this is the HyperX Amp USB sound card.
Until you utilize the HyperX, you won’t believe how low the quality of sound you’ve been listening to is. This sound card is specifically geared towards gamers and headphone users. It comes with easy to use controls which allow you to easily control your audio volume and your mic. The fact that it’s a Plug N Play sound card simply makes everything better.
The HyperX enhances noise cancellation effects in order to improve your communication. It also helps you move from stereo sound to a 7.1 virtual surround with ease. Grab the HyperX if you are looking to enjoy crystal clear audio without disturbing your family and neighbors.
|Connectors||1 x 3.5mm headphone connector|
- Plug N Play model
- Easy to use controls
- 7.1 virtual audio surround
- Enhances noise cancellation effects
Diamond XS51 XtremeSound 5.1 PCI 16 bit
If you are on a budget but would like to get a decent sound card, the the Diamond XtremeSound is one of the best sound cards to go for. Featuring Dolby EX and DTS formats, this sound card is capable of 48K/16 bit DVD playback and recording. It also houses a virtual speaker shifter that provides amazing surround support for CDs and MP3s.
This device also offers Karaoke support, EAX 2.0 and A3D sound support. It brings all of these together to provide you with a total DVD theater surround sound experience. With its ten band equalizer presets, you have the ability to fine tune your sound until your speakers provide you with what you want.
Other features of the Xtremesound includes multiple special effects, including Concert Hall, 6 channel output, and an easy connection to home audio equipment. It works flawlessly with Windows 8.1 and lower, thereby serving as one of the most efficient sound cards for outdated systems.
|Connectors||6 channel output|
- Easy to Install
- Very inexpensive
- Provides immaculate surround sound
- Provides a performance that ensures a cinematic experience
Sound Cards Buyer’s Guide
Choosing the best sound card for your computer, speaker, or headphones is great. But do you know how to decide on the right sound cards to buy? There are many products on the market and choosing the right one for you can be a little tricky. That is why we have created an informative and helpful guide to help both novices and experts get the best sound cards for themselves. Read on to learn how you can get the best sound card, what to consider, and which is best for your music.
What is a Sound Card?
Simply put, sound cards are circuit boards specifically created to supply computers and other electronic devices with input and output waves, otherwise known as sound. They come in two different types – internal and external. While external cards are used outside the motherboard, internal cards are installed on the motherboard. However, they both serve the same purpose of providing the user with crystal clear audio.
External or replacement cards are higher in quality when compared to internal cards. However, it is important to note that the most gaming motherboards being produced today come with some of the best sound cards. This is to ensure that the users get an immersive experience as well as an enhanced performance right out of the box.
How Does a Sound Card Work?
Like we noted earlier, sound cards are simply internal expansion boards. They are either installed or integrated into your device’s motherboard to provide the required audio signals. There are also newer variants that allow you to plug in via a USB or some other connector, thereby allowing you to enjoy the benefits an integrated sound card provides. These USB models provides users with more flexibility and ease of use.
What Type of Sound Card is Best for Me?
Deciding on the best sound card for you can be a little tricky. This is because there are many factors to consider before choosing an option. We have outlined some of the right factors to consider before deciding to buy a sound card. With these factors, you’ll be able to get only the best cards for your devices.
Will Your Headphone or Speakers be Able to Handle the Output
On-board sound cards integrated into motherboards can be less of a build for audiophiles. They may not produce the kind of high-fidelity sound experience an audiophile may require. However, they may be the best for an average user.
The truth is most average users do not have the equipment or device that will require the use of an enhanced, powerful sound card. Therefore, if you are completely new to the technicalities of audio equipment, you’ll need to carry out definite research before purchasing a sound card. Because if your speakers cannot efficiently reproduce what the sound card is bringing to the table, you’ll just be wasting your time and money.
Will Your Computer Support The Sound Card?
One thing you need to keep at the back of your mind when getting the best cards for your device is driver support. Many computers experience driver issues when it comes to sound cards. Therefore, it is very important to know if your computer and OS can support these drivers. This is especially important if you are using a lesser known OS such as Linux and Ubuntu as most drivers do not support them.
Now, that’s for the software. There are hardware issues too. You need to ensure that your computer is designed with the right PCIe slots that will be needed for the sound card’s integration (for internal cards) or the right type of USB interface (for external cards).
MicroATX and miniATX motherboards are usually the ones with this issue. Most regular ATX motherboards come with all the PCIe slots you may need. Additionally, ensure that your graphics card isn’t obstructing the PCIe slots. And also make sure that the available space will accommodate your sound card without damaging or obstructing the graphics card.
USB ports are usually not an issue as most computers come with a USB 2.0. And those with USB 3.0 can accommodate USB 2.0 devices with no problems. However, you need to note that plugging your sound card into the front panel will generate low audio quality while plugging it into the back-panel will provide you with the best sound quality.
Should I Get an Internal Sound Card or an External One?
Now, this totally depends on your view of portability and use. If you’ll need to connect multiple sources to your sound card, then it is best to opt for an external sound card. However, an internal sound card offers more reliability, responsiveness, and speed due to their PCIe connections, which is a lot faster and remarkably reliable than USB 2.0.
Which Sound Card is the Best for Music?
While there are numerous cards out there claiming to improve your audio quality and speaker performance, only a few of them actually do. One of the best sound cards for music is in our review in the form of the Asus STX II. Other sound cards that are sure to provide you with high quality audio include our number one selection, Creative’s card, Sound Blaster Audigy FX, the Asus Xonar, Sound Blaster Z, and many more on our list.
What is the Best External Sound Card?
The best external sound card is one that is able to provide you with a premium audio experience and incredible functionalities without sacrificing its beauty on the outside. A good example of this is the Creative Sound Blaster Omni.
Do Sound Cards Increase FPS?
A good quality sound card may improve your fps by 10-15%, which will spread across board. However, it all depends on the kind of system you are using, the amount of sound your game or app is processing, and the sound effects or settings that’s being utilized in the game.
Getting one of the top sound cards in our review will definitely change your gaming, music, and movie experience. However, you need to ensure that your system meets the PCIe, USB, and driver requirements of the sound card you want to purchase.
Additionally, if you are a complete newbie who isn’t tech savvy, installing a sound card can be quite tricky. Apart from the manual that comes with your card, you may need to get a visual reference from sources like YouTube so you won’t damage your card. With that said, we hope our review and guide can help you get the best sound cards for your device.
If you liked our article on sound cards, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.