Best Sound Card

What are sound cards

The sound card is an expansion card that allows the computer to send audio information to an audio device, like speakers, a pair of headphones, etc. A sound card converts digital data to analog sound waves we can hear. Unlike the CPU and RAM, the sound card is not a necessary piece of hardware required to make a computer work. But you can consider one best sound card for the best overall experience and take your gaming and multimedia to a whole new level.

A discrete sound card manages all of the audio input and output so that it will relieve the CPU, leaving it with much more resources to do other tasks. At some point in time, you’ve probably been using your PC microphone and received complaints about the quality of your mic, or heard someone else complain about the sound despite using an expensive headset. When mic quality drops, people tend to blame the VOIP program or their microphones, but microphone quality can be torn-up by your motherboard, too.

Types of Sound Card:

  • PCI Sound Card.
  • USB Interface.
  • Firewire Interface.
  • PCMCIA / PC Cardbus.

Do I still need a sound card today

The onboard sound card on your motherboard is sufficient for most users.  If you’ve got high-quality speakers or headphones and you don’t have a sound card to match, then you’re not really hearing your own equipment. Reasons you might need a sound card if –

  1. Audio production
  2. A professional level of audio performance is required
  3. When one or more professional microphones, instruments and other kinds of signals need to be routed into or out of a computer.
  4. Features like 24bit sound or ASIO.
  5. Fancy speaker setups (7.1 surround)
  6. Spread the load of intensive audio processing from the CPU
  7. To reduce background hiss.
  8. If the onboard audio become “noisy” due to RFI or “Radio Frequency Interference.”.

If you want the best possible audio output and a bevy of tools to further enhance the sound of your gaming system, then getting a sound card is indeed the most logical choice. Before you even consider getting a soundcard, you should first be looking at getting a new pair of speakers.

A good soundcard will not make a bad pair of speakers sound incredible. On top of that, there’s tons of simple/free EQ options that will make the world’s difference. Some soundcards might already come with EQ presets that’ll be used right off the bat. This is why people occasionally think dedicated cards are so devout – they never bothered to mess around with the built-in Windows EQ.

For a media PC or gaming just get a good quality motherboard. The on-board audio is very good now. Some even have built in amplifiers for high end headphones on the back panel.

 Things to look for when buying a sound card

  • Look for compatiblity (driver support) in the OS you’re considering. Look for the licenses that you’re interested in DTS, DDL, etc.
  • Ensure that you have the available connection on the computer. Internal sound cards are available as both PCI and ISA. it is also important to look at the available connections on the card like speaker connections, Midi port and Game port ,Microphone connection etc.
  • Also you may check if it is Full-duplex and 3-D acceleration.

 Best internal sound cards

Consider one of these sound cards for the best overall experience and take your gaming and multimedia to a whole new level.

Creative Sound Blaster Zx

If you want a solid sound card for enjoying sound-rich media, you can get the essentials with Creative’s Zx card. From a glance, you’ll notice the sleek aesthetic, as the card is totally covered with bright red EMI shielding. The beautiful red design isn’t just for show; it keeps your sound protected from electronic interference from inside your PC. However, the red LEDs illuminating the card are definitely just for show, and provide an aesthetic that will be at-home in any entertainment PC. But you can consider one best sound card for the best overall experience and take your gaming and multimedia to a whole new level.

best sound card

For superior audio experience, users find a great choice in Creative Sound Blaster ZX SBX PCIE. This top-rated internal sound card offers a 116 dB signal-to-noise ratio, resulting to 99.99 percent audio that is more than 30 times better than motherboard audio. Additionally, the Sound Blaster ZX packs the SBX Pro Studio technologies for great 3D surround effects for speakers and headsets. This sound card’s CrystalVoice suite of technologies picks up voices from within a zone as well as tuning out ambient noises and echoes. The ZX model also allows reduced latency as low as one second for clear audio in recording outputs.

Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe

The flagship of the ultra high-performance Sound Blaster Z-Series of sound cards, Sound Blaster ZxR elevates the standards of technology and performance for the future of PC gaming and entertainment. Boasting an unbeatable SNR of 124dB, it includes a DBPro daughter board and Audio Control Module for unrivalled audio playback and content creation.

  • PCI Express x1 5.1 Channels
  • 124dB SNR of Superior Experience
  • 600 ohm Headphone Amp
  • Sound Core3D Audio Processor

It gives you super clear audio at an unrivaled 124 dB while also employing a DBPro daughter board for dedicated, non-motherboard operation for extra oomph. This separate sound deployment also gives you 99.9 percent clarity, which is about 90 percent better than motherboard operation. It puts out sound at 24-bit and 192 kHz with SBX Prod Studio sound tech that gives you studio quality sound and even 3D surround sound effects.

Asus Essence STX II

  • Industry-leading 124dB SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) audio quality inherited from the revolutionary and widely-acclaimed Xonar Essence ST/STX
  • Ultra-low jitter with premium TCXO clock source
  • Clean and consistent power supply thanks to high-fidelity low-dropout (LDO) regulators and WIMA® capacitors for uncompromising sound
  • Top-notch headphone amplifier supports up to 600ohm-headphone impedance with additional gain for in-ear monitors (IEMs)
  • Exclusive op-amp swap kit includes three op-amps and tool for easy tone tuning
  • Celebrated MUSES op-amps deliver true-to-life musicality
  • Ultra-fidelity (120dB SNR) 7.1-channel output via the exclusive daughterboard

With an industry-leading 124dB signal-to-noise ratio, the Asus Essence STX II can deliver up to 64 times better performance than the audio hardware that’s included with a new computer purchase. The 7.1-channel sound card includes a built-in headphone amplifier that can support up to 600ohms for maximum sound quality. The engineers at Asus have also added additional gain control options for high-sensitivity IEM headphones, which both audiophiles and music purists will recognize as isolating ambient noise for an undisturbed audio experience. Asus takes sound adjustment to another level by offering swappable op-amp sockets that allows buyers to create different timbres and tonal combinations until they find their version of the perfect sound. The surround sound is boosted by the addition of Dolby Home Theater that can turn your PC into a true home theater entertainment center with truly immersive and realistic sound that places users directly in the action.

StarTech PCISOUND7 – $29.66

Hardware

  • Bus Type : PCI (5 Volt)startech_best_sound_card
  • Card Type : Standard Profile
  • Chipset ID : VIA/VLI – Tremor VT1723

Performance

Audio Specifications : Input and Output Connections: Line In, Microphone, Front Out, Rear Out, Surround Out, Sub/Center Out, and S/PDIF (Digital) out

Full Duplex Support : Yes

Connector(s)

  • Connector Type(s) : 1 – PCI (5V, 32-bit) Male
  • External Ports : 1 – Digital Coax Audio (RCA) Female, 6 – 3.5 mm Mini-Jack (3 Position) Female
  • Internal Ports : 2 – MPC2 (4 pin, Audio) Male

Enhancing gaming and media-based computers, the well-reviewed StarTech PCISOUND7 supports full-duplex operation with two simultaneous input streams and eight outbound streams. Users enjoy a wide-ranging DVD audio playback because PCISOUND7 works well with Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES 7.1 Channel DVD soundtracks. Moreover, StartTech PCISOUND7 supports 48/44.1 KHz sampling rate during playback and recording mode and PCI Version 2.2 with ACPI and PMI support. With the card, users only need to link their PC to the digital audio receiver to maximize their gaming or movie experience.

Best External sound cards

An external sound card offers an easy path to upgrading the sound quality of your favorite laptop or desktop computer, especially if it’s an affordable or mid-range model. Easy to set up, the gadgets connect to the computer via a USB port. Getting started on a PC might require you to download and install software drivers that typically come with the device.

These external sound cards give your computer a much-needed boost in audio quality :

Creative Sound Blaster Omni External Sound Card – $55.50

Featuring a built-in dual microphone array for crystal-clear voice communication and customizable SBX Pro Studio audio technologies, and a studio-grade 600 ohm headphone amplifier, the Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1 is ideal for anyone looking to seriously upgrade their PC or Mac audio experience.

Creative is one of the leaders on the market for external sound cards, and the Sound Blaster Omni is one of its most popular creations. The device packs a duo of microphones for superior quality of voice calls, 5.1-channel surround sound support, and a handy software for enhanced controls. Its amplifier can power even seriously demanding headphones (with impedance up to 600 Ohms). It’s a no-brainer pick in its price category.

FiiO E10K External Sound Card – $48.00

This compact USB DAC and headphone amp performs fantastically. It offers a simple but premium design: just a 3.5-millimeter headphone out on its front, and a coaxial and 3.5-millimeter line out on the back. Its volume knob feels solid and has just the right amount of resistance to it. The device will greatly improve your computer’s audio quality and boost its bass without the need to install any drivers.

  • PORTABLE DESIGN — A sleek, brushed aluminum shell and chassis allow for durable, portable use.
  • LOW NOISE FLOOR — The unit has an optimized low-pass filter and selectable bass boost circuit that are designed for a low noise floor in all states.
  • DAC Chip—The Internal DAC chip is a PCM102 and can handle PCM files up to 24-bit/96 kHz while improving audio quality via a linear filter, reduced delay and internal silence on changing tracks, and no phase shifts.
  • CONNECTION VARIETY — The variety of connections include a front-panel 1/8” headphone jack, a rear-panel 1/8” line output, and a rear-panel coaxial digital output, which allows you to send your digital audio to another destination.
  • USB CONNECTION — Connects to your laptop via its micro USB connection, which also provides it with power.

Creative Sound BlasterX G1 External Sound Card – $22.24

The Creative Sound BlasterX G1 is a well-priced option with no-frills design and an easy setup. It can deliver crisp audio recordings, as well as an overall sound signature with expanded spaciousness. The device is compatible with all types of headphones, and it has a dedicated audio mode, plus an extensive software suite of controls for PC or Mac.

Powerful and fully customizable BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro for PC, based on our rich history of creating class-leading audio algorithms, powers the Sound BlasterX G1 to deliver various audio enhancements for optimized gameplay.

Available for Windows®, the fully customizable BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro gives you unprecedented control over your listening experience with audio realism and immersive audio effects that intelligently decreases distractions and enhances game play. From the whizz of bullets flying past your ear in your favorite FPS game to the terrifying roar of a troll from an adventure title, the essence of your game comes alive with our professionally tweaked enhancements!

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