If you’re looking for sound cards to expand the sound from your computer or laptop to your speaker or your headphones, check out these best sound cards that can be connected to your audio devices. Most computers come with the technology integrated on board, but the sound effect is less powerful when compared to a dedicated sound card. Many people are satisfied with integral audio, but If you are an audio person, you will need dedicated sound cards. Here are some of the best sound cards.
See also: Best turntables
Best sound cards
A Class Leader in Sound Quality
Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AAE-5
Creative has a long history in the market for gaming audio accessories and offers the best audio experience with this sound card. It makes use of the Xamp technology and offers support for 32 bit / 384 kHz playback combined with an ultra-low distortion of audio. Xamp is a customized amplifier designed by the company. The dimensions are 145 x 20 x 128 mm. It is a PCle DAC that is perfectly suitable for offering audio in high resolutions when used for movies, music and for games. The RGB LED’s can be customized up to 16.8 million colors and it comes with an integrated RGB controller and additional LED strip for the desktop chassis. There is also a free Sound Blaster Connect software offered free with the sound card.
The sound card offers support for the following OS: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. This is a 122 dB, high-resolution sound card for gaming and it combines a digital to analog converter with an RGB Aurora system for lighting. The audio fidelity is a true one, with a high-resolution lossless playback feature.
The two audio channels are amplified separately, so that pristine and pure audio fidelity is assured. The audio can be fully customized offering precision and high level of immersion during gaming. There are amazing 3D surround effects on the speakers. It also has a Scout RAdar included, allowing gamers to view enemies on the radar on their mobile devices in shooter games.
- Those looking for an outstanding class leader in sound cards.
- It is recommended for use with home entertainment devices and for music, movies and gaming purposes.
Solid Performing Sound Card for Gamers
Creative Sound Blaster Zx Pcle
It makes your audio world so much more real, satisfying and more fun for those who have a passion for audio. It also offers plenty of options as well as tools to tweak audio and enhance it for games as well as entertainment like movies and music. It comes with the ACM that includes a built-in microphone array for adjusting headphone levels. The Sound Core 3D audio processor offers advanced features for voice enhancement. This includes amazing 3D surround sound effects on your headsets and your speakers. The Scout Mode enables hearing enemies from a distance, offering a distinct advantage during gaming. In addition, the DTS Connect transforms stereo audio into a high fidelity surround sound.
As for other technical specifications, it has a 600 Ohm dedicated amplifier for headphones and a 116 dB Signal to noise ratio. Audio recordings are pristine with very low latency. The audio output is 24 bit / 192 kHz.
- Gamers who are looking for a solid performing sound card for games at home
- Those who want a good set of features for perfect gaming performance
- Those who want fantastic hardware that is suitable for any app that you throw at it, especially suitable for high immersion games
An Exceptional PCle Gaming Sound Card
ASUS Xonar SE 5.1 Channel
This is a sound card that comes with 192 kHz /24-bit hi-resolution audio and an SNR of 116 dB. It has a 5.1 channel playback combined with 300-ohm headphone amplifier. The sound offered is high fidelity, making use of the Xonar Audio Center software offering a user-friendly experience with an intuitive interface.
The Hyper Grounding technology results in audio that is both noise-blocking and reducing audio distortion with no crossover interference. It ensures powerful insulation against component crosstalk. The software is a complete suite that enables users to have full control in all sound aspects, such as equalization or EQ 5.1 speaker balancing, etc. The software is compatible with the Windows 10 OS and offers support with WHQL or Windows Hardware Quality Labs so that you can set it up easily without much hassle.
The height of the sound card is only half of the usual ones, so there is a metal bracket that can be fitted for smaller cases.
- Those who are looking for a sound card that offers enhanced bass along with clear and detailed audio. Those who want detailed sound combined with a well-defined bass
- Those who want an exceptional PCle gaming card that offers unique sound for gaming and other multimedia purposes
- Those looking for a soundbar that can offer a truly cinematic experience for gaming, music and movies.
Top Sound Quality with Quality Components Sound Bar
ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II
As far as technicalities are concerned, it has an output SNR of 124 dB, which is an industry leading number, and an Input SNR of 118 DB. The frequency response is from 10 Hz to 90 Hz and the headphone output is 7 Vrms. It supports OS Windows 8.1; Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows XP, 32 bit / 64 bit. This expansion card comes with RCA jacks enabling connection for 7.1 surround sound. The dimensions are 28.4 x 7.6 x 23.1 cms.
It is a medium sized card and needs external power. There is a dedicated output for headphones, so it is very suitable for late night listeners. You can also match the maximum output levels with phone sensitivity and impedance. It offers support for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 operating systems.
- Audiophiles and those who want the best sound card with quality components for their system
- Those who want the best way of converting their desktop into a device offering high-resolution audio
- It is compatible only with a PC and not with Macbooks.
All in One Solution for Serious Audio Sound Bar
Creative Labs 30SB150200000
This sound bar from Creative Labs comes with 116 dB SNR or Signal to Noise Ratio. It can be easily installed, having a Bus connection and after installation, there is speaker support for 2.1 as well as 5.1 channels and headphones. The Crystal Voice technology offers support for improved communication. The sound quality is enhanced due to the gold plated connectors and technology used for optimizing speakers along with the ability for encoding digital content effectively.
It is a high-performance sound card that can improve the gaming experience. The frame rates are faster and the audio quality is enhanced. The SBX Pro Studio technology offers more realism and an amazing rendition of 3D surround effects for both headsets and speakers. Outside noise is suppressed to a maximum so that you can hear the audio with full clarity. The product dimensions are 5.5 x 5.5 x 2.5 inches and it weighs 1.76 ounces.
- Those who are looking for the high-performance sound card
- Those who really need to experience 3D sound effects
Functional and Reasonably Priced Sound Card
Diamond XS51 Xtreme Sound 5.1
It offers support for 24-bit SPDIF In and Out with additional support for EAX/Linus and BeOS as well. It is a 5.1 channels soundboard offering support for 16 but 48 KHz and a PCI interface. The interface contains bus mastering modes as well as burst modes. It supports the following operating systems: Windows 8.1, 8, 7 32, 7 64, Vista32, Vista64, XP, XP64, 2000 and MCE.
There is support for the Windows 2000 and the Windows XP OS. It can be easily connected with your home audio equipment. There are special effect features available, such as Concert Hall, etc. along with a DVD Theater type of surround sound effect. The 5.1 virtual speakers offer surround sound for your CD and MP3.
The dimensions of the Diamond XS51 Xtreme Sound sound card are 11 x 9 x 3 inches and it weighs 0.45 pounds.
- Those who are looking for a reasonably priced sound card that works well without any discernible distortion
- Those who want a functional and inexpensive sound card
Stepping Stone to High-Quality Audio Sound Card
Creative Sound BlasterX G6
This is a combo soundboard device including audio DAC along with ADC and an amplifier for headphones. It is USB powered. You can also use the Sound Blaster Connect 2 app for controlling the G6 through your PC, and it is quite functional in case of selecting filters and so on. You can plug it into your gaming console or your desktop computer, and it surely provides better sound than what your device does on its own. The G6 brings with it a secret weapon known as the Scout Mode, which enhances directional cues and improves environmental sounds, especially during games, for instance, the movement of the enemy or handling of weapons.
It includes Creative technologies Scout Mode as well as the virtual surround feature. The sound card offers support for 32 bit 384 kHz and comes with a dynamic range of 130 dB. It ensures the elimination of distortion so that audio gets streamed with fidelity and extreme detail. The discrete Xamp amplifier for the headphones has an output of 600 ohms. This is a discrete headphone amplifier with a bi-amp design.
Full audio customization is possible with an immersive 7.1 surround virtualization, boost in bass and prompt cues along with other enhancements useful during gaming. The headphone amplifier is customized and offers discrete components made in a bi-amp design. The 1-ohm low output impedance can enhance 16-ohm in-ear monitors up to 600 ohms headphones.
The Sound Blaster Connect 2 app enables adjusting of settings. You can even create sound profiles for each game, light up the G6 with the music, etc. The audio technology allows full customization with enhanced realism and immersive experience with 7.1 surround virtualization and bass boost. The Scout Mode improves audio cues while gaming so that you can hear your enemies as they approach. The Dolby Digital virtual surround sound offers additional immersion and is perfect for movies as well as gaming.
- Those who want to play high-resolution music using high impedance headphones, with a sound card that is suitable for gaming as well as music
- Those gamers who wish to cut down on wired mess and wish for an all in one solution audio sound card
- Those who want quality as well as convenience in a solid device that is compact enough to sit in your palm
- It is specifically targeted towards gamers and is recommended for those who want a pure audio enhancement for gaming
- Those who want heightened audio for games, with more soundstage, more bass and crisp high end
Budget Sound Bar Injecting Life into your Music
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCle 5.1
This budget offering comes in a low profile PCI-E form and is a great option for enhancing audio with 5.1 surround sound. The sample rate is 192 KHz and the SNR is 106 dB. It offers support for surround sound speakers, with an audio bit rate of 24 bits. The headphone amp is 600 ohms.
This sound bar can be fitted into most PC builds as well as HTPCs, as the latter can usually accommodate only low budget cards. It can also offer adequate volume and good audio quality when used with headphones, even in case of 600-ohm headphones. The essential analog out connector necessary for a 5.1 surround speaker is also present on this sound card.
- Those looking for a low profile or budget sound card that offers enhanced audio processing
- Those who have audio problems with their onboard audio solution and want a richer sound with less distortion
Sound Card Taking Audio Levels to a New High
HT OMEGA Fenix PCl Express Sound Card
The HT Omega Fenix sound card will take your PC audio levels to a new high. It is powered by the C Media CM18828 chipset and offers a maximum of 7.1 ch analog output, offering an excellent cinematic audio experience from your PC. It offers support for 24 bit 192 KHz playback and recording features. The panel consists of 2 optical connectors for input and output of S/PDIF, along with one RCA connector offering coaxial output. Op-amps can be swapped for headphones and front output. They can also be exchanged when you wish to upgrade sound color. There is also an audio pin built in the front panel that can be used for HD audio connections.
It features S/PDIF optical/coaxial outputs, which is useful for expanding the system audio with an additional amplifier so that you can transfer audio without any loss in quality. There are many other advanced features built in this sound card, such as Xear Living to suit 7.1 virtual surround sounds on headphones and speakers. In addition, there is the Xear Magic Voice that can help you in disguising your voice during online chatting. The 7.1 channel sound is excellent for watching movies and for gaming.
- Those who want to take their desktop audio level to a new high with a reasonably priced sound card
- Those who wish to enjoy studio-quality audio for music, gaming and to watch HD sources
Sound Card Powerhouse Force in Audio Enhancement
Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCle
The ZxR PCle contains two cards offering a robust output as well as recording feature. You can connect the cards to your speaker, receiver or headphones and microphone. It comes with a 600-ohm amplifier so that it is suitable for headphones having high impedance. The SNR is 124 dB offering a clean audio output. The headphone amp supports studio-grade headphones with 600-ohm impedance. You can connect to your home theatre system using the Dolby Digital Live or the DTS Connect and enjoy 5.1 surround sound.
Audio recordings are pristine, having very low latency. The audio output is 24 bit/192 kHz and it makes use of SBX Pro Studio technology. The maximum playback quality is 5.1 and up to 96 kHz. It is compatible with PC, PCle x 1 connection and with OS Windows 7 and 8.
The SBX Pro Studio offers semi preset enhancement that can be enabled or disabled. For instance, there is Surround, Crystalizer for equalizer effect, Bass, Smart Volume, Dialog Plus for boosting speech, etc. A Scout Mode allows you to boost ranges and enhance audio for gaming. Scout Mode also allows you to hear your enemies even before they can hear you, so you get a tactical advantage while gaming.
You can also change the speaker settings and change the number of speakers or channels. The CrystalVoice and Clarity technology helps you express yourself in a crystal clear manner, very useful during multiplayer games and for video conferences. You can also match the voice with the game avatar.
- Those who want to opt for flagship audio or high-quality sound card
- Great sound card option for gamers who are interested in enjoying top quality music reproduction.
- It is mainly targeted at PC gamers but is also useful for movie watchers, as the sound enhancements can improve it to an amazing degree, simulating the bass effect heard in real movie theaters.
A True 192Bit Sound Card
HT OMEGA Claro Halo
The sound card is able to deliver incredible audio to your receiver or amplifier with top class RCA connectors so that you can transform your desktop into a powerful audio system outclassing any inbuilt sound card. The sound processor comes with ultra-high 2ch 24 bit/192 kHz audio output.
It is based on a PCI interface and comes with CM18788/PCI Oxygen, high definition Audio processor and a built-in headphone amp of 120 dB TI supporting a maximum of 600-ohm impedance levels. The audio support is on the front panel and it comes with auto muting features as well. This soundboard also works as a MIDI controller for your MIDI setup. There is optical SPDIF input along with SPDIF output, including the usual LineIn, the Microphone In and the CD/Auxiliary In. It also has the regular RCA connectors for outputting to receivers or amplifiers.
There is Dolby Digital Live in real time, offering a bit stream of 48 kHz at 640 Kbps that can be used from any PC source, offering full surround sound for your home theater. You can also connect it to receive surround sound for your 3D games and DVDs and a lot more. It offers a realistic 5.1 channel, surround sound from your headphones.
- Those who want to experience the best audio quality for their headphones, even suitable for high impedance headphones
USB Sound Card Simple and Effective Option
This is a USB sound card created by StarTech.com. It is especially useful for laptops and other small systems, where it is not possible to install a PCI and PCl-e sound card. The unit is of a reasonable size and comes with both analog and digital ports, with 7.1 surround sound, a dual microphone for recording and one S/PDIF pass through.
It is easy to install this USB sound card and it has 10 ports, which should be sufficient enough for most users. The headphone port is a very useful feature on this sound card. It offers a powerful range of inputs as well as outputs in a small and compact package.
Installation takes very little time, as you just have to plug in everything and the drivers get installed. It also has a limited feature S/PDIF interface. It is a little larger than the usual USB sound cards, which normally have only 2 ports of 3.5 mm. It is easy to use and switch from headphones to speakers, as you don’t have to unplug or plug every time. However, you cannot adjust the bass and treble, etc, as there is no software with this sound card. Perfectly suitable if you just want a replacement for your broken built-in sound card on your device. It has sufficient ports, it can be set up rapidly and it looks pretty decent. It is capable of converting your laptop or your PC into a 7.1 channel surround system using one USB 2.0 connection.
It is an external sound card and consists of microphone inputs on the outside along with volume control. It offers support for 44.1 KHz and also 48 KHz sample rates for playing analog, as also for recording 48 KHz in case of SPDIF. Another additional advantage with this USB sound card is that it comes with free technical support for lifetime.
- This is especially useful for those looking for a replacement for their broken onboard sound cards on their laptops.
- Those who want a simple, effective option for a sound card. It is not meant for professional use.
Sound Card Offering High-End Audio Experience
HT OMEGA CLARO II
This sound card features 24 bit 192 kHz/96 kHz/48 kHz/44.1 kHz for playback and for recording purposes. It offers a 7.1 surround analog output and comes with an AD8620BR front output, OPAMP. The connectors are of top quality being gold plated. The EMI shielding can also be easily removed. You can assess the HD audio connector pin easily from the front panel. It also features 2 pin connectors for the coaxial digital Input and Output, along with a CA 1 cable that is available additionally.
The Claro II offers 7.1 ch analog outputs as well as optical input and output, coaxial output along with 2pin digital input and output on board. Additionally, it also brings with it a high-end AD8620BR op-amp enhancing your experience of games and entertainment, such as music and movies.
A top grade Audio Capacitor of Toshin Kogyo has been used for the front analog output. Electronic shocks and noise are reduced with the use of mass storage capacitor. It offers protection for your speakers and for headphones so that they don’t get damaged with the pop noise while switching off the system.
DDL or Dolby Digital Live technology helps reproduce audio cues following on-screen actions during gameplay so that you can experience realtime and exciting entertainment. The sound card also makes use of Pro Logic IIx, which is capable of processing stereo, from 5.1 to 7.1 ch output, offering natural and immersive audio.
- Those who want the best audio experience while listening to music, watching a movie or playing video games, with dramatic sound effect and soundtrack using headphones
USB Sound Card for Laptop Upgrade
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi
This is a USB sound card that is quite cheap compared with other top end USB cards. It comes with EAX support useful for games and also includes Creative suite equalizer options that are certified by THX. On the front panel, you can find the 1/4 inches microphone input along with a 1/4 inch headphone jack placed conveniently for easy access. At the rear panel is the optical I/O and the stereo RCA I/O that is gold plated along with the phone preamp for making direct recordings of vinyl connections. You can use the Media Toolbox software for recording and converting or enhancing the quality of digital music. The THX TruStudio Pro software technology allows you to enjoy a film or studio like audio experience.
You can record as well as playback digital music. The sound card comes with connections that are gold plated, offering good signal quality and they are placed in accessible positions in the front. The THX TruStudio Pro results in excellent performance for audio through your PC or laptop. The SNR is 114dB. A phone preamp of RIAA EQ can help you convert vinyl records to MP3 or CDs.
- Users who want a laptop upgrade, especially for gamers
- Those who want a good USB sound card offering decent value and quality for the price
- Those who want a sound system offering premium connectivity for their Notebook or desktop
Soundboards are useful external hardware that can enhance your audio experience for entertainment and gaming purposes. This is the oldest way of getting powerful audio from your computer, by using a top performing sound card and plugging it into the motherboard of the host device. Most gamers love to use sound cards as it enhances environmental sounds, offers directional cues and emphasizes dialog as well. There are several sound cards on offer, some of which are suitable for budget-conscious audiophiles. Creative Labs is has been the market king in sound cards, but there are many other companies too who have thrown their hats in the ring!
You have to check out the SNR, which is excellent if it is 124 dB. Though each one of the above sound cards tries to bring something unique to the table, all of them have one thing in common, which is to improve your gaming and entertainment immersion and experience.
See also: Best headphones under $50
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