A Sound Card is an input and output device specially made for audio. It translates the analog and digital data through ADC (Analog to Digital Converter). This card then uses PCI or ISA interface to connect it to the motherboard. Moreover, it also utilizes input and output connections for speakers and microphones. Many audio cards also have a decoder chip rather than separate DACs and ADCs.

Following is a handpicked list of Top Sound Cards with their popular features and website links.

Best Sound Card for PC and Gaming at a Budget

Product Type Signal-to-Noise Digital audio/data Product Link
Asus Xonar AE Internal 110 dB

Good

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Sound Blaster Z Internal 116dB

Good

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EVGA Nu Audio Card Internal 122 dB

Good

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ASUS Essence STX II Internal 124dB

Good

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AudioQuest USB 96db

Good

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Sabrent USB USB 116dB

Good

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Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC Internal >110db

Good

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Creative Sound Blaster G3 USB 122dB

Good

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1) Asus Xonar AE

Asus Xonar AE is an internal sound card that easily fits in your budget. It increases your gaming experience with 3D audio effects and 7.1 sound card. This audio card comes with audio adjustments, HD sound, and a jack-sensing panel.

Asus Xonar AE is one of the best sound cards for music that has a signal-to-noise ratio of 110 dB, enabling you to listen to clear audio. The good thing about this sound card is that it has a built-in 150ohm headphone amplifier, which provides you with a rich and detailed sound.

This device has a weight of just 2.50 ounces and a dimension of 2.52x0.71x 6.69, which is very easy to fit in your CPU. With this card, you will get a wide range of driver options like 44.1K, 48K, 96K, and 192KHz. It can be the best gaming sound card for audio enthusiasts.

Pros

  • Made with high-quality material
  • Easy to install drivers with the Windows operating system.
  • Provides a good surround sound effect.
  • Available at a low price.

Cons

  • The sound is not powerful enough.
  • Low volume output.

2) Sound Blaster Z

Sound Blaster Z is one of the best sound cards in the market. It provides unrivaled in-game audio output. This card is combined with an I/O panel that ensures high-quality audio results.

Sound Blaster Z includes a good dual-microphone array standard. It is compatible with various versions of Windows operating systems. The device uses a Sound Core3D audio processor that can easily accelerate advanced voice and audio technology.

It is one of the best pc sound cards that use SBX Pro Studio sound technology to create a good level of 3D surround sound effect for headphones and speakers. It offers easy to use Sound Blaster control panel that enables you to manage output audio devices.

Sound Blaster Z provides you great bit rate of 24-bit 192 kHz for ideal listening experience. It has an excellent 3.5mm gold plated headphone and microphone jack with 5.1 channel connection slot.

Pros

  • Great in-game performance
  • Offers easy to navigate driver suite.
  • Crystal clear voice quality.
  • It reduces CPU overhead with no hassle.
  • Easily used with optical connectors.

Cons

  • Headphone output is not good.

3) EVGA Nu Audio Card

EVGA Nu Audio Card is one of the best pc sound cards that can be used with high-end output devices. It provides a variety of input/output options which can support DSD audio up to x256.

EVGA Nu Audio Card audio card provides protection through a copper shield and gold-plated PCB. It offers 10 modes RGB audio-reactive lighting, which can be controlled through EVGA NU audio software. This audio card has a weight of 1.60 lbs and dimensions of 3.03 x 10.59 x 15.04 inches. It is one of the best sound cards that is worth to install on your PC.

Pros

  • Software is easy to use.
  • Simple to configure.
  • Produces good sound with Atmos, DTS, and Dolby.
  • Stable software interaction with Windows 10.

Cons

  • Poor quality control feature.

4) ASUS Essence STX II

ASUS Essence STX II is one of the best sound cards that provides features audio quality with 124 dB SNR, high-quality audio, and more. This internal sound card is compatible with Windows 7 and greater versions.

The device can easily adjust the sound as you like. It comes with a kit that includes three additional op-amps, two instruments, and a clamp tool. This device has dimensions as 6.61 x 4.21 x 0.00 inches.

Pros

  • Produces good quality speaker and headphone output.
  • Compatible with a variety of operating systems.

Cons

  • This card is costly.

5) AudioQuest

AudioQuest is one of the best USB sound cards that use 2.1v output drives. It works with Android and Apple devices with no hassle by connecting with a simple adapter. This device plays all the media files from MP3 to 24-bit/96kHz high resolution audio files. It offers asynchronous transfer that ensures the digital integrity of timing.

AudioQuest is available for Windows and Linux operating systems. This amplifier has a black soft-touch finish with a protective endcap and leather travel pouch. AudioQuest feature provides you with perfect digital control with minimal effort. It is compatible with Apple iOS 5 and Android 5.0 later versions.

Pros

  • It is compact and easy to use.
  • Provides good power output.
  • Compatible with a wide range of devices.
  • It produces a clear sound.
  • The device quality is good.
  • This is one of the best budget sound cards.

Cons

  • It does not provide an independent volume controlling facility.

6) Sabrent USB

Sabrent USB is one of the best sound cards that enables you to transform a USB port into a mic jack and headset for simple connectivity. This device is ideal for Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems.

It is one of the best and cheap sound cards with a USB 2.0 hi-speed specification that can be easily attached to your computer. It has a USB type A connector, stereo output, and Microsoft input jack. The plus point about this sound card is that you do not require any external power.

Sabrent USB is one of the best USB sound cards that has a dimension of 1.50 x 0.40 x 0.90 inches. It is a highly flexible audio interface that can be used with either a desktop system or laptop.

Pros

  • Plug and play without installing any driver.
  • This amplifier has plenty of useful features.
  • It is portable and lightweight.
  • Produces clear quality sound.

Cons

  • It does not fit into the USB port of the PlayStation.

7) Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC

Audioengine D1 24-bit DAC is one of the best audiophile sound cards that is designed for TV and computer. It allows you to bypass your PC headphone or sound card output and send the output through optical wire or USB.

The sound card is compatible with various operating systems like Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. It can convert a digital signal into an analog signal and produce clear sound quality. This product comes with a 1x DAC, 1x0.6m USB cable, Cloth travel bag, setup guide and brochure.

Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC front panels provide options to control your volume, power indicator, and headphone output. This is one of the best sound cards that can process digital audio/data up to 24 bits. The rear panel has stereo RCA outputs and one USB input. One impressive thing about this amplifier is that it can be used without installing heavy drivers.

Pros

  • It is easy to use.
  • Size is compact.
  • Value for money amplifier.
  • Provides access to control the volume on each side of the amplifier.

Cons

  • You need a separate amplifier for headphones.

8) Creative Sound Blaster G3

Creative Sound Blaster G3 is a USB C external gaming DAC and amplifier for PS4. This is a plug and play driverless device that can be used on Windows and Mac computers also. It has a unique feature of GameVoice Mix that allows for adjusting chat and game audio with an integrated scroll wheel.

Creative Sound Blaster G3 enables you to control everything with just one hand. This is one of the best gaming sound cards that provides you direct access to independent volume and mic control. It has a dimension of 5.12 x 0.98 x 5.51 inches, and its weight is 3.67 ounces.

It is one of the best sound cards for music that can be easily paired with your mobile device. It has the capability to drive headphones up to 300 omega. If you want to customize the features of this device, then you must have the Sound Blaster Command app.

Pros

  • Fantastic audio output.
  • This sound card offers a range of customization that suits your need.
  • Can elevate any pair of wired headphones

Cons

  • Poor build quality.

FAQ:

❓ What is a Sound Card, and why do you need one?

A sound card is an expansion IC that produces sound on a PC that can be heard through headphones or speakers.

Here are the reasons of using a sound card:

  • A sound card is basically needed to improve the audio quality of your system.
  • It helps you to reduce load and CPU usage.
  • Surround sound effects in the game enables gamers to identify the location of enemies easily.
  • High-end audio card can prevent the electrical interference from other components.

⚡ How does Sound Card work?

A sound card is a basic printed circuit board. It can translate the analog and digital data through ADC (Analog to Digital Converter). This card then uses PCI or ISA interface to connect it to the motherboard. Moreover, it also utilizes input and output connections for speakers and microphones. Many audio cards also have a decoder chip rather than separate DACs and ADCs.

👉 Do you want an internal or external Sound Card?

It depends on your need. Casual users and gamers generally go for the internal sound card, which is cheaper and conserves many processing resources. However, if you are a streamer, musician, or podcast producer, it is good that you choose the external sound card. This is needed to improve the sound quality in the recording you make.

🏅 Does the Sound Card affect sound quality?

Yes. The sound card converts the analog signal into a digital one and vice versa. This process helps you to get a good quality sound for speakers or headphones.

🌟 How do I choose a gaming Sound Card?

Here are the important points that help you to choose the best gaming sound cards:

  • Compatibility: The sound card you are going to purchase should be compatible with your computer. If your PC does not support your audio card standards, then you cannot utilize its features. Therefore, you need to choose a sound card that is compatible with your desktop PC.
  • Channels: It is another important feature you must consider before purchasing a gaming sound card. If you check 5.1 or 7.1, then both are good for gaming. However, you have to ensure that the chosen sound card must be compatible with the speaker channel to get a full sound experience.
  • Sample Rate: The sample rate is an important component that decides the quality of audio. It is basically a rate at which the sound stream sends data to the PC over a period of time. You have to choose higher kHz as it provides better audio quality.
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) is a sound coming from the audio card. If SNR is 50 dB, then the audio signals coming from your card is fifty decibels higher compared to the noise signal. You have to search for sound cards with a minimum of 100 dB SNR.
  • 5.1 Vs. 7.1 Sound Cards:

    Number 5.1 means your sound card supports 6 audio channels. On the other hand, 7.1 supports 8 audio channels. You have to choose a sound card according to the configuration of the speaker. If you have 5.1 speakers and 2.1 headphones or a system, it is ideal to purchase 4.1 sound card.

  • USB Vs. PCIe Sound Cards: USB audio cards are basically external cards that can be easily attached to your computer via a USB port. It is good if you have a limit of cable.

    PCIe sound card is an internal card that is mounted inside the case of your PC. They offer you a lower latency compared to USB cards. However, such sound cards can utilize high power from the PCIe port.

  • Gaming Vs. Audiophile Sound Cards: This is another point that you need to keep in mind while choosing a sound card. If you want a good listening experience, then it is preferable to choose a high-end gaming audio card. On the other hand, audiophile sound cards are ideal to choose for audio equipment like headphones and speakers.

❗ Why you should upgrade your Gaming Sound Card?

Here are the advantages that you will gain when you purchase a sound card:

  • Amplified Gaming: Most of the games available in the market support 5.1 and 7.1 3D surround sound effects. However, if your card does not support such features, you will miss a realistic experience while playing games.
  • Musician: This point is important for musicians. It will help you to improve the audio performance of the PC. However, this requires you to use your desktop to capture performance. You have to upgrade your sound card with an additional MIDI port to enhance the sound experience.
  • Music & Entertainment: If you are listening to music on earphones, then your computer may not produce good sound quality. You have to choose a sound card with a built-in headphone amplifier so that you can enjoy songs without any interference.

❓ How to check if I need to replace my Sound Card?

Here are the steps to check Sound card in Windows:

Step 1: Go to the control panel and click on "System Maintenance".

Step 2: Click on the "Device Manager" button.

Step 3: Click on the plus sign or the arrow next to Sound, Video, and Game controllers.

Step 4: Right-click on your sound card and click on "Properties".

Step 5: Cross-check the Window's contents with the driver of the sound card's descriptions in the information that is available.

Step 6: On the General tab, ensure that the device status message says, "This device is working properly."

 

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