You don’t need to buy a new computer if you want to improve the sound on your laptop or desktop; all you need is the best external sound card. External sound cards, which come with a wide range of features and capabilities, are a convenient and portable way to improve the sound quality of your computer, especially if it is an entry-level or midrange model. Additionally, users of external sound cards have simple access to various audio input and output ports so they can connect a microphone, a gaming headset, or extra speakers. You could use an external sound card to record music or podcasts, connect a home theatre sound system, or both.
What to Think About
Each external sound card on this list includes one (or more) audio jacks, allowing you to connect external speakers, headphones, and other devices like external microphones. For our top picks, we looked for products that connect to a computer or gaming console via a USB-C port. The most reliable option is the one mentioned, and it will give you many years of dependable service.
Sound cards that connect to your computer via USB are simple to set up and connect to your computer via USB, as the name implies. You might need to download and install software drivers that ordinarily come with the device before you can start using a PC. The setup process on a Mac is frequently even more straightforward; users typically only need to connect the device and choose it as an audio source from Mac’s sound preferences.
Ensure the external sound card you select can support the highest bit depth you stream if you’re streaming high-resolution audio from apps like TIDAL or Apple Music. CD-grade audio at 44.1 kHz and 16 bits is the norm for hi-fi. The resolutions of Apple Music streams range from 16 bit / 44.1 kHz to 24 bit / 192 kHz, while TIDAL streams are typically 96 kHz / 24 bit. If you’ve spent money on a nice pair of headphones, an external sound card will enable you to get the most out of them while expanding your port section. As a result, they are undoubtedly worthwhile to include in your setup.
Last update on 2023-02-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Sound Blaster X4 External Sound Card
The ideal option for improving your music experience at your desk is this high-resolution USB DAC. In addition to supporting 32-bit 196kHz high-resolution audio, it is the only external USB DAC with Super X-Fi technology, simulating the sound of a premium multispeaker system in your headphones. This external sound card is compatible with most current setups because of its USB-C port. In addition, it has five 3.5-millimeter ports on the back for a 7.1 speaker system (and a line-in device), 3.5-millimeter headphone and microphone ports on the front, and an optical output. You can find the ideal balance between two audio sources with the help of the Sound Blaster. This is useful when you want to adjust the volume mix between your video game’s audio and your teammates’ audio so that you can hear them better. This audio solution can be used by Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PCs, and Macs.
- high-quality audio performance
- simple setup
- affordably priced
- Not ideal for use when traveling
E10K-TC External Sound Card
The elegant, uncomplicated design of FiiO’s E10K-TC USB headphone amplifier is highlighted by its brushed aluminum body, one front-facing audio connector, and immense power and volume control knobs. The last item has extraordinary tactility that belies the product’s price of under $100; it is consistently fun to interact with.
For the price, the E10K-TC offers superb audio performance. High-impedance headphones can be powered by the device’s top-notch audio components, which enable it to provide Hi-Res Audio content. The amp contains an easy-to-use switch for increasing power output, and the front-facing button for boosting bass delivery is also convenient. The E10K-TC received a reasonably comprehensive set of connectivity options from FiiO. They range from a dated co-axial output to a distinctly contemporary USB-C.
- Sleek construction and simple controls
- Fantastic audio for the price.
- No support for surround sound
Bolt USB-C DAC/AMP
The most understated choice on this list is, without a doubt, the Helm Audio Bolt. The tiny device, less than four inches in length, connects to any desktop or laptop computer via USB-C or USB-A to deliver studio-quality sound and support for high-impedance headphones. Additionally, the product works with Android phones and iPads with USB-C ports.
The Helm Audio Bolt supports THX- and MQA-certified audio in terms of audio fidelity. Such certifications guarantee that you can enjoy distortion-free, audiophile-grade content even at loud volume levels. Considering the reasonable price of the product, their availability is impressive. The Bolt also has a fabric-covered cable, gold-plated connectors, and a discrete light indication that changes color based on the value of the content. A USB-A adapter is included in the retail package.
- Minimal Audiophile-grade audio performance drawbacks:
- Does not have additional controls
Sound Blaster G3 External Sound Card
Gamers should look at Creative’s Sound Blaster G3 sound card to enhance the audio for their portable gaming headset. As a result of its support for lossless audio and high-impedance headphones, the product is also a fantastic choice for audiophiles.
With this selection, the audio quality will immediately improve, and the gaming experience will be more immersive. When you’re playing games like Fortnite or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it will help you hear distant footsteps. Additionally, its GameVoice feature helps balance the audio of your games and chat conversations on your PlayStation or gaming PC. The best part is that it may be used without drivers or software!
- compact style
- outstanding audio performance
- Comfortable controls
- Lacks multichannel surround sound support
Audio GSX 300 External USB Sound Card
The GSX 300 is a small external sound card that lets customers choose between stereo or virtual surround sound settings with a button. It supports 24-bit / 96 kHz uncompressed audio and has separate 3.5-millimeter analog headphone and microphone connections.
It lacks some bells and whistles compared to the GSX 1000 PRO and requires software adjustments rather than being made directly on the device. However, it’s still a solid external sound card, especially considering its reasonably priced price. You can still switch between custom EQ presets, and the audio will sound cleaner and better.
- good sound performance
- Sleek design
- utilizes an old-style micro USB connector
I’ll be highlighting the top nine external sound cards in this post. The PC or laptop is the ideal option for these card devices. Any devices above can be connected to your USB sound port for a better, more streamlined experience. You can benefit from the improved sound quality provided by these devices. It is advised that you halt and examine the features of any external sound card for the PC that you are considering buying. To determine how well the features stack up, compare them to those on this list.
Price should also be taken into consideration when buying sound cards. The cost of these gadgets varies, ranging from the most expensive series to more affordable models. Make sure to maintain quality for money if you were to get one. Even though all of the sound cards on this list are of excellent quality (and reasonably priced! ), it is important to prioritize quality over pricing.