Best Sound Cards for PC in 2023

Best Sound Cards for PC

Computers today serve as both entertainment and productivity-focused tools for the great majority of users. They can watch videos, play games, and listen to music. This may be why the best sound cards for pc is necessary for each modern PC. Even while most PCs’ essential onboard audio solutions do the job, you need a specialized sound card to improve the audio quality on your computer. It is even more crucial if you use your system for specialized purposes like music creation or competitive gaming. DACs for audio encoding and decoding, integrated amplifiers, and a variety of I/O and connectivity choices are features that these expansion cards typically provide. Since so many sound cards are available, selecting the best one for your system might take a lot of work. We’ve included some of the best PC sound cards and amplifiers to assist you. One of these is the ASUS Essence STX II, PCIe-based and most suited for desktop computers, while Creative Sound BlasterX G6 is USB-powered and best suited for laptops and game consoles. Learn everything there is to know about them before choosing!

Things to Think About 

DAC Quality

The quality of the Digital-to-Analog Converter should be the first consideration when purchasing a sound card. This module is the critical part in charge of playback; the higher the DAC’s caliber, the cleaner your music will sound. So how can you assess the DAC’s quality? SNR, or signal-to-noise ratio, is typically used. In essence, this refers to how much louder the intended helpful sound is compared to the unnecessary noise. Some premium sound cards offer up to 124 dB SNR. Since decibels are logarithmic, most motherboards with inbuilt audio solutions offer an SNR of 80–90 dB, which is a significant difference.

Headphone Amplifier

If you own a set of studio-quality headphones, a Headphone amplifier is a crucial part of your sound card. Such headphones typically have a greater impedance, making it only possible for low-end sound cards with a headphone amplifier to drive them efficiently. Low volume results from using studio-grade headphones with subpar audio setups. Make sure the sound card you are purchasing has a dedicated headphone amplifier whose supported headphone impedance is higher than the rated impedance of your headphones if you wish to utilize studio-quality headphones.

Channel Support

With many of the latest sound systems, including the new 7.1 or even 7.2 surround sound, 5.1 channel systems are essential for a fantastic home theatre. Such audio systems offer unreal immersion since they simulate 3D sound. The sound card is the only component that can give the sound system discrete channels. A few sound cards offer actual 7.1 surround sound capability; however, the majority of sound cards only enable virtual 7.1 sound, which is accomplished through audio processing tools. If you have a high-end 7.1 home theatre system, you’re likely employing pricey external audio solutions. If not, though, the newest 7.1-channel sound cards can come as a big surprise.

Software Features

Since every user has a varied choice of audio features, the software functions of the sound card are essential for most users. It is one of the primary justifications for purchasing a sound card. The standout component is Virtual Surround Sound, which is frequently combined with gaming headphones to enhance spatial awareness, particularly in games utilized in competitions. Such software solutions can offer sophisticated audio capabilities like adjustable frequency response and equalizer settings.

Interface

There are two types of interfaces that we can discuss. The first is the interface between the sound card and the computer, and the second is between the sound card and audio devices. Make sure you have an extra, clear PCI-Express slot because most recent sound cards utilize one. Two PCI-E slots are needed for sound cards like the Asus Essence STX II or the Creative Sound Blaster ZxR: one for the mainboard and one for the daughterboard. Due to the limited number of PCI-E slots on micro-ATX motherboards, this can be a problem for some users.

Additional Power And Connectors

Some sound cards need extra power to drive the components in addition to the standard requirement for a sound card, such as a PCI or PCI-Express slot on the motherboard. Make sure your power supply has a power connector for the sound card. This is typically a Molex connector or a Six-pin PCIe power connector.

Comparison Table:

Last update on 2023-02-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Creative Sound Blaster Z

Creative Sound Blaster Z

The Sound Blaster Z from Creative is unquestionably one of the most excellent PC sound cards available today, offering a wealth of capabilities at an affordable price. With a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 116dB and the ability to output audio at 24-bit/192kHz, you can fully appreciate high-resolution music. Additionally, the card’s specialized “Sound Core3D” audio processor excels at increasing the overall sound/voice quality without placing a strain on the computer’s main CPU thanks to its support for Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) for decreased audio latency. The Sound Blaster Z features five gold-plated 3.5mm audio ports and two TOSLINK ports for connectivity and I/O, allowing you to connect anything from headphones to home theatre system(s) and enjoy high-fidelity immersive digital audio. A beamforming microphone that reduces background noise and creates an acoustic zone is also included with the PCIe sound card, improving voice quality.

Pros

  • numerous possibilities for connecting

Cons

  • Cons of an integrated beamforming microphone
  • Uncomfortable red LED lights

ASUS Xonar SE Gaming Sound Card

ASUS XONAR SE 5.1 Channel

If you’re one of those people who can’t afford to spend a boatload on high-end computer hardware, ASUS’ Xonar SE is precisely what you need. This low-cost PC sound card enables high-resolution audio playback (5.1 channel) at up to 24-bit/192kHz and has an SNR of 116dB. In addition, its built-in 300-ohm headphone amplifier provides an immersive audio output with distinct bass. Utilizing a proprietary “Hyper Grounding” fabrication technique, the card is made with less distortion/interference and improved signal insulation. The Xonar SE has four 3.5mm audio ports, one S/PDIF port (with TOSLINK), and a front audio header regarding connectivity and I/O choices. The PCIe sound card is equipped with a low-profile mount that makes it simple to install in compact cases and is powered by a Cmedia 6620A audio processor. The accompanying software application makes it simple to modify its audio parameters (such as equalization profiles and level balancing).

Pros 

  • Reasonable cost
  • perfect low-profile bracket for little cases

Cons

  • no support for ASIO

EVGA 712-P1-AN01-KR Audio Card, NU

EVGA 712-P1-AN01-KR Audio Card, NU

The EVGA NU Audio 712-P1-AN01-KR is the sound card to choose if you’re looking for a powerful one for your gaming setup. This device looks fantastic and performs impressive because of its programmable 10-mode RGB lighting that responds to music output. It offers high-quality audio recording and playback at up to 32-bit/384kHz and has an SNR of 123dB. The AKM AK4493 Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), the XMOS xCORE-200 Digital Signal Processor (DSP), and audio-grade capacitors and resistors are just a few of the high-end parts used in the PCIe sound card’s production. There are two 3.5mm audio ports, one 6.3mm audio port, two RCA L/R connectors, and a S/PDIF port (with TOSLINK passthrough) for communication and I/O. With its associated software, the NU Audio 712-P1-AN01-KR’s 16-600 ohm headphone amplifier (with independent analog control) enables easy configuration of everything from virtual surround to equalization settings.

Pros

  • made using premium materials
  • shielded copper passive heatsink

Cons

  • Poor driver support is prevalent.

Creative Sound Blaster AE-7

Creative Sound Blaster AE-7

With a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 127dB and support for 32-bit/384kHz audio playback, Creative’s Sound Blaster AE-7 is unquestionably one of the most potent PC sound cards on the market. Along with the ESS SABRE-class 9018 Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), an integrated 600-ohm headphone amplifier produces 7.1 channel surround sound for headphones and 5.1 channel for speakers. However, the “Audio Control Module” unit with the card is its best feature because it lets you quickly change the volume using a handy knob. For hassle-free I/O and communication, it includes a built-in microphone array, two 3.5mm audio connectors, and two 6.3mm audio ports. Speaking of which, the Sound Blaster AE-7 itself features a TOSLINK port in addition to five 3.5mm audio connections. A unique “Sound Core3D” audio processor powers the PCIe sound card. Its companion software application allows you to change various settings (such as recording resolution and encoding type).

Pros

  • convenient controller with audio ports
  • Individual channel amplification 

Cons

  • illogical software

Creative Sound BlasterX G6

Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res

Internal sound cards are excellent but are only compatible with PCs due to their PCIe extension bus interface. The Sound BlasterX G6 from Creative is powered by USB, so that is not a problem. This implies that you can connect it to game consoles like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in addition to laptops and desktop computers. It supports 32-bit/384kHz high-fidelity audio and has an integrated Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) with a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 130dB.

Additionally, the external sound card has a separate 600-ohm headphone amplifier that enhances each audio channel separately. The Sound BlasterX G6 has two 3.5mm audio ports, two optical TOSLINK connections, and a micro USB port for communication and I/O. A single side-mounted dial can control the microphone and gaming audio, and the companion software can change everything from Dolby Digital effects to noise reduction settings.

Pros

  • works with many different devices
  • specialized gaming mode

Cons

 

  • Unsatisfactory mic input

FAQ

Why is a sound card necessary for my PC?

Almost all of the current desktop and laptop computers on the market include built-in audio capabilities (on the motherboard), which makes sure that both internal (like speakers) and external (like headphones) devices function as intended. Although this arrangement functions well, it is straightforward. You need a sound card to drive all this additional hardware if you wish to utilize your PC with high-end accessories like studio headphones and home theatre systems. If you want to appreciate high-resolution lossless audio properly, it’s also crucial.

Which sound card should I choose: an internal or external one?

Internal sound cards are typically more powerful. They offer features like switchable op-amp chips and several communication ports, and they plug straight onto the motherboard of your desktop PC. However, external sound cards are the way to go if your intended device is a laptop PC (or a game console).

Can I install and configure the sound card on my own?

Since you only need to insert internal sound cards into your motherboard’s expansion slot, installing them is relatively easy. Because they are frequently powered through a USB port, external sound cards are much simpler to set up. To get things operating in both situations, you must additionally configure the related drivers, if any.

Conclusion

Even though each of the PC sound cards listed above is fantastic in and of itself, Creative’s Sound Blaster Z is our top selection. Despite having a low price, it comes with several features, like ASIO compatibility, high-resolution audio output, and even a specialized audio processing processor. Choose Creative’s Sound BlasterX G6 if you prefer something a little easier to operate and doesn’t involve opening your PC’s tower. It works with contemporary game consoles and computers (desktop and laptop).

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