We purchased the The 5 Best PC Sound Cards so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full products reviews.
Computers are now, for the vast majority of users, not only productivity tools, but also entertainment devices. They’re used for everything from listening to music to watching videos to playing games. Perhaps this is why a good sound card is so important in today’s computers. Although most PCs come with basic onboard sound solutions, you’ll need a dedicated sound card to take your computer’s audio experience to the next level. If you use your setup for specialized tasks like competitive gaming or music production, it’s even more important. Integrated amplifiers, DACs for encoding/decoding audio, and a variety of I/O and connectivity options.
Choosing the right sound card for your system can be difficult due to the large number of options available. To assist you, we’ve outlined some of the best PC sound cards/amplifiers available. PCIe-based models (best for desktops) like the ASUS Essence STX II, as well as USB-powered models (best for laptops and even gaming consoles) like the Creative Sound BlasterX G6 are among them. Read everything there is to know about them and make an informed decision!
Best Overall: Creative Sound Blaster Z
Creative’s Sound Blaster Z () is easily one of the best PC sound cards you can buy, with a plethora of features at a reasonable price. It has a 116dB Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) and can output audio at 24-bit/192kHz, so you can listen to high-resolution music in all its glory. There’s also support for Audio Stream I/O (ASIO) for lower audio latency, and the card’s dedicated “Sound Core3D” audio processor improves overall sound/voice quality without taxing the computer’s primary CPU.
The Sound Blaster Z has five gold-plated 3.5mm audio ports and two TOSLINK ports for connectivity and I/O, allowing you to connect everything from headphones to home theater systems and enjoy high-fidelity immersive digital audio. A beamforming microphone is included with the PCIe sound card, which reduces outside noise and creates an acoustic zone, resulting in improved voice clarity.
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Best Budget: ASUS Xonar SE Gaming Sound Card
If you can’t (or don’t want to) spend a lot of money on top-tier computing hardware, ASUS’ Xonar SE ()is exactly what you need. The Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of this low-cost PC sound card is 116dB, and it supports high-resolution audio playback (5.1 channel) at up to 24-bit/192kHz. Aside from that, its built-in 300 ohm headphone amplifier produces an immersive sound with well-defined bass.
The card is made with a proprietary “Hyper Grounding” fabrication technology that reduces distortion and interference while also improving signal insulation. The Xonar SE has four 3.5mm audio ports, one S/PDIF port (with TOSLINK), and a front audio header when it comes to connectivity and I/O options. The Cmedia 6620A audio processor powers the PCIe sound card, which comes with a low-profile bracket that makes it easy to install in smaller cases. The companion software application can easily configure its audio parameters (equalizer profiles, level balancing, etc.).
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Best Lighting: EVGA 712-P1-AN01-KR NU Audio Card
Look no further than EVGA’s NU Audio 712-P1-AN01-KR () if you’re looking for a powerful sound card for your gaming rig. This thing looks as good as it works, with customizable 10-mode RGB lighting that reacts to audio output. It has a 123dB Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) and can record and playback high-quality audio at up to 32-bit/384kHz. The PCIe sound card uses high-quality components like the AKM AK4493 Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), the XMOS xCORE-200 Digital Signal Processor (DSP), and audio-grade capacitors and resistors to deliver incredibly clear and immersive sound.
There are two 3.5mm audio ports, a 6.3mm audio port, RCA L/R ports, and a S/PDIF (with TOSLINK passthrough) port for connectivity and I/O. The NU Audio 712-P1-AN01-KR has a 16-600 ohm headphone amplifier (with independent analog control) and a companion software program that allows you to easily customize everything from virtual surround to equalizer settings.
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Best Controller: Creative Sound Blaster AE-7
Creative’s Sound Blaster AE-7 () is one of the most powerful PC sound cards available, with a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 127dB and support for 32-bit/384kHz audio playback. There’s also a built-in 600 ohm headphone amplifier that works with the ESS SABRE-class 9018 Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) to deliver rich surround sound (5.1 channel for speakers and 7.1 channel for headphones).
The card’s best feature, however, is its companion “Audio Control Module” unit, which has a convenient knob that allows you to easily adjust the volume level. It also has an integrated microphone array, two 3.5mm audio ports, and two 6.3mm audio ports for convenient I/O and connectivity. The Sound Blaster AE-7, for example, has five 3.5mm audio ports as well as a TOSLINK port. The PCIe sound card is powered by a dedicated “Sound Core3D” audio processor, and its companion software utility allows you to tweak a variety of settings (such as recording resolution and encoding format).
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Best External: Creative Sound BlasterX G6
Internal sound cards are great, but because of their PCIe expansion bus interface, they are only available for PCs. However, because the Sound BlasterX G6 () is powered via USB, this isn’t an issue. This essentially means that you can connect it to gaming consoles like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in addition to laptops and desktops. 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.
A discrete 600ohm headphone amplifier is also included with the external sound card, which amplifies both audio channels separately. The Sound BlasterX G6 features two 3.5mm audio ports, two Optical TOSLINK ports, and a microUSB port for connectivity and I/O. The game audio and mic volume are controlled by a single side-mounted dial, and the companion software program allows you to tweak everything from Dolby Digital effects to noise reduction settings.
The Final Word
Despite the fact that all of the PC sound cards listed above are fantastic in their own right, we recommend Creative’s Sound Blaster Z. Despite its low price, it comes with a long list of features, including ASIO support, high-resolution audio output, and even a dedicated audio processing chip. Choose Creative’s Sound BlasterX G6 if you want something that’s a little easier to use and doesn’t require you to open your PC’s tower. It works with modern gaming consoles as well as computers (desktops and laptops).