Our ability to hear is one of the greatest senses a human can have. It is the ability to hear that, when we are infants, helps us familiarize ourselves with the soothing voice of our mothers. And it is with sounds that, eventually, we learn to adapt the sounds we here into speech, allowing us to communicate with other humans better.
Outside of learning, sounds also provide functions that help immerse us in our entertainment experiences. No movie, TV show, or video game is quite the same without a good soundtrack that can provide us with beautiful music or loud explosions to accompany the images on screen.
Good sound is just as important when an individual is making their own gaming laptop. Previously, we looked at some graphics cards, that help bring to life beautiful visuals on your monitor while gaming. But what good are those visuals if there isn’t some awesome sound to go with it?
Today, we will be taking a look at ten of the best sound cards for the PC. These sound cards may range in price, features, and aesthetics, but one thing is true for all of them, and that is that they will be just what you need to not only play a game, but to experience a game.
10. Sound Blaster Z PCIE Gaming Sound Card
If you’re looking for a stylish sound card that has earned the trust of many gamers, then the Sound Blaser Z PCIE, is a sound card to look out for. The only complaint I have with the Sound Blaster Z isn’t the hardware itself, but the software. It doesn’t support Linux and even Windows has some issues. This card annihilates any onboard sound card that’s on the market and has truly earned its place as one of the best sound cards for gaming.
Check Out The Sound Blaster Z On Amazon
Our first sound card today is the Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card, an Internal sound card that runs around $100 on Amazon.
The Sound Blaster has numerous features to bring the best in audio to your custom set-up, starting with a removable, high-quality dual-microphone that is built into every sound card. The Sound Blaster also includes something known as a “Sound Core 3D Audio Processor,” which helps enhance audio and voice for even higher quality.
For those who are looking to switch up their audio between their computers speakers or a set of headphones, the Sound Blaster features an onboard control panel on some models that allows you to quickly switch between the two options. This feature makes the Sound Blaster Z perfect for when the neighbors start complaining about the noise when you are in mid-game.
Despite this, some people have stated that the audio quality can sometimes come out quieter then some other sound cards in the price range, with others saying the quality from the headphones is better then the speaker output. But those are minor gripes when considering all the features and convenience of the Sound Blaster. And with the card’s sleek, red design, it earns some style points as well.
9. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIE RX 7.1 Sound Card
At such a cheap price, the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for something on a budget. Coming in at around $60, you’ll be getting 7.1 surround sound for your games at the cost of one triple A title. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, then the Audigy is hard to beat.
Check The Creative Sound Blaster Audigy Out On Amazon
Our next sound card is yet another from the Sound Blaster family of cards, the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy, and may be the sound card for those looking for a cheaper option then the previous entry.
The Audigy comes equipped with 7.1 Surround Sound audio, which is perfect for multiple forms of media and speaker set ups. The Audigy also comes with the EAX Reverb Engine, allowing for enhanced audio qualities.
There are issues with the Audigy in terms of consistency, however. Different forms of media, such as films or video games, seem to have different quality of playback. For example, the sound quality while playing music comes across a lot more clear then the audio for a video game. That isn’t to say that the sound quality is bad by any means, just inconsistent.
With it’s surround sound capabilities, multiple inputs for various audio devices, and its more affordable price point, the Audigy can very well be the sound card for your computer’s needs.
8. ASUS STRIX SOAR Sound Card
The Asus STRIX SOAR sound card fulfills all the points of a high-quality gaming sound card that puts out some amazing sound for a decent price, but where this Sound Card truly stands out is not in the hardware, but the software. Asus’s Sonic Studio has to be one of the best software I’ve ever seen for sound cards as it allows you to completely tailor your sound card to your specific values.
Check Out The Asus STRIX SOAR On Amazon
The next sound card on our list, the ASUS STRIX SOAR, is somewhat unique when it comes to sound cards that are available. And what makes it unique isn’t so much the features of the sound card itself, but the software that comes with it.
With every ASUS STRIX SOAR comes ASUS’ software, the Sonic Studio. This software not only allows for complete control of all aspects of audio but also comes with a feature called the “Sonic Radar Pro.” This feature is used while playing games, and will show you what directions certain sounds are coming from via a radar overlay.
As cool as the Sonic Radar Pro can be, the audio is still the most important part of a sound card, and the ASUS STRIC SOAR does not disappoint in that area. Using 116dB SNR and ESS SABRE9006A DAC, the audio of this sound card is top notch. There is also a 600ohm headphone amp, for excellent and powerful headphone output.
All these features do come with some setbacks, however. The ASUS does not run off the power of your computer, requiring the need for an external, 6-pin power connector. There are also some compatibility issues for FireFox users that are trying to run the Sonic Studio, with the software causing the flash player to crash.
The positives far outweigh the negatives with the ASUS, though, and I recommend this sound card for anyone looking for a sound card that is more than just an average sound card.
7. SIIG SoundWave 7.1 PCI Sound Card
If you’re just looking for something cheap, then the SIIG should be your go-to option, coming in at under $50 (as of this article), it is easily the cheapest option on this list. That’s not to say that it’s bad, as it features 7.1 surround sound and a really cool built-in mic that even puts higher priced sound cards to shame. For someone who just wants to try a sound card, the SIIG Soundwave is a good choice.
Check Out The SIIG SoundWave On Amazon
The SIIG SoundWave is another internal sound card, and probably the most affordable sound card so far on this list, coming in at just over $37. Despite that relatively modest price point, the SoundWave can more than pack a punch.
Much like the Audigy above, the SoundWave supports 7.1 Surround Sound output, as well as 8-channel output for Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES 6.1/7.1CH DVD audio. But the SoundWave also has some interesting features unique to it for microphones. These features include mic echo, key shifting, and vocal cancellation.
Unfortunately, there are some huge problems with compatibility, with the SoundWave having issues working on some newer OS, such as Windows 10. And the audio output, while good, is easily blown away by some other options on this list. That said, if you are looking for a decent quality sound card that won’t break the bank, then the SoundWave can more then hold its own.
6. Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D THX PCIE Fatal1ty Champion
Is the Recon 3D necessary? Not at all. Is it amazing? Definitely. If you’re a gaming audiophile looking for something that truly brings your sound to next level and are willing to drop a few hundred bucks for it, there really isn’t a better card I can recommend. This card is also good if you’re just looking for something that works right out of the box compared to having to do a bunch of tinkering.
Check Out The Recon3D THX Champion On Amazon
Big name, and even bigger price, this sound card from the Sound Blaster family will set you back a pretty penny. This alone may be enough to drive away most people, as that price point is quite scary, especially if you are building your computer on a budget.
If you are still with me and didn’t faint after seeing that price, then I have one great sound card for you.
The Fatal1ty comes equipped with THX TrueStudio Pro Sound, which helps brings games, movies, and music to life. For those of you that don’t know, THX is the sound that blows you out of your seat during a Star Wars film. The Fatal1ty also allows for pitch-perfect and clear voice feedback, using its CrystalVoice technology.
The features don’t stop there either, as the Fatal1ty has a feature for gaming called “Scout Mode”. This feature makes it possible to hear where your enemies are coming from well before they here you. The Fatal1ty also allows the possibility to connect the entirety of your home theater system to it using a single digital cable, eliminating any clutter caused by cords.
The Fatal1ty really is a great card… aside from the price. But, if you have the extra coin laying around and can afford to drop it on a sound card, then you will be in for one heck of a treat.
5. StarTech 7.1 Channel Sound Card PEXSOUND7CH
If you can get past the StarTech 7.1 Sound Cards looks, then this is another great buy for my budget conscious buyers. It’s a very versatile device, that will allow you to use it in many ways, while still maintaining a small size. The only complaint that I could have for this Sound Card due to its price point would be the looks.
Check Out The StarTech PEXSOUND7CH On Amazon
Taking a step back a few hundred dollars from our last sound card, we bring you the StarTech.com 7.1 Channel Sound Card, which comes to a total of about $50 dollars.
The StarTech is surround sound capable sound card that output in 7.1, and the SPDIF input allows the ability to attach several different optical and analog devices. Unlike some of the other sound cards with similar capabilities, the StarTech is on the smaller side size wise, which allows the sound card to be attached in custom builds of any size.
On the topic of this cards versatility, the StarTech also features separate header brackets, featuring another set of input jacks. These headers are also different sizes, which opens up even more options when using this sound card in your computer.
The only major setback for this sound card that I can think of is that the sound quality is not as good as other 7.1 cards, but this is nothing when compared to the money and space you will save when choosing the StarTech.
4. Creative Labs SB0880 PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Sound Card
If you don’t mind getting something a little older, then the SB0880, is a sound card you want to have on your list. There isn’t much to say about it other than that it’s a great bargain for those who’re not trying to break the bank. It’s also compatible with Linux on top of Windows even with its old age.
Check Out The Creative Lab’s SB0880 On Amazon
If you are looking for an affordable sound card that will bring you total immersion for games, movies, and music, then this next sound card from Creative Labs will be perfect for you.
The X-Fi Titanium sound card, a member of the Sound Blaster family, uses various means to provide high-quality surround sound for your computer. This includes CMSS-3D technology, which creates “virtual speakers” , even when using stereo sound, which creates surround sound for your headphones and provides precise audio cues from speaker setups.
The X-Fi also uses “Crystalizer Technolgy”, which enhances audio quality that may have been reduced from compressed audio files. The X-Fi also provides clear and vibrant voice feedback for when you are communicating with others in game.
There really is not too much in the way of negatives for the X-Fi. There have been some people who seem to have some driver issues with the card, which is to be expected as the X-Fi is a few years old at this point. But even these issues are few and far between, and the X-Fi is a safe buy for hardcore gamers and film buffs alike.
3. Auzentech AZT-STUDIO X-Studio 5.1 Sound Card
The Azuntech AZT-STUDIO is best for people who’re looking for a cheap sound card that just works right out of the box. You don’t get any of the customization or software that some of the bigger brands offer, but you can always just use third party software if you really want to. For the price, I have to say the AZT-Studio is a good buy for any gamer looking for high-quality 5.1 surround sound.
Check Out The Auzentech AZ-STUDIO On Amazon
Our next sound card come from Auzentech, whom may not be as well known as some of the other names in sound cards, such as Creative or ASUS. For being more underground, however, the Auzentech certainly does not lack in features.
The Auzentech runs about $100 dollars, and for the price you get various features, such as 5.1 Surround Sound, as well as DirectSound 3D, A3D, and EAX 1.0/2.0. Also featured are swappable front-right and front-left OPAMP, depending on user preference, as well as various jacks for speakers, headphones, and other sound output devices.
As you no doubt have noticed, the Auzentech doesn’t feature quite as many nuances as some of the other sound cards on the list, which may be a negative aspect to people who wish to get more out of their sound cards. This may be acceptable if it wasn’t for the price point, with sound cards that have more options available at lower price points.
That isn’t to say that the Auzentech isn’t without it’s own merits. The sound card provides relatively good sound, and if you are making a computer and are just looking for a simple and understated sound card that can still give great sound, then this is the sound card you will want.
2. ASUS PCI-Express x1 Sound Card XONAR ESSENCE STX
If you’d like a high-end sound card that brings out the clearest of sounds in speakers and in headphones, then I’d recommend you get the Xonar Essence. Without going too in-depth I have to say that it is ten times better than any onboard sound card out there. It’s going to cost you some money, though.
Check Out The Asus XONAR ESSENCE On Amazon
For those that are looking for a sound card that has near-perfect headphone audio, then we present you with the ASUS XONAR ESSENCE.
The Xonar, which does run at a pretty premium price point, is an excellent choice for headphone users, as the card comes with a built-in Hi-Fi headphone Amp. This amp provides incredible audio output to your headphones for various uses, whether that use is for gaming, watching movies, or listening to music.
Even if listening to audio through headphones isn’t your cup of tea, the Xonar does provide output options for various speakers and devices, with optical and 5mm output available. And this comes with and SNR of 124. It also can be ideal for audio recording, with analog/digital converters that provide top of the line and clear audio recording.
The setbacks for this sound card come from its support for certain OSs, with some of the more modern operating systems having a harder time with installation. Some people even claimed that improper installation caused some issues with other programs on their computer. The price may also be a problem for those on a budget and are looking for a cheaper option.
The installation issues are easily remedied, however, and if you love headphone audio, then there aren’t many better choices then the Xonar.
1. HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card
Before I say anything, I have to say that I’m a huge fan of the HT Omega CLARO Sound Cards design. The CLARO’s straightforward and elegant design help it stand out, but that’s not all there is to admire about this internal sound card. It also has a very good audio processor that just brings out an amazing output from both headphones and speakers. Other than a few people recieving defective products (HT Omega quickly resolved these issues by the way), this card is easily my favorite high-end sound card.
Check Out The HT Omage Claro On Amazon
Our last sound card for today is the HT Omega Claro, a $140 sound card that provides multiple options for people who may be building their custom computers for different uses.
The Claro is a card that provides 7.1 surround sound to multiple speakers, much like other sound cards in this price range, but with an audio quality that blows their competition out of the water using a CMI8788 audio processor. The AD8620BR OPAMP also allows for enhanced, high quality audio through the Claro’s analog outputs.
The Claro’s DACs also make the card a great choice for music lovers, as the sound quality of the Claro is able to rival that of any high end CD player, with no noise distortion to speak of. The card is also very lightweight, coming in at just over one pound, making it easy to handle.
On the negative side seems to be an odd issue that a few people have experienced with defective products. This doesn’t seem to be too frequent an issue, and those that have had it saying that customer service easily fixed this issue with a replacement card. With that being the only issue to speak of, plus the awesome sound quality that the sound card is capable of, the Claro is a fairly good choice for custom computer builders.
What Sound Card Would I Recommend?
A lot of people have been asking me which Sound Card I’d pick out of this list, so I’ve decided to put my top three picks here. I chose one card for each category, budget, mid-range, and high-end.
If You’re On A Budget I’d Get The: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe 7.1 Surround Sound
Reasoning: For a cost that’s close to just purchasing one triple-A game, you get to fully immerse yourself with this 7.1 stereo surround sound card. For someone who’s looking for the best bang for your buck, it’s going to be difficult to beat this card.
If you’re looking for a Good Middle Option I’d get the: Sound Blaster Z Sound Card
Reasoning: If you’re looking for something that’s really going to take your sound to the next level I’d recommend the Sound Blaster Z. This is because it has all the major things that really take your headphone and speaker sound to the next level without the insanely expensive price.
If you’re okay with spending a little more money I’d get the: HT OMEGA CLARO II
Reasoning: This card is definitely a little expensive, but if you’re looking for something that is really going to immerse you in games, then the HT Omega is my top high-end sound card pick, due to its amazing versatility and great clarity.
That concludes our list of available sound cards. There are many options available for those looking to build their own computer, either for those that want the best quality available or are building on a budget. I hope you found this article helpful in making your final decision, and we will see you next time!
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