The Best Sound Cards Of 2019 (Internal & External) – PC Gaming Builds



  • 124 dB Signal to Noise Ratio
  • Amp for 600ohm & in ear monitors
  • Jitter-free TCXO clock
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Creative SoundBlasterX ZxR – Best Soundcard for gaming

  • 24-bit audio resolution
  • EMI & copper plated shielding
  • Cirrus Logic digital audio converter
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Creative Soundblaster AE5 Gaming Soundcard

  • Customizable RGB LED lights
  • SABRE32 Ultra Class PCIe DAC
  • Custom desgned headphone amp
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  • 116 dB SNR
  • Features Sonic Radar Pro software
  • Supreme audio performance and immersive sounds
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Sound Blaster Z PCIE Gaming Sound Card

  • External high quality dual microphone
  • 3D surround effects
  • Bit rate of 24-bit/192kHz
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HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card

  • Front panel audio support
  • Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • 5.1ch optical I/O
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Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIE RX 7.1 Sound Card

  • Advanced chipset for enhanced audio
  • Cinematic multi-channel 7.1 audio
  • 106dB SNR audio capability
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Asus Xonar GHX PCIe GX2.5 5.1

  • High band optical connector
  • High definition sound processor
  • A-D converter for analog inputs
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Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX

  • 5.1 surround sound capable
  • 600ohm headphone amp
  • Advanced audio processing
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StarTech 7.1 Channel Sound Card PEXSOUND7CH

  • Hi-Fi digital optical 7.1 surround sound
  • Optical/analog supported
  • 24-bit/192kHz audio playback
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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.

We also have the best external sound cards around, which you’ll find below our top 10 internal sound cards list.

So What Is The Best Sound Card?

  1. ASUS PCI-Express x1 Sound Card XONAR ESSENCE STX II
  2. Creative SoundBlasterX ZxR – Best Soundcard for gaming
  3. Creative Soundblaster AE5 Gaming Soundcard
  4. ASUS STRIX SOAR Sound Card
  5. Sound Blaster Z PCIE Gaming Sound Card
  6. HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card
  7. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIE RX 7.1 Sound Card
  8. Asus Xonar GHX PCIe GX2.5 5.1
  9. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX
  10. StarTech 7.1 Channel Sound Card PEXSOUND7CH

10. StarTech 7.1 Channel Sound Card PEXSOUND7CH

Sale 7.1 Channel Sound Card
  • Add hi-fi digital optical 7.1 surround sound to your computer through PCIe
  • 7.1 Channel PCIe Sound Card

If you can get past the StarTech 7.1 Sound Cards looks, then this is a very affordable 7.1 Surround sound card.

It’s a very versatile device, that will allow you to use it in many ways, while still maintaining a small size.

7.1 Surround
Small Form Factor
Optical, SPDIF & 3.5mm outputs

Not the best design
No EMI Shield

We bring you the 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.

Continuing with the 7.1 surround only works through the analog output, the optical out only produces stereo.

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.

9. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX – Amazon Besteller and Cheapest Sound card

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX 5.1 Sound Card
  • Easily converts the PC into a cinematic entertainment system by providing a compelling 5.1...
  • Advanced Audio Processing with SBX Pro Studio, a suite of Sound Blaster audio processing...

If you’re just looking for something cheap, then the Audigy FX should be your go-to option, as you can see below, it is easily the cheapest option on this list.

That’s not to say that it’s bad, as it features 5.1 surround sound and actually impressive sound production. For someone who just wants to try an interal sound card, the Audigy FX is a good choice.

Best seller for a reason
Supports 5.1 Surround
Very Affordable

Don’t use the CD, download driver from creative
No EMI Shield

The Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX is a super affordable internal sound card, and one of the most affordable sound card so far on this list. Despite that relatively modest price point, the Audigy FX can more than pack a punch.

The Audigy FX supports 5.1 Surround Sound output, and is able to produce 192KHz/24-bit stereo fidelity while having a very respectable Signal To Noise ratio (SNR) of 106db.

Suprisingly as well, this is able to drive up to 600ohm headphones with it’s built in AMP.

Be aware though, these less expensive sound cards do give up on some nicities, as this doesn’t have any electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding. This means that there may still be some hissing coming though your speakers/headphones.

This is why many people are switching to external sound cards. As you move your AMP farther away from your computer there will be less interference to affect your sound.

8. Asus Xonar GHX PCIe GX2.5 5.1 – Best sound card under $50

ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E GX2.5 5.1 Sound Card
  • Built-In Headphone AMP. Powers up every sound detail in gaming. 3 headphone Amp gain modes for...
  • Dolby Headphone for an immersive 5.1 surround imaging

Overall this is a very good sound card for the price, depending on the time of year there may even be mail in rebates to drop this price even further.

As it’s from Asus, you get a good software package that is bundled with the sound card.

Cheap (with rebates too!)
5.1 surround sound

Need to download driver from website (Win 10)
No EMI Shield

The Xonar DGX softwared is able to use 3 different presets for voip, gaming, and what they call exciter mode (which increases the bass).

The jack-sending front panel will automatically switch from back to front when headphones are plugged in and quickly adjusts the sound before or during gameplay, so you don’t have to manually changing connection settings. The inclusion of Dolby Headphone 5.1 HD sound results in accurate and deep audio that allows for every sound to feel immersive and keep gamers focused on the environment around them.

With very respectable sound specs the Xonar is able to reproduce good sound overall. It has a C-Media CMI8786 High-Definition Sound Processor which is able to produce a 96KHz sample rate on a 24 bit scale.

The Xonar DGX also has a SNR of 105dB which does a very good job of reducing any hisses to your headphones. Again, as i stated in the soundblaster review.

This sound card also has a very low profile to accomodate almost any computer set up.

All in all, it’s a very close race between the Creative Soundblaster FX and this one, as their specs are very close to one another. I would go with whichever one is cheaper at the time.

As mentioned in the summary, there are often times the Asus offers a $10 mail in rebate, which drops the price by a very good percentage.

7. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIE RX 7.1 Sound Card

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIE RX 7.1 Sound Card
  • Advanced chipset is designed to process the legendary EAX reverb engine for powerful enhanced...
  • Immerse yourself in full cinematic 7.1 multi-channel audio, perfect for games, movies and music

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.

For the reasonable price, 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.

Great Value
7.1 Surround Sound

Lousy software (but improving)
No EMI Shield

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.

If you’re interested in a 5.1 channel sound card by Creative that has awesome reviews – at the time of this writing the price is below $40.

6. HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card

HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Sound Card
  • CMI8788 Audio Processor
  • 24-bit/192kHz AK4396VF front channel

I’m a huge fan of the HT Omega CLARO Sound Cards design and sound.

The CLARO’s straightforward and elegant design help it stand out It also has a very good audio processor that just brings out an amazing output from both headphones and speakers.

Regretfully, I downrated this soundcard as it only has PCI connectivity.

Great Audio Processor
7.1 Surround Sound
Linux and Windows support

No PCI Express support

5. Sound Blaster Z PCIE Gaming Sound Card

Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card
  • Includes an external high quality dual-microphone array standard with card. Supported operating...
  • Features Sound Core3D Audio Processor for accelerating advanced audio and voice technologies

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.

Reasonably Affordable
Built in Mic
Easily switch between headphones and speakers

Software isn’t the best

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.

Offering 192KHz sampling rate and a 116dB SNR – this is able to produce sound competing with the more expensive sound cards on our list.


  • Crystal Clear Audio - 116dB SNR and ESS SABRE9006A DAC for supreme audio performance and...
  • Innovative audio software - Sonic Studio lets users intuitive control all audio aspects and...

The Asus STRIX SOAR sound card fulfills all the points of a high-quality gaming sound card.

The Sputs 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.

Great Software
600 Ohm headphone AMP
Great Sound

Needs external 6-pin connector to power

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 600 ohm 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 (possibly Chrome) users that are trying to run the Sonic Studio, with the software causing the flash player to crash.

If you have a look at the Amazon reviews, you’ll see that there are either 5 star reviews for how clear and great the sound is, or some pretty harsh negative reviews about the card just not working – take it for what that’s worth. I always like to consider the easy return policy of Amazon – so I’m always for trying things out. Asus seems to be quite prompt on updating their drivers as well.

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.

3. Creative Soundblaster AE5 Gaming Soundcard

The newest soundard on the block is aimed directly at gamers – with RGB lighting and specialized software.

Creative is taking a revamp look at their previous generations of sound cards and try to improve on a good thing.

To begin with, Creative has offered some pretty good software to help with gaming in particular.

Scout 2.0 offers scout radar – which can be loaded on a phone or tablet and it analyses directional audio to reportedly tell you where the enemy is. Scout radar is a sneaky add on to help overall.

Creative has installed a 384KHz ESS ES9016K2M Sabre 32 Ultra DAC. If you look at Shaw electronics website you’ll see that this is one step below the top end “premier” DAC that they produce.

The AE-5 provides 5.1 analog surround audio and and support for 7.1 headphone surround virtualization.

The rear panel has three 3.5-mm jacks for front, rear, and center+sub outputs, an optical output, and another pair of mini-jacks for headphones and a microphone.

For those individuals looking to hookup headphones to this card, Creative labs uses Xamp Discrete Headphone Amplification. Xamp uses two distinct channels to provide amplification to the right and left channels individually.

Creative reports to have an impressive 124 DNR which is to help produce low distortion and jitter.

The AE-5 is also able to drive headphones impedance ranging from 16 – 600 Ohms.

2. Creative SoundBlasterX ZxR – Best Soundcard for gaming

Creative SoundBlasterX ZxR
  • CrystalVoice Voice Enhancement and Clarity Technology, express yourself and be heard crystal...
  • CrystalVoice FX, forge your own unique team identity in crystal clear audio; match your voice...

Overall, the SoundBlaster ZXR, while expensive offers as many features as you may need.

Packaged with an Audio control module for easy volume adjustment is a great addition and only quality parts are used in this gaming soundcard.

Great sound quality
Far better gaming audio than onboard
Built in microphone

only 5.1 surround
Daughter board isn’t always used

The price tag on this is getting pretty high, so it is not that affordable to everyone.It is made with quality written all over it.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is a problem that most on-board and internal sound cards always encounter.

Creative Labs took that in mind and installed copper plating to insulate this device from EMI (clever clever clever). It also has TI Burr-Brown with Fine Gold Caps installed.

What’s a TI Burr-Brown?

The TI Burr-Brown is an audiophile-grade Digital Audio converter (DAC) capable of 24-bit resolution and up to 192kHz sample rate.

Combined with SBX and other audio enhancements this device provides, and you get studio-grade audio coming out of your system.

What’s high-quality playback if it has noise? An unrivaled SNR of 124dB takes care of any noise from your audio. What comes out of the speakers is pristine sound.

The AE5 has a control module and a DBPro Daughter card included, the control module not only provides you the ability to adjust the volume, but it also has a beam-forming mic array installed beside the control knob. It also has two mic-in ports and two headphone outs. The Daughter card has the SPDIF ports; in and out as well as the two RCA ports (L/R). Since we are already talking about ports, the main card has two RCA (L/R) ports, two 3.5mm ports (C/Sub) and a 3.5mm port for mic-in.

Going back to the studio quality audio it can output, music lovers and gamers alike would be able to enjoy music to themselves using even the hardest to drive ones. This internal sound card can support high-impedance headphones up to 600ohms.

1. ASUS PCI-Express x1 Sound Card XONAR ESSENCE STX II

Best Sound card – Internal Configuration

ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II
  • Keeping the audiophile spirit and philosophy alive
  • Legendary audio quality that just got better

If you’d like a high-end internal sound card that brings out the clearest of sounds in speakers and in headphones, then I’d recommend you get the Xonar Essence.

If you’re looking for an audiophile quality internal soundcard, then this is the one to get. It’s going to cost you some money, though. If you are an audiophile, then looking to an external sound card (or DAC) is likely your best bet.

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 a Signal to noise ratio (SNR) of 124dB.

What the heck does SNR mean? With a signal-to-noise ratio of 124 dB, this means that the level of the audio signal is 124 dB higher than the noise level. 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 operating systems, 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 this is the best there is.

Best External Sound Cards

We also need to speak about the opportunity to also have external sound cards for gaming.

We will categorize the difference between a digital analog converter (DAC) and an external sound card.

We assume that anything that is capable of producing a surround sound will be an external sound card. A DAC has a sole purpose of delivering sound out to a speaker or a headphone in stereo format.

Certainly a big benefit you would want to consider getting an external card is to further reduce the electrical interference produced from all the other components within your computer.

This interference is what causes that annoying buzzing sound you can hear.

The internal sound cards above do their best to protect against this interference by shielding their components as best they can.

We’ve outlined 6 of the best external sound cards at varying budget levels.

All of these are USB Sound cards.

So What Is the Best External Soundcard?

  1. Creative Sound BlasterX G5
  2. Creative Sound Blaster Omni
  3. ASUS Sound Card Xonar U5
  4. Sewell Direct Soundbox Pro SW-30415
  5. Creative Sound BlasterX G1
  6. Startech External Soundcard

6. Startech External Soundcard

Startech External Soundcard
  • 7.1 SOUND CARD: This 1.7 USB sound card turns your laptop or desktop PC into a 7.1-channel home...
  • COST-SAVING UPGRADE: With support for analog and digital audio output for stereo to 7.1 channel...
  • BUILT-IN FEATURES: The external sound card features easy-to-use volume control and two external...

This external sound card turns your ordinary laptop or desktop into a 7.1 channel home theater-ready system.

It’s wicked cheap, but will provide very good sound for the price you’re paying.

Dual-Mic input
Ten ports should be enough for anyone
7.1 Surround Sound support

S/PDIF limitations
Mic quality not ideal
No software provided

Startech was founded in 1985, by Paul Seed and Ken Kalopsis. From making computer dust covers in their house basement, this company is now operating on three continents with over 3000 products. Their external sound card, the ICUSBAUDIO7D, is easy to install.

It connects to your computer’s USB to provide a high-quality 7.1 surround sounds. It supports 44.1 and 48 kHz sample rates with 8-bit or 16-bit resolution. Setting up this external sound card only takes a few minutes; just plug in the USB and wait for the drivers to install after this all you have to do is to select the default input/output device.

The front of the ICUSBAUDIO7D has six 3.5mm ports; the first from the left is your headphone jack, going to the right you have the line-in port and four other 3.5mm ports that provide either 5.1 or 7.1 channel output.

On the back you have the Optical-in and optical-out, you also have the USB port that connects to your computer. Unfortunately, the S/PDIF is a bit limited, other than this no other issues for this external sound card.

This external sound card has dual mic inputs as well. Although it is not the best quality this would do fine for just video conferencing.

I would say that this is a steal since you can get 5.1, 7.1 and headphone outputs for a small price to pay. If you want something that can replace a broken sound card or you’d like a multi-channel upgrade, this external sound card is one good option.

5. Creative Sound BlasterX G1

Creative Sound BlasterX G1 USB Soundcard
  • Supports true 7.1 channel audio input signals for realistic virtualization of gaming effects...
  • Enhance your gaming experience through the headphone amplifier, capable of driving a wide range...
  • Powerful and fully customizable BlasterX Acoustic Engine, powers the Sound BlasterX G1 to...

A super portable and effective external sound card.

Creative is geared traditionally towards gamers, with software packages. But this soundcard is a very good choice for anyone looking to upgrade their sound on the cheap.

Portable and pocket-sized
7.1 virtual surround sound

No volume controls
No separate mic/line input

If ever you are looking for something that is portable and It fits in your pocket, you have to check out the SoundBlasterX Pro Gamer G1.

It’s not exactly eye candy with its all black build, but this external sound card is just the same size of a regular USB flash drive. Yes, it is all black, but it has the X cutoff that lights up soft red when plugged-in.

Enough about the looks, let’s look into the features and see what makes this external sound card a good choice. for laptop gamers looking for some audio upgrade.

The G1 has 96kHz for a sample rate and 24-bit resolution, along with a 93dB SNR. You certainly get a more satisfying experience when listening to music or playing games, because of the sound quality it provides.

The only means of getting power and input is the USB male jack. You connect it directly to your computer/laptop or your gaming console, and you should be good to go. This external sound card supports both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. The G1 only has a single port for output as well; it has a 4-pole headphone-mic combo port, that supports stereo output.

This external USB powered sound card not only gives you crisp and clear sound, but it also supports 7.1 inputs and can realistically virtualize gaming effects and audio cues with accuracy and positioning to your headphones.

The SoundBlasterX G1 can drive headphones with a high impedance of up to 300 ohms; anything higher than this might still work, but you might be sacrificing sound quality.

Since this external sound card is so compact it does not have a volume control; everything is controlled using the SoundBlasterX software.

Speaking of software, just like the other Pro Gaming series sound cards the SoundBlasterX G1 has Scout Mode, this allows gamers to hear more than their eyes can see.

You can get the SoundBlasterX G1 for around $42 if we consider the features over this is one of the best USB sound cards around.

4. Sewell Direct Soundbox Pro SW-30415

Sewell Direct Soundbox Pro SW-30415
  • Supports 7.1 channel output; front RCA connectors, 3 x 3.5mm stereo outputs: rear R/L, side R/L...
  • Playback supported at 24-bit 192/96/48/44.1 kHz, THD at -90 dB and SNR at 100 dB
  • Recording supported at 24-bit 192/96/48/44.1 kHz, THD at -85 dB and SNR at 100 dB

Being one of the only external sound cards on this list that has RCA connectors, this is a great all around device that offers basically every connection type available.

High sample rate
7.1 surround sound
Good resolution

Low supply,
can lead to expensive prices

What started out as Paragon Computer Consultants, Dave Sewell gave life to Sewell Direct in 2003, focusing on Hardware. Boy, the research and development team did their homework with the SW-30415.

This external sound card has the looks and the features you would like to see on audio equipment. The SW-30415 plays and records at 24-bit resolution and up to 192kHz sample rate. Producing audiophile-grade sound is not hard for this external sound card.

What’s even great is that Sewell’s R&D also put a great deal of effort and time designing the SW-30415, this external sound card is easy to set and pack whenever you need it. All the ports are organized, you have the USB input port on the left-hand side together with the Optical-in and Optical-out. On the front, you have the 7.1 channel out that is divided into two RCA ports and three 3.5mm ports. The headphone port line-in port and mic-in ports are all located on the right-hand side of this external sound card.

One more thing that would catch your attention is the volume knob; it sits nicely on the top of this external sound card. Turning the volume up and down is smooth not to mention it adds appeal to the equipment as a whole.

The audio performance is also outstanding. You won’t be noticing any loss or alteration, all you’ll be hearing from this external sound card is clean, crisp sound. Ideal for gamers, everyday consumers, and even audiophiles.

So, look no further, this external sound card is top of the line with a price that’s oh so fine.

3. ASUS Sound Card Xonar U5

True 5.1 Channel output in HD, you won’t believe it can come from a compact USB powered device.

ASUS Sound Card Xonar U5
  • True 5.1-channel HD (192kHz/24-bit) surround sound from a compact USB-powered device
  • 104dB signal-to-analog ratio (SNR) ensures pure sound
  • Sonic Studio provides complete control over loads of sound technologies

The ASUS Xonar U5 is an external sound card that’s capable of delivering true 5.1-channel surround sound.

Primarily it is aimed at audio starved gamers using laptops. It has a simple design, but it comes with a bevy of connectivity features that made this device a strong option in its price range.

High sample rate
5.1 surround sound

Not many (unless you need 7.1 surround)

This external sound card bridges the gap between the U3 and U7. It is just a few dollars cheaper than the U7. If you compare it to the Xonar U7 you’ll see that it’s almost the same sound card, the only differences evident is the channel output, the U5 is 5.1 while the U7 is 7.1, they also have a slight difference in SNR since the U7 has 114dB.

This compact and lightweight external sound card features 192KHz/24-bit audio quality, get clear audio with its 104dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and true 5.1-channel surround sound for true high-definition output and consistent quality across all surround channels.

Its headphone amplifier can drive headphones up to 150 ohms impedance. Headphones with higher impedance may not be driven properly by the Xonar U5. This may still work, but the sound quality will not be as good.

Perfect Voice makes sure you are heard loud and clear without the background noise through its Incredible input-noise reduction. Perfect Voice uses an advanced algorithm that separates ambient noise from speech. This is great especially when you are doing conference calls, or broadcasting your game during LAN parties.

For input you have a USB port that supports USB2.0, you get full functionality when on USB2.0. However, you only get playback when switched to USB1.0.

This external sound card has five 3.5mm ports from the left going to the right, you have the port for headphone, mic, and 5.1 channel out. It also has a SPDIF port line-out.

For a gamer in need of a good external sound card, the Xonar U5 would be a good candidate.

2. Creative Sound Blaster Omni

Creative Sound Blaster Omni
  • Hear the power of sound blaster technology on your PC and Mac with our SBX Pro Studio and...
  • Advanced audio technology that delivers 5.1 discrete channels of vibrant sound for your digital...
  • Easily converts the PC into a cinematic entertainment system by providing a compelling 5.1...

This small device is able to include everything in a small package.

If you’re looking for great sound, and have an included microphone – this is the device to get.

High sample rate
x5.1 surround soundx
Built-in microphone

Not many (unless you need 7.1 surround)

Creative created the Sound Blaster Omni as an affordable solution for gamers and computer users who prefer to get surround sound instead of just pure stereo output.

And they did a great job. The Sound Blaster Omni supports up to 24-bit resolution while the max sampling rate is 96kHz. The sound output is crisp and clear, very minimal for noise as well since it has a rated SNR of 100dB.

This external sound card has two RCA ports and two 3.5mm jacks on the back for the 5.1 channel output, it also has an optical out port right next to the two RCA ports. Audio input comes from the USB port of your computer to the micro-USB port of the Sound Blaster Omni.

This external sound card can still act as a DAC and support headphones that are hard to drive. It can support up to 600 ohms impedance with no issue. Snap-in those huge cans and get blasted away.

You have two options for the mic, either you plug one into the 3.5mm port, or you can use the built-in dual array mic, this has crystal voice for clear video calls.

This external sound card also has SBX Surround which features an algorithm that provides spatial audio enhancement to the sound source. This can optimize the listening experience regardless of the output configuration; it can do two-channel and multi-channel source content. This means that you get the best surround sound experience for multiple speaker setups and even for headphones.

Whether you have a PC or a MAC, it would not be an issue. This sound card supports most Windows OS 32/64-bit and MAC OS 10.6 and higher. Software and drivers are downloadable from Creative Labs website.

At a very reasonable price, for the budget conscious and those looking for a microphone as well, this is the best external sound card out there.

1. Creative Sound BlasterX G5

Creative Sound BlasterX G5
  • Native 7.1 Surround Sound Support
  • Immersive 3D PC Gaming Audio
  • Best-in-class Console Gaming Audio

7.1 Surround sound headphone output, this sound card can also give you an edge when playing games.

While focused more so at gamers, this sound card offers very good sound reproduction for other uses as well.

Another impressive external sound card from Creative.

Audiophile quality Digital Analog Converter (DAC)
7.1 Surround
Great sound

Volume knob in awkward location
Not many connections available

It pains me to have another creative external sound card, but I think you will see why.

Again, we are focusing on sound cards offering surround sound capability – and given this, Creative has a lot of the market.

Creative’s SoundBlaster G5 DAC & Amp is an external, USB-powered sound card. It has an integrated headphone amp and is capable of connecting to more than just computers.

Creative Labs has constantly been creating premium sound cards, and external devices are not new to them. Moreover, Creative labs are known for creating devices not just focused on high-end sound lovers but also for gamers.

The Creative Sound BlasterX G5 has an Audiophile grade headphone amplifier; the Texas Instruments TPA6120A2. It has low impedance output of only 2.2Ω and is capable driving headphones with impedance up to 600ohms.

Creative Labs also installed a CS4398 DAC that enables the SoundBlaster G5 to produce clean, crisp sound. This external sound card has an SNR of 120dB. Enjoy great playback up to 192Khz and resolution of 24-bit.

The SoundBlaster G5 lacks actual ports for multi-channel output, but it can produce 7.1 surround sound virtually. However, this will limit the playback to just 24-bit/96Khz.

This external sound card has dual inputs; there is a dedicated port to connect it to a computer and another input port for a console or your phone. However, muting the line-in cannot be done on the G5 itself, you need to do this through the SoundBlaster software.

A big upset though is that this external sound card lacks analog volume control. For its price range, it is expected to have this feature.

Scout mode is included on this external sound card. This is a great feature for gamers; it helps you hear more than your eyes can see. This gives you an edge while you are playing games, it allows you to hear reloading of weapons or footsteps with an accurate approximation where these are coming from. As a result, you get to react in a split second and decide what to do.

For its price range, the only thing unacceptable is the volume control.

In our opinion, given the software features that creative offers, and the excellent sound quality – this is the best external sound card worth buying today.


So which do you choose, internal sound card or external?

Personally, I would recommend the external sound cards – as they provide an even greater chance of eliminating interference and they offer more flexibility (installing on laptops, other computers etc).

In addition, you can usually find a better external sound card for less money!

What do you think; External or internal?

Other Posts You May Like:
» If you’re looking for a great stereo sound card – we have a post on the Best Stereo DAC’s
» Top 10: Best Gaming Headsets under $100
» The Best Headphone Stand From Style & Function to DIY

7 thoughts on “The Best Sound Cards Of 2019 (Internal & External) – PC Gaming Builds”

  1. I’ve been looking for something that can handle wavetables through Cakewalk software, as my onboard audio seems to choke on it. The creative Soundblaster X sounds like a good choice! Thanks so much for this article.

  2. What receiver/speakers do you recommend for a living room setup? about 15×21 size room, but utilizing the left side of it (about 15×15 space). 7.1 speakers please.


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