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best sound cards

The Best Sound Cards in 2021

Author: Robert Wilson

Electronics & Peripherals Expert

A sound card is especially interesting for gamers. As it is said in the gamer community, the right sound card would not make you play a game anymore, but – experience it! For most, a 5.1 sound system will probably suffice. If you also have a speaker on the ceiling, StarTech and other companies also offer 7.1 surround sound.

We have studied both external practical tests and customer reviews and presents the best models here, which both testers and buyers recommend.

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card
  • Easily converts the PC into a cinematic entertainment system…
  • Advanced Audio Processing with SBX Pro Studio, a suite of…
  • Includes the Sound Blaster Audigy Fx Control Panel, PC…
  • 600 ohm headphone amp for high performance, studio grade…
  • 106 SNR and 24-bit 192kHz DAC (Playback) and 96kHz ADC…

Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card

 Our Pick
Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card
  • Includes an external high quality dual-microphone array…
  • Features Sound Core3D Audio Processor for accelerating…
  • SBX Pro Studio sound technologies create unprecedented…
  • Delivers 116dB SNR, plus audiophile-grade capacitors and…
  • Use the Sound Blaster Control Panel just toggle between you…

ASUS XONAR SE 5.1 Channel 192kHz PCIe Gaming Sound Card

ASUS XONAR SE 5.1 Channel 192kHz PCIe Gaming Sound Card
  • 5.1 channel, 192kHz/24-bit Hi-Res audio with a 300ohm…
  • Realtek ALC1220X codec delivers a crystal clear 116dB…
  • ASUS Hyper Grounding Technology ensures minimal audio…
  • Xonar Audio Center enables full audio control via an…
  • Included Low Profile Bracket allows the Xonar to fit…

Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus PCIe Gaming Sound Card

Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus PCIe Gaming Sound Card
  • SUPPORTS DOLBY DIGITAL AND DTS – Now with support for…
  • POWERFUL DISCRETE HEADPHONE AMP – Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus…
  • PRISTINE AUDIO QUALITY – Featuring the SABRE32 ultra-class…
  • RGB YOUR GAMING RIG – The AE-5 Plus has customizable RGB…
  • INDUSTRY-LEADING AUDIO PROCESSING – The Sound BlasterX…

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

 Our Pick
EVGA Nu Audio Card, 712-P1-AN01-KR
  • Audio-grade components deliver lifelike Audio
  • Native DSD Audio support (up to x256)
  • Engineered by EVGA and audio Note (UK), Ltd.
  • Ambient RGB lighting, switchable op-amps

Padarsey PCIe Sound Card

Padarsey PCIe Sound Card
  • 1) PCIe sound card, 5.1 stereo audio card
  • 2) Easily convert the PC into a cinematic entertainment…
  • 3) With low profile bracket for 2U case, your best choice of…
  • 4) 16-bit multimedia digital signal editing decoder inside,…
  • 5) Supports direct sound, A3D and EAX, HRTF 3D tone….

Frequently Asked Questions: Sound Cards

What is a sound card?

Sound cards are usually a plug-in card for the PC. The card is responsible for all audio activities on the PC and manages them. This includes both digital and analog signals, which it can process, compress or store. It can also convert audio signals and turn digital signals into analog ones.

This is often necessary when a card from the test is used in combination with different output devices that can only process a certain form of signals.

Basically, every PC has some form of sound card. If the card is integrated in the form of a chip in the motherboard, it is called an “onboard card”. However, it does not always offer the best quality, which is why people resort to alternatives such as those presented in the sound card test. Meanwhile, there are also cards that can be connected via USB.

They are the best solution for laptops, since there are no additional slots for plug-in cards in them.

But even for someone who doesn’t want to bother with installing a card, the external sound cards from the test, are the best choice to improve the sound quality. External cards are also the best choice when, for example, musicians need the laptop to work on the road, or for gamers they are also a good alternative in combination with the laptop compared to the built-in sound chips.

How does a sound card work?

No matter which card from the comparison is concerned, in principle all cards work similarly. Analog audio signals, for example from a microphone, can be recorded via an input. The signal is then amplified and converted into a digital signal via a converter, which makes it usable for the PC.

The cards from the test can change the sounds, for example, or they are simply forwarded where processing by the CPU takes place. Depending on the scope of the card, there are different functions that are still integrated. To estimate the range of functions, the best option is to take a look at the ports. The more ports there are, the larger the functional spectrum of a card from the test.

Why do I need a sound card?

A card expands the possibilities of using sound on the PC. With the card, music can be played back as well as recorded. Without sound cards, many programs such as games or video chat tools can no longer be used to their full extent, as the playback of sounds is a crucial part.

Advantages of sound cards

If you need high audio quality, it is best to use a sound card. It not only offers a range of functions, but can also process sounds much better than the integrated chip sets on the motherboard. Even if the installation of cards from the test requires some effort, it is still the best solution for different applications.

For those who work with music, the best choice is a card from the test. The sound cards from the comparison offer a significantly higher quality. This can be seen, for example, in the noise-free recordings. Some cards even offer the possibility to directly connect electronic music devices like electric guitars. Meanwhile, there are several electronic devices, as well as violins.

They are the best solution when high quality recordings are needed, because by connecting directly to the card, all ambient noise is eliminated. Sound cards can also be used to get the best out of speakers or headphones. The cards from the comparison offer a number of setting options or you can fall back on predefined sound profiles. They are then the best choice if you are just getting familiar with the card.

Sound cards from the test are also helpful when music needs to be digitized.

They can already convert analog signals via microphones, but devices such as cassette recorders or other playback devices can also be connected via line-in. Similar to connecting a musical instrument to the card, better quality recordings can be made in this case as well. Thus, sound cards are also the best solution if, for example, the record collection is to be digitized.

A full sound is indispensable for gamers. In games, opponents often make themselves heard through noises, but if they can’t be heard well, this often means losing the round. So that gamers are not distracted by the environment, the best combination of an output device with a card for you is the headset. This way, they are best shielded from the surroundings.

Types of sound cards

Basically, a distinction is made between three different variants:

  • Onboard sound card: It is integrated as a set of chips on the motherboard.
  • Internal sound card: It is installed in the PC and requires a slot in the device.
  • External sound card: It is connected via a USB cable, which allows the card to be used with devices with USB ports, such as laptops.

What should I look for when buying a sound card?

First and foremost, the best guide to making the right choice is the intended use later on. With the focus on the use, not only the right card can be found, but also money can be saved. The best choice is not always the sound card test winner, but another model from the comparison that may not offer as many features, but exactly those that are needed.

Technical aspects also play a role in the selection. In the test, different criteria were compared with each other, which also refer to the technology of the card. However, special attention should be paid to the shielding of the card. If the card is not sufficiently shielded, it can lead to noise and a loss of quality.

Sound Card Accessories

Depending on the model from the sound card test, the cards can even be modified themselves. This includes, for example, exchangeable operational amplifiers and the matching set with tools is also part of the accessories. In addition, internal audio cables help to connect the sound cards, especially when the cables on the cards are very short.

However, care should be taken that the cables do not rest on other components, which can become very hot and damage the cables, for example, or are themselves damaged by the cables resting on them.

Of course, various connected devices can also be used as accessories for sound cards from the test. These include a headset or speakers. If you have already bought a high-quality card from the test, you should not skimp on the quality of the accessories. Good sound cards can only show their full potential with the right devices.

If the card from the test has inputs with which it can be connected to other playback devices, then the matching cables should also be part of the accessories. Often sound cards are bought with a set of connectors, but often forget to also buy the appropriate connecting devices or cables.

There are also different devices for sound cards, which are mainly used by musicians to generate or change sounds with them.

Basically, all devices that have the appropriate connectors can be connected to the card. Additionally, there is the possibility to use different adapters to connect devices to the card. However, you have to reckon with quality losses when using adapters. Some sound cards from the test even offer the possibility to connect them directly to devices like the DVD player or a digital amplifier.

One model from the comparison even offers the possibility to connect instruments like electric guitars. This is especially advantageous when you want to record sounds in good quality, because in this case the microphone and the associated quality losses are avoided.

Last product update on 2021-01-21 | Source: Amazon Affiliate