The Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card is our best sound card and this one comes with a beam forming microphone. It is truly an ideal sound card for gaming as well as creating music. As for the technology, it uses Core3D audio processor to enhance voice and audio quality and accelerate it as well. As for the signal to noise ratio, the SNR is 116 dB. Moreover, the sound blaster control panel can be controlled with a switch flip to navigate between speakers and headphone as the output of the sound. Its audio resolution is 24-bit at 96 kHz and its voice communication is crystal clear on this sound card. Moreover, it also supports Dolby Digital Live and it uses EMI shielding. It gives you thorough audio realism due to its SBX Pro Studio technology for enhancing headsets and speakers with its superb 3D surround sound,
Our step-up pick is the Creative Sound Blaster Zx Sound Card and this one is very ideal sound card for desktops that work well with headphones. It is also ideal for home theater systems using the DTS connect and it is a great sound card for gaming. It has an audio control module which allows you to adjust the level volume of your headphones and it uses SBX Pro Studio sound technology for the best audio realism possible. It uses Scout Mode so that you can hear distant sounds with good clarity and you get unprecedented 3D sound effects from any headset or speaker. It uses a MAX 97220 amp from Maxim with 600 Ohms for its headphone jack. You can use any single digital cable for movies and DVD due to its Dolby Digital 5.1 audio stream to have the best quality surround sound for your home theater system. It is a great addition to any powerful gaming rig.
The budget pick is the ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E Sound Card and it has 3 headphone gain amp modes so you can adjust easily for various instances. It gives you 3D audio effects using its GX 2.5 technology. As for the features, the front panel output has an automatic jack sensing feature. The headphones are Dolby powered for 5.1 stereo surround sounds. It is ideal for audiophiles, music making and gaming and it comes with a low profile case bracket.
Table of Contents
- A Little Background
- How we picked
- Our pick
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Step-up Pick
- Budget Pick
- Best S/PDIF Sound Card
- Ideal Sound Card for Desktop Computers
- Best Gaming Sound Card
- Ideal Sound Card for Studio and Creating Music
- Sound Card with Dolby Digital Support
- Best 16-Channel Sound Card
- Recommended Sound Card for the Raspberry Pi
- The Competition
- Other Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping it up
A Little Background
A sound card or audio card is the heart of creating sounds from your computer or playing them back. Sound cards are usually built-in on your motherboard. Back then, it was important to get a separate sound card for you to fully enjoy a game or make music properly because of the very fact that motherboard sound cards are so cheap that they make audio quality look bad despite the CD quality of the sound files. Nowadays, you get a lot of decent sound cards built in the mother board you will buy. However, when it comes to meticulous sound creation and gaming as well as home entertainment systems, you need a standalone sound card to get by.
How We Picked
When it comes to choosing the best sound card, we chose from the following qualities:
Supported sound technology – stuff such as Dolby Digital, DirectSound by Microsoft and many others are important when it comes to choosing the best sound card and if any of these are supported well by the sound card then it is well worth buying.
Typical usage – will you use a sound card to expand your built-in audio card from your motherboard specifically for gaming? Will you use it to upgrade your home studio for making music? Usually, sound cards are best paired with high quality headphones and this is why sound cards are bought independently.
Number of connections – a sound card with a ton of audio ports can be a great thing to consider for your system so that you will be able to do multi track recording and such.
Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card
Our best sound card is the Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card in which it comes with a beam forming microphone. It is truly an ideal sound card for gaming as well as creating music so it is a great sound card to consider. As a sound card which supports great audio technologies, it uses Core3D audio processor to enhance voice and audio quality and accelerate it as well. When it comes to its great features, the dual microphone array is of high quality.
On the unique features of the sound card, the sound blaster control panel can be controlled with a switch flip to navigate between speakers and headphone as the output of the sound. Adding to that, the I/O connectivity is gold plated for superior durability and performance. When it comes to its superior build and durability, the capacitors are of audiophile-grade so that you get only the most superb sound quality. When it comes to the signal to noise ratio, the SNR is 116 dB.
The Sound Blaster Sound Card gives you thorough audio realism due to its SBX Pro Studio technology for enhancing headsets and speakers with its superb 3D surround sound. As for its quality and technology, the digital audio output and input makes the use of TOSLINK technology. In fact, you can assure that voice communication is crystal clear on this sound card. When it comes to its added qualities, the beam forming microphone creates an acoustic zone to enhance sound quality and clarity.
This particular sound card is so great that it uses Cirrus Logic for the digital audio converter. When it comes to the quality of the audio, the audio resolution is 24-bit at 96 kHz. On the connectivity of the sound card, it is so convenient that it has 3 output jacks for the speaker (F / R / C-sub). On the convenience and durability and temperature management of the sound card, it uses EMI shielding. When it comes to its technological supports, the sound card also supports Dolby Digital Live like most high-end sound cards.
When it comes to quality, the Sound Blaster Z gives you 34.4 times better performance than your motherboard’s built-in audio. What’s more, the headphone jack is powered up by the MAX97220 amp by Maxim at 600 Ohms. When it comes to connectivity, the microphone jack, headphone jack and 5.1 channel connections are gold plated and measure 3.5 mm as a standard.
On the included resources, this sound card by Sound Blaster comes with a quick start leaflet, Windows drivers, as well as the beam forming microphone from Sound Blaster, creative software suite and a user’s manual. The sound card is thoroughly backed by a warranty of 12 months.
Flaws but Not Dealbrakers
Like most computer peripherals, the Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card has its own list of disadvantages but these are not very much affecting the sound card’s quality as our top pick. For example, the audio control module is said to have flaws when it comes to sound quality, but the audio control module is optional to use anyway.
Creative Sound Blaster Zx Sound Card
For our step-up pick, we chose the Creative Sound Blaster Zx Sound Card as our best sound card for a higher price. When it comes to its adjustability, it has an audio control module which allows you to adjust the level volume of your headphones. Moreover, the sound card also has an array for the microphone, headphone and other I/O connections. As for the sound quality and technology, it greatly uses SBX Pro Studio sound technology for the best audio realism possible.
As a unique feature for gamers and the like, the sound card also uses Scout Mode so that you can hear distant sounds with good clarity. With the quality and unparalleled sound performance of the sound card, you get unprecedented 3D sound effects from any headset or speaker. It is truly an ideal sound card for desktops that work well with headphones.
A totally great sound card for gaming, the Creative Sound Blaster Zx is also ideal for home theater systems using the DTS connect. With this sound card, you can use any single digital cable for movies and DVD due to its Dolby Digital 5.1 audio stream to have the best quality surround sound for your home theater system.
This particular sound card is a great addition to any powerful gaming rig. As for its additional features that most audiophiles and headphone users look for, this sound card is very useful as it uses a MAX 97220 amp from Maxim with 600 Ohms for its headphone jack. And to add to that, the microphone and headphone jack as well as the connections for the 5.1 channel all have gold plated parts and all at 3.5 mm standard.
When it comes to the sound card’s technology for audio and sound, the digital audio input and output are both TOSLINK in technology. And as a matter of fact, your voice recording and chatting is thoroughly enhanced with clarity with this sound card. When it comes to the SNR, the sound card has a signal to noise ratio of 116 dB which will give you more than 99.99 percent of pure audio. With the technology and audio quality of this sound card, it uses Crystal Voice technology for enhancing the communication ability of this sound card and your system. And adding to that, it uses Sound Core3D technology as an audio processor so that your PC will not suffer from processing strains and still deliver you great quality music and voice quality.
The Creative Blaster Zx uses EMI for its shielding and it also uses Cirrus Logic for its digital audio converter. As a great sound card, it has a total of 4 output ports for audio. As for the connections, it has F/R/C-sub for its 3 speaker 3.5mm output jacks. You should not be compromised with bad audio quality and therefore this sound card has an audio resolution of 96 kHz at 24-bit. And in addition to that, the audio control module also has a built-in beam forming microphone.
This sound card by Creative also comes with an optical cable as well as a stereo to RCA cable. Conveniently, the installation CD comes with a user’s guide, drivers for Win 7 and Win 8 as well as the creative software suite. And adding to that, the sound card also comes with a quick start leaflet and is also backed by a 12-month warranty.
ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E Sound Card
For our budget pick, we chose the ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E Sound Card which gives you 3D audio effects using its GX 2.5 technology. When it comes to the connections of the sound card, the front panel output has an automatic jack sensing feature. Moreover, the sound card also has 3 headphone gain amp modes so you can adjust easily for various instances. As for the audio quality, it gives you highly detailed gaming and production sound. The sound card, furthermore, comes with a great and usable headphone amp so it is a must have for any headphone user or audiophile and most gamers and studio producers.
As a matter of fact, the headphones are Dolby powered for 5.1 stereo surround sounds and the audio can be switched automatically from front to back and vice versa even with your headphones on. The ASUS Xonar DGX Card is also highly ideal for audiophiles, music making and gaming. And when it comes to the form, conveniently, it comes with a low profile case bracket.
Best S/PDIF Sound Card
Syba 7.1 S/PDIF PCIe Sound Card
The Syba 7.1 S/PDIF PCIe Sound Card is a great sound card that is highly capable of S/PDIF sound systems. Moreover, the sound card is a great addition to any gaming ring. And moreover, this is an 8-channel sound card. As for the technology, it has been based on the audio processor CM8828. Adding to that, this sound card makes the use of an HDA Codec.
As for the technological specs of the sound card, it greatly supports 192 KHz and 24-bit sampling rate for superior quality of recording and playing back music. As for the added features, it has microphone inputs, digital coaxial output and coaxial input for s/PDIF. Moreover, for your convenience, it has sound output ports on the rear, center / base, the front and the side part for its ports and connections. And in addition to that, the analog CD-in has 4 pins for the headers, which also includes an Intel HD front panel audio with 9 pins. Moreover, you should also know that the analog CD-in comes in two variants, one with L-G-G-R and one with G-R-G-L so you can connect inputs and outputs with ease. In fact, the sound card also has a line in port.
When it comes to the form factor, the Syba 7.1 Sound Card spans at 4.5 inches in width overall. As for the great feature of this sound card, it is highly capable of 7.1 surround sound quality so in short, it definitely gives you versatile and crystal clear output for audio quality. Do know that this is a PCIe or PCI express sound card for its connection interface. All in all, it is a great plug and play sound card to consider for the price and features.
Moreover, for the additional features of the sound card, it has buttons for the mic and volume controls as well as a mute control. Adding to that, unlike most sound cards, this one comes with activity lights to notify you of its power status and activity. And in addition to that, you can also add an external mic input with this sound card. The sound card by Syba definitely works great for Mac users so it is a must-have for them. Audio quality has never been this great as the sound card has a clean input quality. It is also highly ideal for multitrack audio production and is relatively great for home theater systems as well as gaming setups for its useful features.
Ideal Sound Card for Desktop Computers
SIIG SoundWave 7.1 PCI Sound Card
If you want the best sound card for use on desktops, whether you just want to upgrade your desktop or just want to use a separate sound card for it, you can depend on the SIIG SoundWave 7.1 PCI Sound Card which uses 7.1 surround sounds for its audio technology. As for the connection type, take note that this is a PCI sound card which is compatible with any PCI port or PC99.
As for the specifications of the sound card, it has a max sampling rate of 48 KHz. As for the channels, it supports 8 channels of output so you get the best surround sound quality possible and ideal for home entertainment systems. What’s really awesome about the sound card by SIIG is the very fact that it is highly capable of supporting Dolby Digital EX as well as DTS ES as audio formats at 7.1 channels or 6.1 channels. And as a matter of fact, it also uses 3D positional audio enhancement that is based from HRTF and it highly supports most DVD audio formats, which makes it super ideal for watching movies.
In addition to its features that are useful for home entertainment system, the SIIG SoundWave Sound Card uses Xear 3D 7.1 virtual speakers to shift your sound without having to move the speakers. And when it comes to compatibility, you need not worry as it works for most 64-bit and 32-bit systems. The sound card has a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack and it has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 KHz.
You get the best quality of audio possible because the sound card has a total harmonic distortion of 0.018 percent. Moreover, it can be used for enhanced gaming sound with superior 3D sound quality. Adding to that, the sound card also has various functionalities for karaoke such as vocal cancellation, microphone echo, key shifting and others.
Totally great for home theater systems, the SIIG SoundWave has a THD + N of -70 dB and it has an S/N ratio of -92 dB. As for its audio quality properties, it supports 16-bit and 24-bit audio resolution and it also supports 44.1, 48 and 96 KHz sampling rate as an S/PDIF transmitter. As for the internal parts, it uses the C-Media CMI8768 as a chipset. With this sound card, you can also customize your internet audio properties using the EAX audio technology. Moreover, it also uses speaker shifter technology so you do not have to move the speakers physically.
As for the quality of the sound card, it has been greatly approved and tested by CE and it also greatly complies with the standards and safety measures of RoHS. Adding to that, it also passed the FCC as a Class B DoC sound card. The SIIG SoundWave Card supports various audio technology such as DirectSound, A3D and Sensaura EAX.
Best Gaming Sound Card
PPA 1431 6-Channel PCI Sound Card
The PPA 1431 6-Channel PCI Sound Card supports direct music technology and is our best gaming sound card. It has a wavetable music synthesizer that is based from DLS and it also has 6 channels that are 16-bit on its converter from digital to audio feature.
It uses a 3D extensional position audio system that is based from HRTF and is highly compatible with any PCI port. It also supports 3D sound from the Microsoft DirectSound technology and is a super ideal sound card for gaming purposes. It supports full duplex codec system at 16-bit and is ideal for Windows Vista, XP and lower. The sound card requires 16 MB of ram or higher and at least Pentium II class 266 MHz and it can also be used on Linux systems. It also supports Dolby Digital, DTS and AC3 sound technologies.
Ideal Sound Card for Studio and Creating Music
Creative Audigy PCIe 7.1 Sound Card
A great sound card for making music or recording, the Creative Audigy PCIe 7.1 Sound Card is also great for gaming and watching movies or just listening to music. It uses 7.1 channels of surround sound and it also supports the EAX technology.
The sound card makes the use of the EAX reverb engine to enhance your audio, especially if you want to use it for karaoke or recording music. It has an advanced chipset to match your rigorous sound quality needs and it has a direct playback that uses only high quality specifications at 24-bit of audio resolution at 192 kHz. Audio recording makes the use of low latency technology such as ASIO drivers (audio stream input and output). It has a superb audio quality with an SNR of 106 dB and is great for cinematic purposes and home theater systems.
Audio monitoring is a breeze and sound quality is improved due to its 600-ohm headphone amp. It also uses the E-MU chipset for the best audio processing possible and it has dual microphone inputs so you can record music while singing, which makes it ideal for music production. It supports any DDR3 SDRAM memory card and it also supports creative multi speaker surround or CMSS / CMSS 3D for high quality audio recording.
You can also adjust your EAX HD settings by adding audio effects on just about any game, music, movie or program by shifting keys and other effects, which is useful for home karaoke systems. The Creative Audigy Sound Card also comes with a creative recording software package: WaveStudio and Smart Recorder. It comes with warranty leaflets, an installation CD and a quick start leaflet along with the sound card and is backed by a warranty of 12 months.
Sound Card with Dolby Digital Support
StarTech 7.1-Channel PCI Digital Sound Card
The StarTech 7.1-Channel PCI Digital Sound Card supports any PCI port at version 2.2 and also supports PMI and ACPI. It enables playback at a high quality using its support for Dolby Digital EX as well as DVD soundtrack using a 7.1 channel DTS ES support and it supports DirectSound 3 technology by Microsoft at HW acceleration as well.
It uses a VIA chipset that works with most drivers that support Windows WDM. It is great for movies, home entertainment systems, gaming and many more and is easy to connect between digital audio receivers and PCs. It uses 7.1 stereo surround sounds for its audio output and it has a playback and recording sampling rate of 48 / 44.1 KHz. The sound card supports DTS 7.1 and has audio playback of 96 KHz at 24-bit for its audio resolution. It has the option for a digital coax out and it works even for the Windows 8.1 while being backed by a warranty of 2 years plus lifetime technical support.
Best 16-Channel Sound Card
Yamaha MY16-EX 16-Channel EtherSound Expansion Card
The Yamaha MY16-EX 16-Channel EtherSound Expansion Card has a total of 16 channels and has 4 connectors for the RJ-45. It greatly supports the MY16-ES65 and the MY16-MD64 for sound card expansion and it supports 24-bit audio resolution. It also makes the use of EtherSound technology for superior audio quality and it can extend your channels and compatible cards that can be daisy-chained.
Recommended Sound Card for the Raspberry Pi
Audio Injector Raspberry Pi Sound Card
The Audio Injector Raspberry Pi Sound Card has a standard GPIO so you can stack some add-ons to this sound card and it has a built-in headphone amplifier. Your headphones can enjoy 32 Ohms converted from 30 megawatts of max power. At 50 mW of max power, it can be converted into 16 Ohms.
It has a built-in microphone as well as volume control knobs for the best sound personalization possible. It is meant for the Raspberry Pi as a sound card and it supports DAC and ADC. It has an audio resolution of 32-bit at 96 kHz. The microphone has a sensitivity of -44 dBV and the sound card can be used with the Linux ALSA driver. It also has a stereo RCA input and output like most sound cards.
Other sound cards that did not make it to our list were not too much in the quality of the audio as well as the added features. It is important for a sound card to provide the best quality of audio possible with support from various digital audio technologies such as DirectSound and Dolby Digital.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
If you have a few questions to ask about sound cards then these questions with answers might answer you.
Q: Why should you buy a dedicated sound card for your computer other than the built-in sound card?
A: According to Reddit , they often come with headphone amps so that you can utilize your headphones to its full extent and capacity. People who are meticulous with sound quality such as sound engineers, composers, gamers and home theater hobbyists need to have a good sound card that supports high quality audio. White noise reduction is a big pro for buying a separate sound card. It also lessens the load on your motherboard.
If you have a nice set of headphones then you should definitely get a dedicated sound card and if you have an old PC that you would like to upgrade then you can definitely buy a sound card, as most built-in sound card. Sound cards are like graphics cards such that they expand the horizons for your PC.
Q: What are some of the pointers to consider with sound cards?
A: According to ePanorama , the 32-bit or the 64-bit you often see on most sound cards that are advanced are not exactly 32-bit, but 32 MIDI voices such as the Maestro32 and the AWE32 and the 64 is just like that. The signal to noise ratio is an important. You can also connect your sound card to a home entertainment system.
Q: What are some of the best sound engineering tips you can do with a sound card?
A: According to First Institute Blog , consider how many people will record their vocals or music in your studio. Multitrack instrument recording requires a good sound card. You can also check out well-tested and tried sound card names. Always couple your sound card with a decent pair of headphones and other sound gear.
Wrapping It Up
Overall, the Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card is our best sound card that will definitely improve your gaming, home theater and music making experience.