Creative's Sound Blaster AE7
Even though we overlook the best sound cards in the computer games industry, they’re always an essential part of any setup.
Do you doubt that? Imagine using old earphones rather than gaming headphones to pinpoint opposition footsteps or even get immersed in the atmospheric noises of your favorite MMO. Isn’t it evident that this isn’t going to work? It’s equivalent to upgrading from inbuilt sound to a specialized sound device. Even though you also have great gaming earphones or sound systems, the output raises you’ll get from a lovely sound card can take your game to the next level.
So, in today’s review, we’ll give you the 10 best sound card options in 2023. Hence, without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Roundup of Best Sound Card Options
|Best Sound Card for 7.1 Surround Sound||Creative Sound Blaster AE-7 Hi-Res Internal PCIe Sound Card|
|Best Sound Card for 5.1 Surround Sound||Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card|
|Best Sound Card for Beginner Gamers||ASUS XONAR SE 5.1 Channel 192kHz/24-bit Hi-Res 116dB SNR PCIe Gaming Sound Card|
|Best External Sound Card||T10 External Sound Card|
|Best Sound Card for Advanced Gaming||Sound BlasterX G6|
|Best External Sound Car for Gaming||Sound Blaster X4|
|Best Sound Card for Laptop||StarTech 7.1 USB Sound CardICUSBAUDIO7D|
|Best Sound Car for Audiophiles||ASUS Strix RAID DLX 7.1 PCIe Gaming Sound Card|
|Best Sound Card for Mac||Creative Sound BlasterX G5|
Things to Consider When Buying a Sound Card
Picking a sound card is not difficult. Here are some things you need to consider when buying a sound card:
DAC stands for Digital-to-Analog-Converter. The performance of the DAC is the most important thing to consider in a sound card. This component is an integral part of playing; the higher the DAC’s efficiency, the less distortion your music will have.
So, how would you determine the DAC’s performance? First, we use the SNR, which stands for Signal to Noise Ratio. This refers specifically to how strong the desired valuable audio is and the unnecessary noise.
A few premium-quality sound cards have an SNR of up to 124 dB. Because decibels are logarithmic, most motherboards with inbuilt sound systems have an SNR of 80-90 dB, a considerable variation.
Aside from SNR, the DAC is also in charge of the bitrate and filtering frequency of the input.
High-end sound cards come with various features and specifications, such as 24-bit or 32-bit audio with a sampling rate of up to 384 kHz or 192 kHz. These features define the audio quality of the card. However, we also consider other factors such as the connectors and electromagnetic interference shielding to improve the performance.
A headphone amplifier is an essential component of sound cards, especially if you have studio-grade headphones. These headphones have a higher level of resistance, making them unsuitable for low-end sound cards.
If you are using studio-grade headphones with poor audio solutions, you will have low volume. To minimize this issue, you should only use headphones with a dedicated headphone amplifier. An amplifier with a higher supported headphone impedance is ideal for studio-grade headphones.
With modern audio equipment, including the latest 7.1 or even 7.2 stereo sound, 5.1 channel setups are essential for a great home entertainment system. These sound systems deliver incredible immersion by giving the impression of 3D audio.
The sound card is the only component that allows the sound system to deliver separate streams. Many sound cards enable virtual 7.1 surround sound, produced via sound processing techniques. However, only a few sound drivers offer actual 7.1 surround sound. For example, suppose you have a high-end 7.1 home-theater system. In that case, you’re probably employing pricey outboard sound options. However, the newest 7.1-channel sound cards could amaze everyone if you don’t.
Most high-end headsets are stereo headsets. It can only achieve 7.1 multichannel channel audio via the sound card’s Digital Signal Processing (DSP).
The newer Dolby Atmos codec offers 3D audio as well, but it comes with a slew of extra restrictions. Although some real 7.1 surround headphones with 10 separate speakers are available, their audio lag makes them substandard to high-end stereo headsets.
The programming functions of the sound card are incredibly crucial for most customers, as each customer has distinct audio tastes. It is, in essence, another of the main motivations to purchase a sound card.
Virtual surround sound is the most critical characteristic, often employed in conjunction with gaming headphones for increased spatial orientation, particularly in e-sports games. Furthermore, complex audio capabilities such as customized resonant frequency and numerous equalization preset are available with such software applications.
There are two sorts of interfaces. The first is the audio card’s connectivity with the system, and the other is the audio card’s interaction with audio equipment. Because most modern audio cards require a PCI-Express connector, please guarantee you have one available.
Audio cards like the Asus Essence STX II or the Creative Sound Blaster ZxR need twin PCI-E spaces: one for the computer’s motherboard and the other for the daughterboard. This could be a problem for those using micro-ATX boards, which don’t have many PCI-E slots.
When it comes to the sound device connection, glance at the audio card’s output terminals. Some audio cards include RCA connections for multichannel compatibility, whereas others have 3.5mm connectors. Certain audio cards include 3.5mm ports for earphones, while others have 6.3mm / 14-inch connectors.
Swappable OpAmp (Operational Amplifier)
Because various OpAmps have distinct audio attributes, a few high-quality audio cards allow you to switch the OpAmps upon the circuit. This function is ideal for music lovers who want to tweak their card’s performance.
Additional Power And Connectors
Aside from the audio card’s fundamental requirements, like a PCI/PCI-Express port on the central processing unit, certain audio cards need more energy to run the parts. For example, ensure your power source has a Molex or Six-pin PCIe power connection for the audio card.
Top 10 Sound Cards on the Market
1. Creative Sound Blaster AE-7 Hi-Res Internal PCIe Sound Card
Best Sound Card for 7.1 Surround Sound
- Superb gaming efficiency
- Excellent acoustics
- Easy to setup
- Not made for professional equipment
Creative’s Sound Blaster AE-7 is among the strongest PC audio cards on the market, with a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 127dB and compatibility for 32-bit/384kHz music codec. It features a built-in 600 impedance audio amplifier that works with the ESS SABRE-class 9018 Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) to produce crisp surround sound (5.1 for loudspeakers and 7.1 for headsets).
Nevertheless, the card’s standout asset is its associated “Audio Control Module” device. This simple dial allows users to adjust the noise levels easily. It also contains an integrated mic assortment, two 3.5mm audio connectors, and two 6.3mm sound connectors for convenient I/O and communication. This is an impressive internal sound card.
The Sound Blaster AE-7, for example, has five 3.5mm audio connectors as well as a TOSLINK interface. A specialized “Sound Core3D” music engine drives the PCIe audio card. Its associated application software allows you to tweak various parameters (such as recording quality and compression type).
In conclusion, get the Creative Sound Blaster AE-7 if you need the greatest audio for your video games. It is a card designed for the best gaming environment possible. It supports a wide range of earphones and offers 7.1 virtual stereo sound, which sounds fairly well. The software package is rather decent. Modern in appearance, packed with functionality, and simpler to operate than other companies’ packages.
View on Amazon: Creative Sound Blaster AE-7 Hi-Res Internal PCIe Sound Card
2. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card
Best Sound Card for 5.1 Surround Sound
- Value for money
- Unsuitable for music professionals
- Cannot properly replace in-built sound cards
Although released in 2013, the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX will always be one of Creative’s most popular audio cards. You might wonder how it’s still running great after eight years.
To begin with, the FX combines Creative’s famed audio quality dedication. Creative’s SBX Pro Software provides advanced audio processing, enabling 24-bit 192 kHz output and 5.1 sound quality to put listeners in the loop from every perspective.
The FX is incredibly versatile. Even inexperienced PC users will have no trouble installing this into their empty PCIe ports. But, considering the incredible pricing, you’ve discovered one of the greatest inexpensive audio cards available.
Try out this one if your motherboard’s inbuilt output device has died. Additionally, if you require a good cheap independent audio card since the one on your chipset is terrible. But, for the cost, it provides excellent sound quality; nonetheless, don’t assume wonders.
In conclusion, it’ll sound fantastic with mid-range loudspeakers and headsets, but don’t try with high-end professional gear. It’s also fantastic for stereo sound because it supports 5.1 surround sound speakers out of the box. Lastly, Creative includes excellent firmware with this board, which has several options to fine-tune your music presets.
View on Amazon: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card
3. ASUS XONAR SE 5.1 Channel 192kHz/24-bit Hi-Res 116dB SNR PCIe Gaming Sound Card
Best Sound Card for Beginner Gamers
- Affordable price
- Low-profile bracket ideal for small cases
- Can power higher impedance headphones for better volume and clarity
- No ASIO support
If you can’t (or would not like to) spend loads of money on top-tier processing gear, ASUS’ Xonar SE is exactly what you require. This super-affordable PC sound card has a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 116dB. It supports superior quality music transmission (5.1 channels) at 24-bit/192kHz. Besides that, its built-in 300 ω headset amp produces enveloping audio with deep bass.
The manufacturers have manufactured the card with a patented “Hyper Grounding” technology that reduces turbulence and improves signal protection while lowering cost. When it comes to connectivity and I/O options, the Xonar SE includes 4 3.5mm stereo ports, 1 S/PDIF connector (with TOSLINK), and the front audio interface.
The Cmedia 6620A acoustic engine powers the PCIe audio card. It arrives with a low-profile mount that makes it easy to set up in compact cabinets. The associated software program may quickly set its sound characteristics (equalizer settings, volume leveling, etc.).
You should also utilize the Xonar Audio Center application for more adjusting capability. It allows you to use things like EQ and sound profiles directly.
In conclusion, if you’re new to audio gear or just have a terrible audio system on your computer and want something stronger, the Asus Xonar SE is a good place to start. This is an investment in 192kHz/24-bit, 5.1-channel audio and the ability to power higher-ohm earphones for improved sound quality. Although the audio quality isn’t the best, this audio interface is adequate for basic gamers and everyday use.
4. T10 External Sound Card
Best External Sound Card
- Superior sound quality
- Long Cable
- Ideal for every device
- Average microphone
- Isn’t much compact
Would you like to change it up a bit? PHOINIKAS is the very first external audio card on the list. So it’s not a good idea to put this PHOINIKAS underneath the internal audio cards. Furthermore, it contends for a toe-to-toe match and has already outperformed rivals.
Let’s begin with the most adaptable feature of this card: its versatility. It is not just Windows users who have great luck in employing this advanced machine. Instead, search no more if you’re looking for a good choice for your Linux or iOS smartphone. You may link several devices with only a USB connection.
The audio card is compatible because there are no drivers; however, this creates some apparent doubts. For example, you may have begun to ponder the efficiency element. Luckily, the PHOINIKAS audio card has practically all of the functions (all basic and complex) that any audio card would include. So, for example, you may choose from a wide range of special effects, stereo sound, game music tracks, etc.
This card has 6 ports, allowing for versatile connectivity between multiple devices. Three of these are USB 2.0 connectors, with the remaining 3.5mm connectors. In addition, you have a 4-meter broad wire, which is plenty to make all the necessary links.
In conclusion, the PHOINIKAS T10 is a great sound card producing impressive sound quality and stereo sound. It also offers good compatibility between devices, and you’ll not regret getting this sound card. Instead, it has many configurations, letting you modify the features as per your taste. These things make the T10 the best external sound card on our list.
View on Amazon: T10 External Sound Card
5. Creative Sound BlasterX G6
Best Sound Card for Advanced Gaming
- Works with a multitude of devices
- Special gaming-oriented mode
- Disappointing mic input
- Limited Input Selection
Internal audio cards are wonderful, but due to their PCIe extension network architecture, they are still only available for PCs. Nevertheless, because the Sound BlasterX G6 is USB enabled, this isn’t a problem. This effectively implies that you can connect it to video game systems like the Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch in addition to Windows machines.
In addition, it delivers 32-bit/384kHz high-quality sound. It has an inbuilt Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) with a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 130dB.
The manufacturers have also included a standalone 600ohm headset preamplifier with the advanced audio card, enhancing all analog inputs separately. For example, the Sound BlasterX G6 features two 3.5mm sound connectors, multiple Optical TOSLINK connections, and a micro-USB port for communication and I/O.
A centralized side-mounted lever rules the game sound and mic level. The associated software suite allows you to tweak anything from Dolby Digital enhancements to sound suppression parameters.
The configuration for the card is really simple. There is no need to calibrate the card; directly attach it to a sound channel and a USB port, and you’re ready to go. So when you begin playing, you’ll realize that the audio system is excellent.
Broad frequency band, powerful audio with great channel isolation, increased ambient sounds that enrich the entire immersion in any genre, and SBX setting gives outstanding virtual stereo while broadening the soundscape. Ultimately, this is an outstanding gaming audio card. The only significant downsides are the cost and the restricted input options.
In conclusion, the Sound BlasterX G6 is, without a doubt, the greatest external audio card for gaming. It’s compatible with PCs, Xbox Ones, PlayStation 4s, and Nintendo Switches. They are also compatible with the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. The card is a little thick, but that’s okay since it has many functions.
View on Amazon: Creative Sound BlasterX G6
6. Creative Sound Blaster X4
Best External Sound Card for Gaming
- Great choice for gamers
- Powerful acoustics
- Added controls and flexibility
- It has great software with a lot of sound profiles and audio customizability
- More of a gaming-oriented sound card
The Creative Sound Blaster X4 is an external audio card, often called an Amp/DAC. This hardware accomplishes the same goal as an internal audio card: to improve audio reproduction fidelity.
The X4 is a great option because it can achieve a signal-to-noise ratio of 114 dB and replay songs at 24-bit / 192 kHz. It has a powerful AMP within professional power headsets with up to 600 ohms of resistance, just like the other gadgets on our list.
You can also connect your mic to the Creative Sound Blaster X4 for more volume and clarity control. Hence, leading to greater interaction in your gaming is a terrific advantage for gamers.
The X4 also includes 7.1 virtual surround emulation with Super X-Fi innovation and Dolby Digital Live, making for a much more realistic multiplayer experience. The software customization of this equipment, with numerous audio configurations and sound tweaks via the Sound Blaster Command Application, is the product’s key selling feature.
If you’re looking for a true audiophile encounter, this gadget isn’t for you, but this is a great option if you’re a gamer looking for better sound. This is one of the best external sound cards.
In conclusion, the Sound Blaster X4 caters to many consumers, from gamers to audiophiles to regular users who merely want better connectivity and flexibility over their music. It’s a key differentiator to modifying your sound beyond the typical in-game or OS-level options, and it’s a perfect complement to any configuration. For example, the onboard buttons of the X4 allow simple access to some of the product’s greatest functionalities even without the usage of extra software.
View on Amazon: Creative Sound Blaster X4
7. StarTech 7.1 USB Sound Card
Best Sound Card for Laptop
- Quick and easy to install
- 10 ports offer great convenience
- The headset connector is a very cool addition
- S/PDIF limitations
- Average mic
- Inadequate software support
The StarTech 7.1 USB Sound Card offers a solid first impression. Its plasticky casing includes all of the connections you could need coherently. Everything else works when you set up the USB sound card as your preferred sound source.
Even though it is smaller than basic USB audio cards with only one or two 3.5mm connectors, it is a very modest piece of equipment. It works great on a table, but getting that out on the roads may be challenging. The metallic color is unobtrusive, and the LEDs are as well. We didn’t notice it much after tucking it behind our computer.
The earphone outlet is one of our favorites since it enables us to change between headsets (for multiplayer games) and loudspeakers (for music and films) without disconnecting anything.
The mic performance is adequate, albeit the audio quality isn’t as good as it may be.
There is no application included with the audio card; thus, you can’t alter the bass, treble, or other parameters.
In conclusion, a StarTech sound card is a good option overall. There is another annoyance with the StarTech audio card. The S/PDIF system is just a passthrough; it may generate no S/PDIF output without first receiving a S/PDIF input. But, the sound quality, portability, and easy installations are the perks of this sound card.
View on Amazon: StarTech 7.1 USB Sound Card
8. ASUS Strix RAID DLX 7.1 PCIe Gaming Sound Card
Best Sound Card for Audiophiles
- Great sound
- Well-designed and durable
- Ergonomic, useful controls for in-game tweaks
- Native 7.1 surround sound support
- The sound could have been even better
- Lots of cables
- No 6.3mm headphone support
Unlike the Essence line, the ASUS Strix RAID comes from the Strix brand of sound cards, which AUS has designed for gamers. The audio card and the extra volume remote controller are the two essential elements of the Strix RAID.
The audio card has seven 3.5mm connectors, including one for 7.1-channel equipment, one for box-link, one for mic-in, one for line-in, and one for S/PDIF-out.
Aside from PCIe input, which it obtains through the 6-pin power supply, the audio card requires extra energy.
The audio card has an ESS Sabre9006A DAC that handles up to 24bit 192-kHz output with an SNR of 116 dB, which may have been better than the BlasterX AE-5.
Voice Clarity, Noise Gate, Compressor, and, Perfect Voice are just a few of the audio customization choices available in the Strix Sonic Studio program. The audio card also provides virtual 7.1 audio output, with excellent channel positioning flexibility. Voice Clarity
Overall, the characteristics of this game’s sound card are comparable to those of the Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5.
While an AE-5 has higher sound quality, it boasts a fancy volume controller and enables 7.1 Audio Output.
In conclusion, the Asus Strix RAID is a wonderful option for enthusiasts who demand superior sound experience from their films and games, high definition reproduction, and rich surround sound. The included Sonic Studio program is also excellent, enabling you to tweak the sound to your liking and including many settings that some users may find handy.
View on Amazon: ASUS Strix RAID DLX 7.1 PCIe Gaming Sound Card
9. Creative Sound BlasterX G5
Best Sound Card for Mac
The Sound BlasterX G5 sports a stylish but low-profile layout. The manufacturer has tilted the corners of the rectangle in a half-hexagon form. On the left side of the black container is a gold-plated headphone connector. On the top right is a mic connector. In the center is a circular volume dial with a level indicator. The volume display is located behind the dial and lights red, becoming brighter as you increase the volume.
The Sound BlasterX G5 is simple to operate, with every connector and port properly labeled and recognized. Use a USB power converter to connect the supplied Micro-USB connector to your pc, notebook, PlayStation, or wall outlet. You’ll also need to attach the supplied TOSLINK cable if you’re linking it to an Xbox One, Blu-ray player, or other media device with optical sound.
You’ll need to download the latest BlasterX Acoustic Engine application to get the most out of your Sound BlasterX G5.
However, the critical thing is: how much better does it sound? With various results, We tried the Sound BlasterX G5 with various headsets. Hricierowever, it improved the sound of cheap, mid-range, or even p stereo and 7.1 headsets in every case, if only marginally.
Every game we played with the gaming earphones made a noticeable impact on where noises came from. When used with settings like First Person Shooter, you can sense that Sound Blaster spent time tweaking those settings.
In conclusion, the Sound BlasterX G5 strengthens and boosts the sound from your headsets or loudspeakers without a doubt, as well as the upmixing to 7.1 stereo sound in games, films, and audio is excellent. All these things make the Sound BlasterX G5 the best sound card for Mac.
View on Amazon: Creative Sound BlasterX G5
Frequently Asked Questions About Sound Cards
We have answered some of the most common FAQs regarding sound cards below:
A sound card is an auxiliary IC that emits audio for loudspeakers or headsets on a computer. The audio card has four major features:
– Synthesizer (sound generation)
– MIDI connectivity
– Analog-to-digital translation (for capturing audio from a mic, for instance)
– Digital-to-analog translation (used to generate quality acoustics on a speaker)
Frequency modulation (FM) innovation, wavetables, and mechanical modeling are the three possible ways of audio generation.
Based on our research and testing, the Creative Sound Blaster AE-7 is the most powerful sound card among others in the market.
Yes, you do. Sound cards offer 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound.
The majority of video games on the market feature 5.1 and 7.1 3-dimensional virtual surround capabilities. But, if your sound card doesn’t enable these capabilities, it will deprive you of a genuine gaming experience.
Whether or not an audio card and high-quality surround sound speakers are worth purchasing are based only on sound quality is a purely debatable question dependent on individual desires and tastes.
On the other hand, a specialized sound card could be an ideal method to substitute your motherboard’s inbuilt sound system if it isn’t operating properly or doesn’t have all of the capabilities you want.
Your needs determine it. Most typical customers and hobbyists prefer the inbuilt audio card because it is less costly and adds to many processing resources. So if you’re a speaker, artist, or audiobook maker, then the external audio card is the way to go. This is critical to improving your recording’s dynamic range.
A sound card is a fabricated circuit board in its primary form. Through ADC, it can convert analog or digital signals.
We then connect the device to the computer through a PCI or ISA port. It also makes use of speakers and mic inlet, and outlet connectors. For example, instead of independent DACs and ADCs, many sound cards use a decoding microchip.
We tested 50 sound cards over 4 months to make sure we recommend you the best possible sound card for your needs. After reviewing those 50, we shortlisted the 10 best sound cards that you saw in this list.
Even though all of the PC audio cards listed above are fantastic in their very own position, we recommend Creative’s Sound Blaster AE7. Despite its low price, it comes with a long list of capabilities, including ASIO compatibility, high-resolution sound transmission, and a specialized sound synthesis processor.
Choose Creative’s Sound BlasterX G5 if you want a piece of equipment that’s a little easier to operate and doesn’t need you to unscrew your PC’s cabinet. Instead, it operates with contemporary consoles as well as PCs.
This was a complete guide on the top 10 best sound card options in 2023.
Also Read: 8 Best Gaming Monitors For PS5 in 2023