The integrated audio that’s built into computer motherboards is perfectly adequate for most tasks these days, and has been for years. But that doesn’t mean that it’s good enough for people who really care about their audio experience. However, gamers, audiophiles, and creatives who produce audio on their PCs are just some users who may need more sound quality and features than what you can get from the audio that’s built into a typical desktop PC.
If that sounds like you, fear not: There are still a lot of sound cards out there you can use to upgrade your PC. If you want your PC to send the best sound quality possible to your speakers or headphone — while possibly pumping our multi-channel surround sound and having the ability to process audio for sound production, read on. I’ve rounded up the best sound cards for music you can buy today, and this article will help you choose the one that’s right for you.
Top 10 Best Sound Cards For Music In The UK 2021
Below are our pick of the best sound cards for music on the market or alternatively, read on to find out more about the information you should know before buying a sound card.
1. Creative Sound Blaster Z
Offering a plethora of features at a reasonable price, Creative’s Sound Blaster Z is easily among the best PC sound cards you can buy. It comes with a Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of 116dB and can output audio at 24-bit/192kHz, allowing you to enjoy high-resolution music in all its glory.
There’s also Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) support for reduced audio latency, and the card’s dedicated “Sound Core3D” audio processor works great for enhancing the overall sound/voice quality without taxing the computer’s primary CPU. As far as connectivity and I/O are concerned, the Sound Blaster Z sports a total of five gold-plated 3.5mm audio ports and two TOSLINK ports, so you can connect everything from headphones to home theater system(s) and enjoy high fidelity immersive digital audio.
The PCIe sound card also comes bundled with a beamforming microphone that suppresses outside noise and creates an acoustic zone, thus resulting in improved voice clarity.
2. Asus Xonar Essence STX II Sound Card
The Asus Essence STX II is an expensive sound card, but you get what you pay for. When it comes to audio quality, the Essence STX II is unrivaled. This card provides a signal-to-noise ratio of over 124dB, which makes it the most powerful card on our list.
Coupled with a 7.1ch surround sound and a built-in amplifier that supports up to 600 Ohms, the Essence STX 11 is a dream come true for audiophiles. This card comes with six 3.5mm connectors to make a complete 7.1 Dolby surround possible.
Another unique feature that makes the Essence STX 11 stand out is the swappable op-amps sockets that allow you to customize your audio beyond a mere software control panel.
3. Creative Sound BLASTERX AE-5
Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 comes with a custom-designed discrete headphone amplifier – Xamp. It means that all audio channels are amplified individually and this results in an accurate and clear sound that comes equally to each earcup.
Those customers who like bright lights will appreciate its Aurora Reactive Lighting System. It includes up to 16.8 million colors in different patterns with the free downloadable Sound Blaster Connect software for PC. By the by, AE-5 is provided with SABRE32 Ultra Class PCIe DAC what makes it a perfect sound card for HR audio.
4. ASUS Xonar U5
This sound card not only gives your desktop or laptop a solid sound boost with its 104dB signal-to-noise ratio, it’ll also give you 5.1 surround sound, either in virtual form through your headphones or by driving a set of front, rear and centre speakers.
It has three preset gain modes for different usage scenarios, but if you’d rather have full control over what you hear then it also comes with ASUS’ Sonic Studio software. This provides you with all the audio settings you’ll need, from a 10-band graphic equaliser through to fully adjustable bass boost and compressor, and even custom reverb settings.
5. Asus Strix Soar 7.1 Gaming Soundcard
ASUS STRIX SOAR is a 7.1 Channel PCIe Gaming Sound Card that offers 116dB SNR and HD Audio to up to 24-bit / 192kHz. The sound card comes with Sonic Studio software that allows you to fine tune and adjust various audio settings and effects. It has got a 600-ohm headphone amplifier for using high-impedance headphones.
The sound card does look like a single-slot graphics card because of its top cover with semi-circular owl-eye design lighting on the bottom side of the card. Also, it requires a 6-pin PCI-Express power connector from the PSU for its working.
ASUS-STRIX-SOAR-7.1-PCIe-Gaming-Sound-CardFor gaming, it comes with the Sonic Radar Pro feature that allows you pinpoint your enemies and opponents via Sonic Radar. The sound card is powered by C-Media USB2.0 6632AX High-Definition Sound Processor and officially supports Windows 10. Overall, a decent gaming sound card for the money.
6. Creative Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1 USB Sound Card
Rather than connecting to the motherboard via a PCIe port, this sound card is connected simply via a USB port. With its black exterior and gentle red accents, the Omni will seamlessly blend with most computer desks without being intrusive and will provide a dash of elegance to boot.
Dolby technology is there to enable highly precise and immersive surround speaker configurations, as well as virtual surround capability for stereo setups and headphones.
Volume control knob – An indispensable part of an external sound card, the knob allows for easy volume adjustments without the hassle of having to do so via the computer’s controls.
7. CREATIVE Sound Blaster X7
The X7 comes with onboard Dolby Digital decoding but surprisingly lacks decoding of DTS and high-res audio from Blu-ray discs. Speakers connected to the X7 need their own amplifier.
The SB-Axx1 audio processor is capable of 24-bit / 192 kHz audio processing and has a high SNR of 127 dB. It can be connected to a variety of sources, including Android and iOS smartphones, PC, gaming consoles, and more.
Creative’s software allows for better harnessing the X7’s feature set. The Creative Sound Blaster X7 is good for home theater systems or bookshelf speakers. While the X7 is good for gamers and surround sound enthusiasts, the somewhat higher asking price means that you would have to think of your application before committing to this.
8. Sound BlasterX G6
The Sound BlasterX G6 is the best external sound card for gamers, period. It can work with PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. It will probably also be compatible with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 when these two next-gen consoles come out. The card itself is on the chunky side but that’s cool because it comes with a variety of features.
The card’s setup process is extremely straightforward. There’s no calibration required, just connect the card with an audio port and a USB port and you’re set. Once you start gaming, you’ll notice a perfect sound quality.
Clear sound with excellent channel separation, boosted ambient noises that improve the overall experience in any game, expansive dynamic range, and SBX mode that provides excellent virtual surround along with widening the soundstage. Overall, this is an excellent gaming sound card with the price and limited input selection being its only major drawbacks.
9. The EVGA Nu Audio Pro 7.1
The EVGA Nu Audio Pro 7.1 is one of the premier sound cards on today’s market. This is mostly due to its two standout features: 7.1 surround sound support and a built-in amplifier. With this powerful pre-amp, bass has noticeably more punch, and treble is more clear. This is particularly noticeable when you’re using headphones, without going through another amplifier.
The output impedance is only 0.05 ohms, exceptionally low. The low impedance allows for nearly distortion-free audio, noticeable on any device. With line out and optical outputs as well as a headphone jack, this card is compatible with most sound systems.
In addition to audio performance, the EVGA Nu Audio Pro 7.1 has built-in RGB lighting. By default, the lighting is sound-reactive, but you can tie it into your existing controller if you have one. The Pro 7.1 comes with a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty. If anything goes wrong, simply return it for a full refund.
10. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCI-e 5.1
This sound card offers a lot of performance for its price and provides excellent features for the user to avail. There are also various settings you can explore, and you can experience high-quality sound with crystal clarity. It is truly a great performer and contender in the market.
This sound card is a run for your money because of its great-quality features for the price. It has many different features the user can explore, and provides sound solutions for various motherboards. It provides the user with the ultimate experience of surround sound.
This sound card is the perfect solution for all the crackly and static noise that your current sound card makes. It can be used by hardcore gamers, entertainment junkies, and for the ultimate cinematic experience. For music, movies, and games, this card will not disappoint you.
Choosing The Best Sound Cards For Music
Choosing the best sound card can be a challenging task. There are lots of options out there, and the technical jargon can be intimidating. But — with the right planning, it can be easy. Let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding on the right sound card:
1. Do you want an internal or external sound card?
If you’re an audiophile and want to take your experience the next level, a permanent option is probably your best bet. But if you can make do with easy-to-install or plug-in sound cards, that may be the way to go.
2. What specifications and features do you want?
The best sound cards vary heavily in functionality. That’s because different options are geared toward different users. Think about what you’d like from your sound card, and choose one that features the unique benefits you require.
3. How much time and money are you willing to invest?
Sound cards start under $20 and go upwards of $100 depending on the type and features included. Consider how much you have to spend and what you’re willing to invest in terms of installation time.
A sound card is an internal expansion card that provides input and output of audio signals to and from a computer under control of computer programs. The term sound card is also applied to external audio interfaces used for professional audio applications. For many years, sales of sound cards declined as the on-board audio on PC’s grew better and better. However, the last few years have seen gamers, audiophiles, and even ordinary computer users seeking out the best in audio quality and thus are looking again to add-on sound cards.
In a wide range of sound cards available in the market, we’ve chosen the best sound cards for music in 2021 because they offer a minimum of 24 bit audio reproduction for the highest quality sound reproduction. They also all possess class leading signal -to-noise ratios of at least one hundred decibels (DB) in addition to sampling rates of at least ninety-six kilohertz (Khz). Finally, all of these cards offer sound enhancement technology for the best multichannel surround sound experience you can hope for.