Best Gaming Sound Cards of 2020 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

A sound card is a very crucial component of the computer, and it can make or break your gaming performance.

The benefits of getting a separate sound card from the one already equipped in your motherboard are life-changing. 

In this article, you will find reviews of the best ones available today.

Comparison of the Best Gaming Sound Cards

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Supports Windows 7, 8, and 10
  • Comes with high quality dual-microphone
  • 116 Db SNR performance with gold-plated i/o technology
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  • Equipped with the Sound Blaster Audigy FX Control Panel
  • 600 OHM amp for headphones
  • 5.1 surround sound, 96kHz ADC, and 192kHz DAC
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  • Dolby headphones with 5.1 surround sound
  • Comes with a built-in amp for headphones
  • Best for the money
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  • Best external sound card for gaming
  • Sound BlasterX G6 comes with sidetone volume control
  • Headphones amplifier is custom-designed for clarity
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  • Best USB sound card for gaming
  • 5.1 discrete channels for vibrant and clear sound
  • Dual microphones embedded with Crystal Voice Technology
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What is a Sound Card, and Where is the Sound Card Located?

A sound card is essentially a component of the computer responsible for converting digital signals to analog so the output can be released on hardware devices, such as headphones or speakers. These cards are usually located inside the motherboard, and not as an external hardware piece, and are connected via PCI or PCI-e slot.

It is a very useful and beneficial component of your computer that can revolutionize gaming for the user. If your computer gives off crackly or static sounds, or there's difficulty in the standards the computer supports in terms of music, you need a good sound card to eliminate those issues.

What Does a Sound Card Do?

A sound card is plugged into the computer or equipped inside the motherboard to produce good-quality sound for the user. It converts digital data and transmits it to the hardware in analog form. Here are the top uses of a sound card:

Gaming 

For supreme quality sound in online gaming, a sound card is really important. It helps in communicating with all the players and brings a superior experience in terms of music and other sound effects used in the game. 

Audio and Video Conferencing

Another super-important use for sound cards is for video conferencing or audio calls. Most users with an already embedded sound card in the computer face difficulties in communication because of inaudible or crackly sounds. This is where the sound card comes in. It helps provide users with top-quality sound and full clarity.

Watching Movies

Movies are no fun if the sound system is terrible. Some sound cards already embedded inside the computer have such a low sound output that it becomes inaudible to decipher. In these conditions, a sound card can make or break your entertainment experience. Hence, sound cards are useful for watching movies.

How Does a Sound Card Work?

Sounds that we hear are basically analog. The basic and primary function of a sound card is to convert the sound waves from digital to analog so the hardware can understand and retrieve the data. A sound card comes with four different components:

  1. DAC: The Digital to Analog Converter is the major component that allows data to be converted from digital to analog.

  2. ADC: This is the Analog to Digital Converter which allows the user to make digital recordings with the use of analog sound inputs.

  3. A component or interface that allows the card to be connected to the motherboard (PCI or PCI-e)

  4. Output and input converters that can be plugged into speakers, headphones, or a microphone.

Sound Blaster Z PCIe

How Do I Choose a Gaming Sound Card?

Before we jump into the reviews, let's go over some of the key features you must consider before choosing a sound card for gaming purposes:

Compatibility

The sound card you purchase must be compatible with your PC or desktop. If the desktop doesn't support the standards of your sound card, you will not be able to utilize the features and will have to return it. So, before buying one, check the compatibility of the sound card with your computer.

Sample Rate

This is a crucial component that decides whether the audio quality will be good or not. It is measured in kHz and is basically the rate at which the sound stream sends the data to the computer over a period of time. The higher the kHz, the better the audio quality will be. Most newer versions of sound cards are 96 kHz and above.

Channels

This is another key feature you must account for before purchasing a sound card for gaming. The choices you get for the channels are 5.1 or 7.1, and both are good for gaming. If you do go for the 7.1 sound card, make sure you have a compatible 7.1 speaker system, so you get the full supreme experience of the sound. 

Quick Take - Best Gaming Sound Cards

Just looking for the three best gaming sound cards? Here they are:

  1. Sound Blaster Z PCI-e
  2. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCI-e 5.1
  3. ASUS XONAR DG

Review of the Best Gaming Sound Cards

Now that we've gone over the basics of a sound card, let's dive into the reviews of the most successful gaming sound cards available in the market today:

Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Beam Forming Microphone

PROS

  • SoundCore 3D Audio with the best possible sound
  • SBX Pro Studio creates unbelievably realistic 3D sounds
  • Optimizations made for better voice chats and conferencing
  • Beamforming microphone reduces noise and delivers clarity
  • Removes echoes and balances sound levels, even if you are away from the microphone

CONS

  • Red light cannot be switched off
  • Windows volume does not control chip volume
  • Unreliable drivers due to compatibility and recognition issues

What Recent Buyers Report

Users were quite impressed with this sound card, as it offers spectacular sounds while gaming and makes sure that you can hear everything with crystal clarity. There are also various settings you can explore, and you can customize the bass and crystallizer according to your preference. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The reason this sound card stands out is because of its highly functional advanced technology and unbeatable features. For the price, this sound card definitely provides everything a true hardcore gamer needs. It gives you the ultimate experience of realistic gaming.

Who Will Use This Most

This sound card is the ideal solution for all your gaming and entertainment needs. It can be used by hardcore gamers, movie enthusiasts, and even for audio conferences because the sound is crystal clear, very realistic, and lifelike. It also balances the distance to provide better quality.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for the best sound card of all time, then this is the one for you. This is a trustworthy sound card used by thousands worldwide and is an impressive addition to your computer. It provides all the features you will need for a fun, entertaining, and realistic gaming experience.

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp

PROS

  • Compatible with 5.1 speaker set ups
  • Multi-channel cinematic quality sound
  • Can be fit quite easily in HTPC computer setup
  • Improves any distortion from the onboard sound chip
  • Can improve the headphone output and provide adequate audio levels

CONS

  • Latency issues for some users
  • Line and mic inputs not available
  • Unable to upgrade some motherboards

What Recent Buyers Report

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.

Why it Stands Out to Us

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.

Who Will Use This Most

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.

Bottom Line

Want the best possible sound for music and entertainment? This sound card will fulfill those desires. It has many different features and incredible performance. It is a great addition to your computer for your gaming needs and provides a true bang for the buck.

Best for the Money:
ASUS XONAR DG

Asus Xonar AE Sound Board

PROS

  • Dolby support for headphones
  • Comes with a low-profile bracket
  • Provides excellent value for the money
  • Supports headphones with over 150 amps
  • Impressive clear sound, especially on headphones

CONS

  • Installation is not easy
  • Does not come with PCI-e slot
  • Sample rate is a maximum of 96 khz 

What Recent Buyers Report

The sound card is a very cheap alternative to the high-end ones and provides the best sound quality for the price. The headphone support is excellent, and you will be unable to differentiate the sound quality of this card versus more expensive ones. Overall, a very impressive device for the computer.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This little card is packed with high-definition 5.1 surround sound and an onboard headphone amplifier. It makes sure the sound is well-balanced and comes across the device successfully with brilliant clarity and bass. It also comes with the GX 2.5 engine for 3D gaming sound.

Who Will Use This Most

This particular model is specifically aimed at gamers, because it comes with the GX 2.5 engine that aims to provide high-quality and realistic 3D sound on the speakers, as well as the headphones. This is a great sound card if you prefer to game with headphones because it has an onboard amp of up to 150 Ohm.

Bottom Line

Finding a sound card that comes at a great price with desirable features is not easy. However, this sound card has impressive performance with great clarity and surround sound. Overall, this simplistic and affordable sound card has the right features to make your gaming more enjoyable.

Best External Sound Card for Gaming:
Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res 130dB

Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res 130dB 32bit/384kHz Gaming DAC, External USB Sound Card with Xamp Headphone Amp, Dolby Digital, 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound, Sidetone/Speaker Control for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo

PROS

  • Sound quality is cinematic and high-quality
  • Offers customization at every step for the user
  • Setup and installation are very simple 
  • Wide compatibility options with different devices
  • Very well-designed with easy control over the hardware

CONS

  • Does not have an internal battery 
  • Sound can only be customized on the PC
  • Comes with a lot of wires and increases clutter

What Recent Buyers Report

Many hardcore gamers found this unit to be impressive and superb in quality and clarity. The device itself is very sleek and good-looking, and is not as heavy as it looks. It amplifies the sound very potently and allows you to catch the smallest details, as the sound is deep and crystal clear. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The incredible features and performance of this model will make you feel like you're experiencing a real-life event. It amplifies sound on the speakers, as well as the headphones individually, and provides excellent and detailed sound with the right highs, lows, and bass. 

Who Will Use This Most

This is a very versatile device that can be used on many different devices. Your audio will instantly be amplified, whether you're using it on an Xbox, PS4, your very own desktop computer, or even if you want to increase the sound on your Nintendo Switch. There are several connectivity options for all of them.

Bottom Line

Looking for an external sound card for gaming? This sound card has an impressive performance with a 7.1 immersive surround sound and outstanding attention to detail. Overall, this is the best external sound card for your gaming devices and will change your gaming experience forever. 

Best USB Sound Card for Gaming:
Creative Sound Blaster Omni Surround

Creative Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1 USB Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Integrated Beam Forming Microphone

PROS

  • Build quality is durable and sleek
  • Features amazing software bundle
  • Can be utilized with almost any device
  • Comes with a built-in dual microphone
  • Most convenient desktop solution for sound

CONS

  • No echo cancellation
  • Warranty is disappointing
  • Sound card automatically defaults to full volume and needs to be rebooted

What Recent Buyers Report

This is an excellent, convenient solution for gamers who do not want to deal with hassles over the installation and setup of a sound card. It is a must-have sound blaster that amplifies the gaming experience and really focuses on the tiniest sound details. Overall, it is an impressive device.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The reason this particular USB sound card stands out is because of its convenience and sleek design. It is also widely compatible with any sort of device and comes with an in-built microphone, which is an added bonus. It further delivers 5.1 surround sound for digital entertainment purposes.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for a USB sound card that has exceptional quality features and great sound quality, then you have come to the right spot. This product aims to amplify your gaming experience and also makes installation and setup a breeze. If you want to upgrade your PC sound, then this is perfect for you.

Bottom Line

You will not find a better USB sound card than this one for gaming. It is equipped with the latest technological features and comes with a built-in microphone for clear audio communication. The 5.1 surround sound also provides enough detail and sound for the best gaming experience.

Why Upgrade Your Gaming Sound Card?

Upgrading your sound card can provide a lot of major benefits for the user. Let's go over some of the main advantages you will experience with the purchase of a new sound card:

Amplified Gaming 

Most AAA games support 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, with some of them even come with 3D sound effects. If your sound card is basic and does not support these functions, you will miss out on the tiniest details and the realistic experience of playing games.

Music & Entertainment 

If you like listening to music on your headphones, chances are your PC is not the best at providing adequate sound quality. A sound card with an in-built headphone amplifier can completely change your sound experience and help you enjoy working or listening to music even more. It will also make movie-watching a cinematic experience for you.

Musician 

For a musician, upgrading the sound card is crucial. It will improve the audio performance of your personal computer, but it will also allow you to use your computer to mix or capture a performance. The sound card will come with audio inputs and outputs, with an additional MIDI port to enhance your sound experience.

What Do I Need To Know Before Buying?

Before buying a sound card, there are several things you must have knowledge about. You must take the following tips into consideration before getting one for yourself:

Interface 

You must make sure your computer allows you to connect the sound card. They are available in both ISA and PCI. Most sound cards are available in PCI form, which is useful for music streaming, movies, and gaming. ISA is cheaper than PCI and does not have the same quality of sound as the PCI sound cards. 

Connections Available 

Make sure you take into consideration the available connections on the sound card. If you are a gamer, you must make sure the sound card has two speaker connections available. If you want a microphone for conferencing or online gaming, make sure the sound card has one, as well. Most sound cards come with a game or MIDI port to connect paddles, joysticks, or consoles, as well. 

Full Duplex 

Most of the advanced sound cards manufactured today are full-duplex and allow the sound cards to play and record the sound at the same exact time. This allows you to communicate with players over the internet, as well as by speakerphone. 

How to Install a Gaming Sound Card

Now that you've gone over the basic considerations of purchasing a sound card, let's look at the steps on how to actually install one into your computer. You can check out the Youtube link below for further visual instructions, but here is a gist of the steps:

1. The PCI is a white slot on the motherboard present in the older desktops, whereas the PCI-e is found in newer motherboards. You must locate this slot on your motherboard so you can put the sound card in.

2. Remove the metal bracket on the back of the case so you have room to put the connectors into the outside of the case.

3. Maneuver the sound card carefully into place, making sure all relevant connectors that stick out beyond the outside of the case go through the slot okay.

4. Push it down carefully into place.

5. Once you're done, reattach the screw, connecting the brackets into the case, and now you're done! Your sound card is installed into the computer.

For further information and instructions, visit this link:

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article was enough for you to gain some insights about sound cards and has helped you in choosing the right one for your needs. If you want the ultimate gaming experience, the sound cards mentioned above will not let you down. Good luck shopping for one!

People Also Ask

In this portion, we will attempt to answer some of your more pressing concerns or queries. If you still have some doubts, it is a good idea to go over these frequently asked questions and answers, so you have a better understanding of sound cards.

How to Check if I Need to Replace My Sound Card?

First, press the Windows-"W", on your keyboard, or go to the menu and type "Sound" into the search bar. Then, click "Change Sound Card Settings". After that, you can select your playback device, and press the "Configure" button. Go over to the "Test" button to playback the audio through your speakers. If the computer is unable to play the sound, the card may need replacement, as it is defective.

How to Check the Sound Card on Windows 7

1. First, press "Windows+W" to go to the taskbar, then type and click "Control Panel", and then "System Maintenance".

2. Press the "Device Manager" button.

3. Click the plus sign or the arrow next to "Sound, Video, and Game Controllers".

4. Right-click on your sound card, and then find "Properties".

5. Cross-check the window's contents with the driver of the sound card's descriptions in the information that is available.

6. On the "General" tab, ensure that the "Device Status" message says, "This device is working properly." 

How to Check the Sound Card on Windows 10

1. First, press "Window+W" to go to the taskbar, then type and click "Control Panel", and then "System Maintenance".

2. Press the "Device Manager" button.

3. Click the plus sign or the arrow next to "Sound, Video, and Game Controllers".

4. Right-click on your sound card, and then find "Properties".

5. Cross-check the window's contents with the driver of the sound card's descriptions in the information that is available.

6. On the "General" tab, ensure that the "Device Status" message says, "This device is working properly." 

How to Find Out What Sound Card I Have?

First, press the Windows key on the left side of the taskbar along with the pause key. A window will pop up, and you have to select "Device Manager" from there. Click on the arrow located next to the "Sound, Video, and Game Controllers". Your sound card will be mentioned on the list over there.

Do You Need a Sound Card When Building a Gaming PC?

No, sound cards aren't necessary when building a computer for gaming. Your motherboard will already have excellent quality sound, and numerous amounts of audio connectors in the sound card aren't really useful if you want to game. It is only beneficial if you want Dolby 7.1 surround sound. 

Do Sound Cards Make a Difference in Gaming?

No, not that much. The audio on motherboards these days handles the gaming audio well enough, and the games releasing nowadays aren't limited to the performance of the processor. They will not run more quickly if a sound card is installed. There isn't a huge difference in latency, either.

Are Onboards Better Than Sound Cards?

Onboards are better than sound cards if you want the ultimate gaming experience. They have a clearer and more potent quality of sound, with attention to the tiniest detail. This will allow you to have a more realistic and better gaming experience with your friends online.

Does the Sound Card Improve Microphone Quality?

Yes, sound cards can affect and improve the microphone quality tremendously. This occurs when you attach an analog microphone to the standard mic port found on your sound card. It will be clearer, and you will be more audible to the other person listening to you.

Does the Sound Card Affect Sound Quality?

Sound cards will improve the sound quality of your system, especially if you have the right sound card compatible with your computer system. It will make the gaming experience far better and more fun. The CPU offloads the sound work, which makes it faster and gives the user better frame-rates while gaming.

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