Most people don’t pay enough attention to sound their PC is producing, especially when compared to stress they put on having all those powerful graphics cards, and processors etc.
Yes, those components are important for the overall functionality of your PC, but so is the audio quality of your PC.
Hope you get the point.
So, one of the first steps in achieving HQ audio level on your PC is getting a sound card, apart from getting a good quality headset, or speakers set.
Sound card is a PC component that produces sound which is to be used further by speakers, or headsets.
Usually a PC doesn’t require a dedicated sound card to produce sound, on-board audio card does that job.
But many times, PC users complain about distortion on their headsets or speakers while using them.
This is most commonly due to the interference in those audio boards from electrical signals produced by the all the other components of your PC.
This problem can easily be countered by using a dedicated sound card, and that dedicated sound board also makes your PC produce better sound with goodies like surround sound and EQ settings etc.
Best Sound Card 2020 Buying Guide
- Creative Sound Blaster Z (Best Sound Card For Gaming)
- ASUS Xonar DSX PCIe 7.1 (Best Internal Sound Card 2020)
- Asus Xonar GHX PCIe GX2.5
- Creative Sound Blaster Omni
- HT OMEGA CLARO II (Best Sound Card For Surround Sound)
Another advantage of having these cards is that they relieve your CPU for sound-production related tasks, which helps the CPU in doing other tasks efficiently.
Creative Sound Blaster Z: Check Price On Amazon
Best Sound Card For Gaming
Creative has a long history of some of the best audio equipment that one could think of. Everything ranging from headphones, earphones, to soundcards, and even some gaming peripherals.
The company is known for releasing the products that are catered towards all audiences. One of their most famous series is the Sound Blaster lineup of products that aim at high end products that do not break the bank.
Today, we are reviewing the Sound Blaster Z; one of the higher end offerings from Creative. Does it hold up to its legendary name? Well, there are a lot of promising aspects in this sound card. Let’s look at how it fairs.
For starters, the sound card comes with a fairly decent set of features; it all becomes evident when you plug it in, and install the software that is loaded with all sorts of features and a granular control.
Although Creative has advertise it as a card for gamers, even if you are a music lover, you are going to enjoy the sheer performance that you get from this card.
The software gives you an 11 band equalizer that allows you to further tweak the sound just the way you want. As far as the driving power is concerned, I was surprised to see that the sound card is able to drive the higher end headphones with great ease.
The sound card also comes with a quality microphone input for even better control, and Creative’s software remains one of the best there is.
There are a few issues though; the software can take some fairly decent memory if you are low on the memory part in your computer. There are a few presets that are not really needed, and the headphone gain can be a bit higher than what you would prefer.
Overall, the Creative Sound Blaster Z is more than capable of delivering a great performance for those who are looking forward to get a good performance without spending a lot of money,
ASUS Xonar DSX PCIe 7.1: Check Price On Amazon
Best Internal Sound Card 2020
When it comes to excellent hardware, Asus is a company that does not need an introduction.
The company is responsible for delivering excellent hardware throughout the timeframe. Whether you are a gamer who is looking for cheap hardware, or a prosumer who does not care about the price, you can easily buy whatever hardware you want, and get great performance across the board.
Today, we are looking at the ASUS Xonar DSX PCIe 7.1; one of the higher end offerings from Asus, and for all the good reasons, the sound card is excellent.
You get all the excellent range of I/O ports, the design is low profile, so it can fit even in the SFF PC builds with great ease. It is Dolby Certified, and on top of that, it has great encoding features for tracks.
The software controls are excellent, and the overall sound quality is excellent. You even have a front panel audio connector, which is a rarity in these soundcards. The performance across all media types is excellent and works without a hitch.
There are a few misses though. Although the sound is great on all fronts, if you are going to go for gaming, you might want to tweak the sound a bit more to get the best audio experience.
Additionally, another important thing that you must know about this sound card is that it requires supplementary power to work properly, which is not an issue because most modern computers can easily deliver that.
Overall, the ASUS Xonar DSX PCIe 7.1 is one of the best sound cards available in the market for all the right reasons. Excellent sound quality, low profile design, and a bucket full of features are just few standout features that you are going to get from this sound card.
Asus Xonar GHX PCIe GX2.5: Check Price On Amazon
Before proceeding any further, the one thing that I must make clear here is that Asus Xonar GHX is not a new sound card, it has been in the market for some time, but despite being an older player in town, it still offers great performance.
To begin with, it comes in the PCIe interface which means that pretty much any motherboard can house this sound card without any issue, it also has multiple options as far as the decibel levels of sound are concerned, and you can easily go from lower end to higher end model with ease.
Additionally, the best thing about this sound card is that it is plug and play; however, in order to make full use of the audio prowess of this card, you can install the drivers, and the sound suite with it.
The one thing that surprised me the most is that the sound card can easily drive moderately powerful headphones. During my testing, it had absolutely no issue driving the Audio-Technica ATH M50x, as well as Sennheiser HD598s. Both headphones worked perfectly.
On the downside, there are a few things that I must mention; being an older sound card, there is a lack of properly updated drivers for windows. Additionally, the sound card’s design is pretty basic, and while the black PCB does help a lot, there is no shroud whatsoever.
Last but not the least, the sound card is on the longer side, which might be an issue when installing it in low profile builds.
Overall, the Asus Xonar GHX PCIe GX2.5 is a great option for those who are looking for a sound card that delivers exceptional sound quality without sacrificing on anything else.
Sure, you are not getting any of the fancier features that might be available in other sound cards, but from the performance perspective, this is one of the best, if not the best sounding and performing sound card available in the market.
- Can drive moderately powerful headphones.
- Easy to install and use.
- Black PCB makes things look neat and clean.
- A plethora of input options.
- The card is on the longer side.
- Driver support might end soon.
Creative Sound Blaster Omni: Check Price On Amazon
Creative Sound Blaster Omni is one of the best, and most accessible sound cards ever released by Creative. One of the many good things about this sound card is that it is affordable, and offers a lot of features to different users.
It is tailored towards every user type thanks to its amazing software that comes with it. With that out of the way, let’s dive in and see what the Creative Sound Blaster Omni has to offer.
To start with the good things, the sound quality is exceptional in the given price range, I really don’t think you can get a better audio quality in this price range.
The build quality is another great thing about this sound card, and on top of that, the star of the show is the software that Creative bundles with their sound cards. It is by far, one of the most feature rich, and complete software that you can find, and the best thing is that it works exceptionally well in all cases.
The headphone amplifier is pretty decent, and can give you a pretty great sound as well. You can use the sound card with a large number of devices, and with great ease, so you really do not have to worry about anything.
The price range of this sound card is also great, allowing for a great audience to be able to afford it.
The only downside for me is the availability as the sound card might be harder to find in some markets.
Overall, the Creative Sound Blaster Omni is among the best sound cards available in the market with exceptional sound quality, great value for money, and a software suite that is complete for everyone.
On top of everything else, the sound card is also great for pretty much any use case, so you really won’t have any issues with it either.
- Great for all sorts of users.
- One of the best software suites you can find.
- Wide range of devices are supported.
- Easy to use for beginners.
HT OMEGA CLARO II: Check Price On Amazon
Best Sound Card For Surround Sound
The last sound card on our list is by a company called HT OMEGA, and while many have not heard about them in the modern day and age, they have been around for a long time.
As a matter of fact, I have use the original HT OMEGA CLARO back in the day, and was absolutely in love with how that sound card performed.
Years later, I am reviewing the HT OMEGA CLARO II, and while this certainly looks miles different, and better than the original, the one thing that I am sure is the same is the consistency.
To start with, the good news is that this 5.1 channel sound card gives you a ton of features. It comes with the industry leading CMI8788 audio processor, and has support for all the higher end features that most sound cards fail to deliver.
Even if you are looking to drive high end headphones, this sound card would allow you to do so without any issues whatsoever. Installing the card is also an easy process, and you won’t be needing any confusing installations of drivers.
Additionally, the sound card does not require any supplementary power either, and will be powering through the PCI-e slot on your motherboard.
On the flipside, there is not a lot to hate or dislike about the HT OMEGA CLARO II. However, I must mention that it is a niche product, and much more suitable for people who want the best audio experience regardless of the price they are paying.
Lastly, you might find the sound card’s height a bit too tall, something that can be an issue for people with smaller, SFF builds, but considering the rarity and use of those builds, this is not a deal breaker.
Overall, the HT OMEGA CLARO II is one of the best PCI-e sound cards available in the market. With a powerful image process backing it, the sound card delivers exceptional sound performance.
Whether you are a gamer, a movie watcher, or a music lover, the sound card is going to deliver excellent performance through and through without breaking a sweat.
DO I Need A Sound Card
You can think of the whole dedicated sound card thing like PC graphics. You can play light games through Intel’s integrated graphics, but for those heavy-graphics games, you need a dedicated graphics card.
The same goes for sound cards.
For ordinary people, there isn’t much benefit buying a full-fledged separate sound card. But if you’re into sound production, or want audiophile experience on your PC, a dedicated sound card is necessary.
Things To Look For In A Sound Card
Now we’ll look into some common things you need to consider before going for a particular sound card.
Below are some of the specs found in a typical sound card.
In terms of audio channels, sound cards come in 5.1 and 7.1 versions. Both of these versions are good, but in case you’re going for a 7.1 sound card, make sure that your gaming headset and speakers set have 7.1 surround sound ability to utilize that feature.
The next one is sample rate, and it tells the number of times a sound stream sends data over a specific period. It’s measured in Hertz (Hz). In most cases, more sample rate means better audio.
Total Harmonic Distortion is the measurement of sound distortion and lower THD is always better. Ideally it should be zero and some high-end sound cards label their THD as low as 0.01%.
That being said, this is just one aspect to compare different sound cards, and won’t necessarily make one make sound better.
The last one is Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). As its name suggested, it’s the ratio and between the signal level and the noise level. In digital terms, audio noise is the unwanted signal.
So, High SNR mean more useful information can be sent over useless information. This mean a sound card of 90 dB produces the level of audio signals 90 dB higher than the level of noise.
Internal vs External Sound Card
Another problems people face is they don’t know whether to buy an external sound card or an internal one.
Both of them have their own strength and weaknesses, and it’s up do you to decide which one is suitable for you.
External sound cards are attached to the PC through USB port which makes them have more signal-latency than internal sound cards.
Internal sound cards, on the other hand, don’t give you as many connectivity options as external ones do, probably because they’re plugged into the PCIe slot of the motherboard (at the backside of your computer).
If you’re interested on external sound cards, then you should consider some other factors as well, like their power consumption, and whether they’re with or without battery.
One thing you should remember, however, is that the external sound cards having their own battery are usually on a bulkier side.
Another difference is the price. Internal audio cards generally cost less than external ones.