13 best sound cards

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

The sound card in the computer converts the digital signal to analog. The first is files. Collections of songs in MP3, FLAC and other formats; audio stream from streaming services; system sound notifications and everything else. The analog signal is necessary for the connected speakers to work and is simply a current with a specific frequency and amplitude.

Usually sound cards are already integrated into the motherboard. But such devices are definitely not suitable for audiophiles, home studio owners, or simply wanting to connect more than one speaker to a computer.

Especially for such people, we have compiled a rating of 13 models of the best sound cards that will significantly improve the performance of your computer's audio.

Rating of the best sound cards

Nomination a place Name of product price
Best budget sound cards 1 Asus Xonar DX RUB 5,137
2 Creative Sound Blaster Audi gy Rx RUB 4,080
3 Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 RUB 2,549
The best internal sound cards in terms of price-performance ratio 1 Asus Xonar Essence STX II RUB 14,830
2 Creative Sound Blaster Z RUB 5,650
3 ESI MAYA44 RUB 9,599
4 Asus Xonar D2 / PM RUB 6,895
Best inexpensive external sound cards 1 Asus Xonar U7 RUB 7 591
2 Steinberg UR12 RUB 6,675
3 Creative X-Fi HD RUB 5,920
The best external premium sound cards 1 RME Fireface UCX RUB 93,028
2 Creative Sound Blaster X7 RUB 27 680
3 Roland Mobile UA RUB 22 390

Best budget sound cards

Asus Xonar DX

Rating: 4.8

Asus Xonar DX

Why first place: Suitable for a 7.1 audio system and has a good DAC.

For whom: Owners of media systems, home studios.

Description: This sound card is a good solution for both playing and recording music. It is equipped with 24-bit DACs and ADCs that support 192 kHz decoding. In addition, due to the well-designed layout of the elements on the board, the sound card has a signal-to-noise ratio of 112 dB.

The board has four output connectors, two channels each. Peripheral equipment can also be connected via an optical interface. There is also a microphone input, which is also two-channel. Additionally, the sound card supports the ASIO v. 2.0.

Advantages

  • DAC and ADC of the same level;

  • Differs in transparent sound;

  • Equalizer is configured via bundled software;

disadvantages

  • To work with Windows 10 an unofficial driver is required;

  • The amplifier will not cope with high impedance headphones;

  • For adequate operation, additional external power is required;

Creative Sound Blaster Audi gy Rx

Rating: 4.7

Creative Sound Blaster Audi gy Rx

Why Second Place: Lower SNR than the leader.

For whom: Gamers and home studio owners, as the device is equipped with two analog inputs.

Description: This sound card is designed for both playback and recording. For high-quality audio output, it features a 24-bit DAC with a limit clock rate when converting 2-channel audio to 192 kHz. For recording, it is equipped with two analog (two-channel) inputs and a separate ATP. In addition, the device has a discrete headphone amplifier capable of driving even 600-ohm speakers. The board design provides a signal to noise ratio of 106 dB.

We should also mention that it supports the sound virtualization technology in the gameplay EAX v.4.

Advantages

  • Possibility of detailed sound tuning;

  • Discrete headphone amplifier;

  • Sound virtualization in computer games;

disadvantages

  • Minor latency in the ASIO interface;

  • No color differentiation of connectors;

  • Complicated driver configuration;

Asus Xonar HDAV1.3

Rating: 4.6

Asus Xonar HDAV1.3

Why third place: Only two analog connectors for connecting peripheral equipment.

For whom: Owners of Hi-End speakers or headphones, people with a TV connected to a computer.

Description: This is one of the cheapest Hi-End sound cards. The 1796's proprietary 24-bit DAC is capable of operating at 192 kHz, even with multi-streaming playback. The design of the sound card provides a signal-to-noise ratio of 120 dB.

The sound card is equipped with a special chip to enhance digital sound over HDMI, but this requires communication with a compatible HDMI receiver. Sound card driver emulates EAX v.5 for surround sound in games.

Advantages

  • Low price with high quality;

  • Distributes surround sound well across channels;

  • Stable software;

disadvantages

  • No discrete headphone amplifier

  • On some configurations, the driver does not automatically change sampling;

  • Improves HDMI digital signal not well enough;

The best internal sound cards in terms of price-performance ratio

Asus Xonar Essence STX II

Rating: 4.9

Asus Xonar Essence STX II

Why first place: Supports Windows 10, full sound 7.1.

For whom: For users of audio systems with amplifiers or Hi-End class headphones.

Description: This sound card is intended for beginner music lovers with equipment of the middle or 'top-middle' class. Its design includes 24-bit DACs and ADCs, proprietary Muses amplifiers and Cirrus Logic chips for quality sound. The on-board sampling provides a signal-to-noise ratio of 124 dB.

The board design includes four dual-channel analog outputs with 6.3mm jacks, one input and one coaxial port for digital equipment. Recommended for use with external MOLEX power supply.

Advantages

  • Discrete amplifier for high impedance headphones;

  • Convenient driver and configuration software;

  • Discretized wiring without pickup;

disadvantages

  • A 6.5mm connector is used to connect equipment;

  • Heats up noticeably;

  • Needs additional food;

Creative Sound Blaster Z

Rating: 4.8

Creative Sound Blaster Z

Why the second place: Orientation not on hardware, but on proprietary technologies, and a lower signal-to-noise ratio than the leader of the rating.

For whom: Users of medium and budget equipment, owners of home studios.

Description: In this sound card, the main rate is made on proprietary sound technologies. So, SBX Pro Studio is responsible for volumetric audio effects; CrystalVoice improves voice capture, including in audio chats; Dolby and DTS create surround and rich sound. A proprietary 24-bit Sound Core3D chip with a maximum stereo frequency of 192 kHz is used to process the digital stream. The arrangement of the elements on the board provides a signal-to-noise ratio of 116 dB.

The design of the card includes three analog outputs and one input, each with two channels. Supports surround sound technology in EAX v.5 games.

Advantages

  • There is a separate headphone amplifier 'swinging' high impedance models;

  • Complete software adjusts all sound parameters;

  • Includes noise-canceling directional microphone;

disadvantages

  • Bright, eye-catching lighting;

  • The driver does not communicate with the rest of the software on the computer;

  • Outdated Recoon3D chip;

ESI MAYA44

Rating: 4.8

ESI MAYA44

Why third place: The card is for sound recording, not playback.

For whom: Owners of home and semi-professional studios.

Description: This sound card is equipped with a powerful 24-bit 96 kHz ADC, which provides clear and detailed audio recording. A separate 24-bit 192 kHz DAC is used for playback. Both chips provide 108 dB signal-to-noise ratio and similar dynamic range thanks to the on-board sampled layout.

The chip for processing input audio is equipped with support for phantom power, which allows you to connect to studio-grade microphones. In addition, there is a balanced input channel.

Advantages

  • Copes with recording instruments;

  • Simple and intuitive control through the complete software;

  • Instrument preamplifier built in;

disadvantages

  • Inadequate operation of drivers with some operating systems;

  • No separate MIDI port

  • No full XLR support;

Asus Xonar D2 / PM

Rating: 4.7

Asus Xonar D2 / PM

Why fourth place: No headphone amplifier – but cheaper than other models in the ranking.

Who's it for: For Audi o-CD collection owners and home users.

Description: This card is suitable for turning your home computer into a multimedia center. The device is equipped with a 24-bit DAC with a maximum multichannel clock rate of 192 kHz. Supports Dolby and DTS technologies, creating a surround sound for movies and music.

The specially sampled layout produces a signal-to-noise ratio of 118 dB. Dolby effects for headphones and virtual speakers are supported. And ALT technology creates a legal copy of DRM-protected materials for digitizing CDs.

Advantages

  • Clean, unimproved sound;

  • Powerful embedded chips;

  • Suitable for connecting 7.1 stereo systems;

disadvantages

  • Limited software compatibility with modern operating systems;

  • There is no automatic determination of the number of channels of the reproduced sound;

  • Not very good for sound recording;

Best inexpensive external sound cards

Asus Xonar U7

Rating: 4.8

Asus Xonar U7

Why First Place: 7.1 Support, Dolby and Discrete Headphone Amplifier.

For whom: For gamers and those who want to create a home media center.

Description: This card is suitable for creating a home media center based on a multimedia or gaming computer. It is equipped with a 24-bit Cirrus Logic DAC with a maximum clock rate of 192 kHz and supports connection of a 7.1 stereo system. It also includes a discrete headphone amplifier. The sound card supports Dolby technologies (Home Theater v4 edition) and has a signal-to-noise ratio of 114 dB.

Separately, the sound card is equipped with a sensitivity level control for the connected microphone. There is also a special disc for adjusting the playback volume.

Advantages

  • Convenient design with controls;

  • Support for Dolby technologies;

  • Open, transparent sound;

disadvantages

  • Not very durable;

  • It is recommended to use third-party drivers for detailed settings;

  • Doesn't work well with alternative operating systems;

Steinberg UR12

Rating: 4.7

Steinberg UR12

Why the second place: Outputs – only unbalanced line level and for headphones. But this is a map and not to be played.

For whom: For musicians and home studio owners.

Description: Unlike the previous model in the ranking, this sound card is designed exclusively for recording music. Of course, you can connect to it both a stereo system through the line-out and headphones through a 3.5 mm jack, but using it for playback will be a waste of money.

The sound card is for recording. To do this, it is equipped with a balanced microphone input with support for phantom power up to +48 V and a preamplifier. There is also an unbalanced HI-Z input for connecting an electric guitar.

The chip is 24-bit with a maximum clock rate of 192 kHz.

Advantages

  • Ideal for recording instruments;

  • Good sound;

  • Russified Cubase AI included;

disadvantages

  • The phantom power switch is inconveniently located;

  • Noises at high gain;

  • Few indicators;

Creative X-Fi HD

Rating: 4.6

Creative X-Fi HD

Why third place: The lowest rated DAC / ADC clock frequency.

For whom: For those who want to create a home media center and owners of vinyl players.

Description: This sound card is specially designed for fast and easy home media center deployment. It, like other models from Creative Sound, supports SBX Pro Studio spatial reproduction technology, which provides realistic and high-quality sound. In addition, this sound card is equipped with a headphone amplifier, thanks to which high-impedance models can be connected to it; and a phono stage for communication with a vinyl turntable.

The built-in 24-bit DAC / ADC has a maximum clock frequency of 96 kHz, and the sound card design itself provides a signal-to-noise ratio of 114 dB.

Advantages

  • Convenient design;

  • Supports optical connection (input and output);

  • Easy connection;

disadvantages

  • Unsuccessful software with a poorly designed equalizer;

  • No Hi-Res audio support;

  • Overprice;

The best premium external sound cards

RME Fireface UCX

Rating: 4.9

RME Fireface UCX

Why First Place: Studio or even concert grade sound card.

For whom: For owners of semi-professional, professional studios, concert venues.

Description: This audio interface can be connected to up to 36 channels simultaneously – 18 input and output channels. All of them support ASIO Direct Monitoring mode. Input channels can be recorded individually.

The installed 24-bit DACs / ADCs operate at 192 kHz (Hi-Res audio) and have a dynamic range of 114 dBA. The latency is sub-milliseconds, which allows real-time operation.

The sound card is equipped with two discrete microphone and instrument preamps that provide phantom power. They use Micstasy technology for high quality recording.

Advantages

  • High-end DAC and ADC;

  • Expandable functionality due to the complete Total Mix software;

  • Stable work;

disadvantages

  • Few physical controls;

  • Difficulty in setting up for inexperienced producers;

  • Inconvenient bundled software for configuration;

Creative Sound Blaster X7

Rating: 4.8

Creative Sound Blaster X7

Why second place: Compact and functional audio receiver, but with lower DAC frequency than the leader of the rating.

For whom: For those who want to create a full-fledged media center at home.

Description: This is not really a sound card. It is rather a full-fledged audio receiver that can receive a signal not only from a computer, but also from mobile devices. The stream is converted by a 24-bit DAC with a stereo conversion frequency of 192 kHz (with multi-channel audio it drops) and a signal-to-noise ratio of 127 dB.

The audio receiver is equipped with two built-in 35-watt amplifiers and support for Dolby Digital technology. The device has two independent mic jacks with preamps, so you can connect high-impedance models to it.

USB is used for communication with the computer and power supply. The incoming signal can come via both analog and optical digital interfaces.

Advantages

  • Built-in amplifiers for speakers and headphones;

  • Hi-Fi level components;

  • Work in the audio receiver mode;

disadvantages

  • Unstable operation of Windows – drivers;

  • High frequencies are not clear enough;

  • There is no full 7.1 and no DTS;

Roland Mobile UA

Rating: 4.8

Roland Mobile UA

Why third place: Minimum connectors, but ultra-compact.

For whom: For home use.

Description: This is one of the smallest audio interfaces in the ranking. Unfortunately, due to its compact size, it has a small number of connectors. The input interface is USB only. But this sound card is equipped with a proprietary Hi-Res-chip – 32-bit, with a maximum clock frequency of 352.8 kHz! The dynamic range is 115 dB.

It is also equipped with two output connectors. The first is for headphones, with a separate amplifier. The second is a linear one, to which you can connect another pair of headphones.

In addition, the audio interface supports ASIO, DSD (including playback without conversion) and Core Audi o.

Advantages

  • Works in DAW;

  • Ultra-compact dimensions;

  • Natural, natural sound;

disadvantages

  • Relatively high price;

  • Weak amplifier for high impedance studio-grade headphones;

  • Few connectors;


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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