While superior audio quality is important when it comes to sound cards, you also want to make sure that you don't spend too much money. Onboard sound can be a lot cheaper but an additional sound card is required if you don't want to suffer from poor audio quality. To help with this, we have devised a powerful system to tabulate the very best sound cards from various websites. We look closely at both positive and negative reviews to get a good feel of the superior models available. We then calculate the product ranking using these reviews. Simply put, a favorable review raises the ranking of the product while a negative review lowers it. If you need something that sounds great, start browsing our list of top sound cards below. You are going to find all the information you need to make an informed decision. From the quality of the audio produced by the sound card to the software that it is bundled with, IntelliReview makes it easier for you to find the perfect audio card for your budget. By leveraging the power of the social web, we can offer you an accurate and intelligent list of only the best sound cards for sale.
Pros: Great sound
Cons: No front panel audio connectors
Review: Technology has found its way to provide users with superior sound quality while boosting their desktop's performance. Designed by Creative Labs to cater to specific needs, the Sound Blaster Audigy SE Sound Card gives you the audio experience that is way beyond the standard. The advanced EAX HD 3.0 support allows for a more realistic gaming. The CMSS technology enables the processor to mix stereo content to 7.1 surround sound. Its other features include Smart Volume Management, Bass boost and Audio Clean Up that brings dramatic improvements to the usual. It is covered with 1 year limited warranty and comes bundled with a Creative Media Source software that you can use to manage music, create mp3s, add effects and burn your favorite tracks to a CD. The package contains the Sound card, a User Guide, a Quick Start leaflet, a Creative Software Suite and an Installation CD containing drivers for Windows XP, XP Professional x64 and 2000. The Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE Sound Card will leave you more than pleased because it will make sure that gaming, listening to music and watching movies will never be the same again.
Pros: High fidelity sound, Easy installation
Review: While built-in audio cards are sometimes sufficient for casual use, the Creative Sound Blaster XFi Titanium HD Sound Card is designed to meet specific needs and standards. Whether you're a musician, a gamer or an avid movie fan, it delivers true cinematic experience and stellar performance for your music, games and movies. Although there are cheaper alternatives, it is a great step-up to lower and less expensive models. It is embedded with THX TruStudio PC audio technology for enhanced sound quality and lets you enjoy 5.1 surround sound through DTS and Dolby Digital Live encoding. Its ASIO drivers combined with its high-quality inputs not only provide clearer sound quality during conference and video calls, it also enable musicians to record songs in their highest possible quality and take advantage of exceptional and convenient home studio recording. There are swappable OP-amp sockets for easy upgrade and EAX 5.0 sound effects and 3D positional audio which permit a highly-immersive gaming experience. Issues about the drivers that come with Creative products have also been resolved as the included drivers are now easy to install. It is not compatible with other operating systems but it works perfectly with Windows Vista and Windows 7. The Creative Sound Blaster XFi Titanium HD Sound Card offers outstanding value for your money. When paired with high-quality speakers and headphones, sound quality is noticeably better than your motherboard audio. Overall, the price may be a little steep but the smooth installation and high-fidelity sound make it definitely worth the upgrade.
Pros: 7.1 audio with very high signal-to-noise ratio for excellent clarity, Headphone amplifier, Digital Audio processing software
Cons: No HDMI port, Requires an available 4-pin MOLEX power connector
Review: Treat your ears to the best sounds your computer can make with the ASUS XONAR Essence STX Sound card. The excellent audio processing power in this device is perfect for musicians and audiophiles who demand absolute clarity and thundering dynamics in their music, while, as a nice side bonus, the XONAR's elegant black-and-gold construction tips in a little more style into your computer case. This internal sound card makes use of a spare PCI-E X1 Slot, and will require that you have an available 4-pin MOLEX connector to provide it with power. In return though, you get sheer auditory bliss whether you are listening to music, watching movies, or playing games. With an ASUS AV100 chipset onboard, this sound card produces a Virtual 7.1 Channel environment with 192Kbps sampling. The XONAR STX boasts of a device benchmark of a 124 dB SNR rating, which brings out every little detail that your onboard sound card misses. It appears to cater more to headphones users, as it has an actual built-in headphone amplifier that boosts the sound that it channels into your earphones, as well as an EMI shield that insulates signals and lessens distortion. This sound card comes fully loaded with the best digital audio processing suites on the market. With the ASUS XONAR Essence, you get Dolby Digital Live, Headphone, Virtual Speaker, and Pro-Logic II Technology, which all work in sync to produce a total sound environment. It also enhances on some of your operating system's own sound processing drivers. The back panel of the ASUS XONAR Essence has the connection ports for auxiliary equipment, such as left and right Analog RCA outputs, a pair of 6.30mm jacks, one input and the other output, for headphones and microphones/Line-in devices, and a S/PDIF port that you use for connecting the XONAR Essence to Digital audio devices. The thing we were looking for on the ASUS XONAR Essence STX Sound Card is an HDMI port, and this may very well be the main issue with this sound card. Instead of HDMI, it uses an additional S/PDIF out located on the board itself that you need to connect to a graphics card with that particular functionality, which translates to a bit more time setting up the unit than is really necessary if that particular technology had been available from the outset. For headphone users though, this sound card is a definite easy sell, especially as it works great with high-quality headsets.
Pros: Abundant connectivity options, Easy installation, Compact design
Cons: Not compatible with Mac
Review: The SoundBlaster Xfi by Creative enables you to enhance your audio experience without the complexity of internal sound cards. It incorporates THX TruStudio Pro technology which reproduces every detail of your music and movies and Dolby Digital Live which allows easy connection and helps keep extra cables to a minimum. Thanks to its no-fuss installation, you'll be up and running in no time. Although it is not compatible with Mac systems, this external sound card works seamlessly with Windows 7, Vista and XP. It even comes complete with a Stereo RCA to mini-jack adapter, a USB Cable and an installation CD that will guide you through the set-up. It also offers a wealth of connections including an Optical Digital Output, a Center/Sub Output, a Rear Left & Right Speaker Output and microphone and headphone inputs. Furthermore, it comes bundled with Cyberlink PowerDVD software for watching your favorite movies and ships with aremote for controlling the volume from a distance. It also doesn't require an AC adapter since it is powered directly from your notebook's USB port. In general, the Creative SoundBlaster Xfi makes a worthy replacement to your onboard sound card. The sound it produces suits every kind of music and its ultra compact design makes it ideal for those with limited space on their desk. On top of all these, it provides true surround sound and delivers stellar performance for everyday activities.
Pros: Good sound, Affordable
Cons: Poor drivers, Installation issues on Windows 7 systems, No support for Dolby Digital Live and EAX Advanced HD
Review: For volume boost and sound thats slightly better than your computers onboard audio, the Asus Xonar DS can provide a meaningful difference. It does not support Dolby Digital Live and EAX Advanced HD but it features 7.1 channel sound, DTS Interactive technologies and Asus AV66 High-Performance Sound Processor. To offer gamers the level of intensity that they crave for or for EAX gaming audio, the DS is outfitted with GX2.5 audio engine. Non-gamers can enjoy true Hi-Fi sound with the sound cards 192kHz/24bit playback support or take advantage of the swappable OPamp socket which can only be seen on high-end audio equipment but is now included in the DS. It also comes with perks like 27 Environment Effects, Xear 3D Virtual Speaker Shifter, FlexBass for bass enhancement, VocalFX which provides numerous effects and lets you disguise your real voice, 10 band EQ, Karaoke Functions and Smart Volume Normalizer that keeps the volume at a certain level and offers improved 3D sound. Along with the software CD, you'll be able to get an S/PDIF optical adapter and a low-profile bracket. The Xonar DS poor drivers are one of its major cons, so downloading the newest drivers from their website is the first thing you should do if you plan on getting this sound card. Those who have PCs that are running Windows 7 should also give it a pass as many users reported some crashing issues combined with painful installation when used in the said operating system. With regards to connectivity, its I/O ports include 4 Analog Output Jacks, a 3.5mm RCA jack, an S/PDIF Header and a Front-Panel Header for easy connectivity. The Asus Xonar DS has good build quality, apart from being inexpensive. It may not be as feature-packed as higher priced sound cards but it is a great buy and an affordable solution for those who want to enjoy high fidelity sound and are looking for a simple upgrade to their onboard audio.