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: Excellent quality, Has a front panel connector
Cons: Manual switch to headphones, Plugs are not color coded, Doesn't Support DTS Surround
Review: The Xonar DX uses the Cirrus Logic Oxygen HD audio processor just like any other PC Cards but because it provides very clear playback and a notably excellent audio quality, it has a competitive edge among other brands of the same category. It is complete with Dolby technologies such as Dolby Virtual Speaker for a listening environment simulation, DolbyPro-Logic IIx for processing of stereo audio into a 6.1 or 7.1 output, Dolby Digital Live for home theater and Dolby Headphone for personal use. Not to mention, The DS3D GX 2.0 enhances sound effects, bringing PC gaming to life. Other amazing features include VocalFX which allows you to disguise your voice by changing your pitch, Acoustic Echo Cancellation which helps eliminate up to 40dB speaker echo return for better communication quality, Smart Volume Normalizer which of course normalizes all audio into a constant level, Flexbass for professional bass enhancement, Xear 3D Virtual Speaker Shifter for Virtual 7.1 speaker positioning and Karaoke functions for effects that sounds like the professional machine. It has three years limited warranty coverage and is compatible with Windows OS, like XP and Vista. Delivering 35 times cleaner audio quality, the Xonar DX outruns its competitors in every way possible.
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: 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.
Pros: 7.1 channel surround sound, easy installation
Cons: Less operating system compatibilty
Review: Get your hands on this sound card. You will experience high level, theater quality sound on your PC. Watch videos, listen to music, and play games in comfortable 7.1 channel surround sound. Digital Audio Depth is 24 bits and Max Sampling Rate is 96 kHz. The sound card is a stand-alone audio card. This is a good sound card at a low cost. You will find the installation process as easy as sliding the card into your PC, following the instructions, and going through it according to the wizard. With this card you will increase audio quality while at the same time freeing up computer system resources for other functions and/or projects you need to complete on your PC.
Pros: Small, Plug-n-play installation, Improved audio quality, No drivers required, Affordable
Cons: Blue indicator light blinks constantly, Actual color is slightly different than advertised
Review: The Turtle Beach Amigo II serves many important functions for such a small device. It makes a cheap replacement to your computers broken audio jacks or horrible integrated sound card, and a quick solution to your computers lack of audio ports. Having a headphone output and a mic input, you can listen to music via external speakers or headphones without the humming, static or clicking sound, or record and communicate with family, friends and colleagues more effectively. Sound quality also appears to be improved and louder when using a USB sound adapter like the Amigo II. It owes its enhanced sound quality to its USB digital connection which drops all the unwanted noise caused by other electronics. The improvement in sound may not be noticeable when using cheap speakers and headphones but it is very evident when used with high-end audio equipment. Enjoying high-quality audio is as easy as plugging the device to your computers USB port and connecting your headphones or speakers. No additional drivers are required since it is completely plug-n-play and it works perfectly with various operating systems. The lack of software, however, means that you cant use the equalizer or choose between multiple effects. With regards to construction, the Turtle Beach Amigo II looks very solid, not to mention, extremely portable. You can easily place it into a small pocket, without worrying that it might break or damage the connector. The device is coupled with a few quibbles though that doesnt really affect its functionality but can be annoying to some users. These minor annoyances include its blue indicator light that blinks constantly and its actual color which is slightly different than advertised. That said, dont be surprised if the Amigo II is lighter in color, contrary to whats shown in most of the products photos.