Top Computer Sound Cards by Consumer Reviewers

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.

Ranking Updated: June 2014
TIPS
  1. If you are planning to get a sound card, make sure that your motherboard has a free PCI slot, as most sound cards use this interface. Some models may use a PCI-E x1 slot, though. There are also several sound cards that rely solely on a USB port.
  2. Check if your sound card has a MIDI input port and an S/PDIF output if you plan to create music using an electronic keyboard.
  3. Some sound cards have four to seven individual inputs for surround audio as well as a microphone port.
  4. Consider models with 3D audio acceleration to enjoy an enhanced audio experience.
  • Syba Multimedia USB Stereo Audio Adapter (1 x Type A Male USB - 2 x Mini-phone Female Audio)
  • Asus Xonar DX 7.1 Channel PCI Express Sound Card (AV100 - PCI Express - 24 bit - Internal)

    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.

  • Creative Labs SharePoint Portal Server - License & Software Assurance - 1 User CAL (Academic - PC - All Languages)

    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.

  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Zx PCIe Sound Card (PCI Express x1 - 24 bit - Internal)

    Creative Labs Sound Blaster Zx PCIe Sound Card (PCI Express x1 - 24 bit - Internal)

    264 Reviews

    Consumer Passion : Most passionate
    Popularity : Most popular
    Studica  Price: $149.95  See It
     Price: $139.32  See It
    Newegg.com  Price: $129.99  See It
  • Asus Xonar Essence STX Sound Card

    Asus Xonar Essence STX Sound Card

    336 Reviews

    Consumer Passion : Most passionate
    Popularity : Most popular
     Price: $201.84  See It
    ValleySeek Store  Price: $193.32  See It
    Newegg.com  Price: $179.89  See It

    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.

  • Creative Labs X-Fi 70SB109500000 External Sound Box (USB - External)

    Creative Labs X-Fi 70SB109500000 External Sound Box (USB - External)

    273 Reviews

    Consumer Passion : Most passionate
    Popularity : Most popular
    PROVANTAGE  Price: $48.16  See It
    ValleySeek Store  Price: $40.55  See It
     Price: $50.60  See It

    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.

  • Turtle Beach TBS-1150 Micro II USB Sound Card (USB)

    Turtle Beach TBS-1150 Micro II USB Sound Card (USB)

    226 Reviews

    Consumer Passion : Most passionate
    Popularity : Very popular
    ValleySeek Store  Price: $22.18  See It
    Newegg.com  Price: $29.99  See It
    Mwave.com  Price: $23.64  See It
  • Asus Xonar D1 Sound Card (AV100 - PCI - 24 bit - Internal)
  • Asus Xonar DS 7.1 Channels Sound Card (AV200 - PCI - 24 bit - Internal)

    Asus Xonar DS 7.1 Channels Sound Card (AV200 - PCI - 24 bit - Internal)

    187 Reviews

    Consumer Passion : Very passionate
    Popularity : Mildly popular
     Price: $56.49  See It
    Studica  Price: $49.99  See It
    Mwave.com  Price: $52.05  See It

    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 that’s slightly better than your computer’s 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 card’s 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.

  • Best XtremeSound PCI 7.1 Channels 16 bit Sound Card (PCI - 16 bit - Internal)

    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.