Who doesn’t want that extra thrill while gaming? And trust me, a great sound card can definitely do that! Learn why you must have a gaming sound card and choose from our list of best sound cards for gaming in 2018! Ready for it? Let’s go.
Not many people really care about a sound card, in fact most of them are not even aware of the fact that something like that exists.
It is not actually their fault, the problem is the integrated sound card that comes with the motherboard serves the purpose normally. But after reading this you’d be surprised to know what difference can high-quality dedicated sound (be it internal or external) can make to PC especially for gaming!
Before we go into detailed review of the each sound card, take a look at the best gaming sound cards of 2018 including both internal and external variants.
Top 10 Best Sound Cards for Gaming 2018
Sound Cards 2018
|Latest Price||Type / Port|
|Creative Sound Blaster Z||Internal / PCIe|
|Asus STRIX Soar||Internal / PCIe|
|Asus Essence STX II 7.1||Internal / PCIe|
Claro II 7.1
|Internal / PCIe|
|Creative Sound Blaster
|Internal / PCIe|
|Creative Sound Blaster
|External / USB 2.0|
|Asus Xonar DGX||Internal / PCIe|
|Creative Sound Blaster
|Internal / PCIe|
|Asus Xonar U7||External / USB 2.0|
|Sewell Direct Sound Box||External / USB 2.0|
Why You Must Buy A Sound Card for Gaming?
That’s a pretty obvious question because it’s not very common to have a separate sound card installed. To understand what a separate sound card can offer, you need to know what does a sound card do.
Basically, the motherboard and CPU processes everything. From the graphics, RAM, Hard drive and all other important components and the SOUND too. Don’t you think that’s too much to handle? Especially, when you are playing heavy duty games.
Another point to notice is that the onboard sound solutions can be quite noisy because of the “Radio Frequency Interference”.
Enters a dedicated sound card. It works as a companion to your motherboard and reduces the amount of processing that your motherboard does. A sound card manages all the audio output / input and frees the CPU so that it can do other processing. You know this extra CPU power gonna improve your gaming performance too!
A separate sound card also reduces the RFI and produces powerful and noise-free audio. Not only that, you will get more slots for multiple speakers and microphone too.
Sound cards comes in two types – External which can be plugged in via USB, and, Internal sound cards are placed via PCI / PCIe Slot.
Most of the sound cards for gaming comes with standalone software where you can tune the performance even further for the best audio experience while you slay some dragons or destroy heavy tanks.
Find out more about working of sound cards on Wikipedia.
Now that you know what benefits that can a gaming sound card can offer, It’s time to choose one of the best! Read the detailed reviews of each sound card and decide yourself.
Best Internal Sound Cards for Gaming 2018
Talking about Internal sound cards, below are our recommendations of best internal gaming sound cards especially gamers. Even if you don’t play much games, these will definitely tempt you to play some!
1. Creative Sound Blaster Z Sound Card Review
Creative Labs is not a new name when it comes to sound card. In fact, they were the first to introduce sound card to the PC market back in the days. Their most popular range is named ‘Sound Blaster’ and the one of their masterpiece from the same series is what we are talking about – Creative Sound Blaster Z.
With stunning looks and powerful technology, Sound Blaster Z is definitely something you can only expect from Creative. It has compact design measuring just below 5 inches in length and can be connected to the PCIe x1 slot of your motherboard.
The standalone software that controls this sound device has a plethora of features including necessary drivers. Though, when use with some odd PCs and OS, there could be some drivers issues.
2. Asus Strix SOAR Sound Card Review
Asus is a tech giant that makes almost everything related to computers and recognized for the quality it delivers. Asus’s Strix SOAR sound card is a solid performer and comes with a lot of features that makes it one of our personal favorite in this list of best sound card for gaming in 2018.
Strix SOAR has a sturdy build and a dual-colored black and orange design makes it a perfect fit for gamers. It is an internal sound card which you can plug in to the PCIe x1 port.
You will be surprised to know the frequency range it offers. Asus Strix SOAR has frequency response range of 10-48,000 making it capable of producing even the lowest bass and the highest pitch sound from the games you play.
The only thing that puts is on the second place is that it requires an additional 6-pin power input otherwise it’s pretty impressive sound card.
3. Asus Essence STX II 7.1
The next one of our list of best internal sound cards is another one from Asus but from a different range called Essence series completely targeting high audio performance.
STX II 7.1 owns an okayish look as far as hardware is concerned. It offers cutting edge hi-fi audio output and a 124db signal-to-noise ratio producing high quality audio output.
Also, this sound card has it own heat sink so forget about the excessive heating while playing games that hog heaps of resources. It also includes a daughterboard that enables 7.1 channel output.
Talking about the downsides, the price band is a little higher but again if you want good quality, you need to have deep packets, you know.
4. HT Omega Claro II 7.1 Sound Card Review
If you are looking for sound cards just for an awesome surround sound experience, we bet no many on this list will give you that better than HT Omega Clare II 7.1.
HT Omega is comparatively a new entrant in the audio components market (founded in 2006), but they are making some great quality products. And, HT Omega Claro II 7.1 sound card is one such product.
Claro II provides a crystal clear audio with 7.1 channel surround sound output. An additional AD8620BR op-amp is also integrated to provide enhanced audio playback.
Though it is advertised by the company that it supports all major operating systems and motherboards but you may face some implication if you are Linux user.
5. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy Fx Sound Card Reveiw
To compete with Asus’s low budget sound card, Creative introduced Sound Blaster Audigy Fx which offers amazing features and sound quality; still not being too harsh on your pockets.
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX is budget soundcard for gamers (who are broke, lol :P). It has a 5.1 channel sound output but supports EAX in Windows PCs. Another plus point with this is that Audigy FX uses the same SBX Pro Studio technology used in Sound Blaster Z.
Talking about specifications, it has a standard 192kHz/24-bit stereo direct audio fidelity along with a signal-to-noise ratio of 106dB and a powerful headphone jack especially for gamers.
A slight downside being a budget sound card, there is no EMI shield available with this one. If this is your first time with discrete sound cards, then you must go with Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX. Great Audio experience in an inexpensive package is guaranteed.
6. Asus Xonar DGX Sound Card Review
Well, if you are really low on budget and cannot afford the above three gaming sound cards, then Asus Xonar DGX is totally a great choice for you. Priced below $50 and producing a satisfying audio output, this the best budget sound card of 2018.
Don’t think that because of the low cost it lacks features. Xonar DGX sound card has 105dB SnR and a C-Media CMI8786 audio processor. A good range of frequency response (10-48,000) along with three analog audio jacks and a microphone jack makes is a complete solid sound solution for PC gamers!
But again when the budget is low, there are some definite compromises. This sound card lacks EMI shielding which makes it a little vulnerable to noise.
7. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy RX Sound Card Review
Creative’s Sound Blaster Audigy Rx is one of the most popular sound cards for gaming. Don’t be fooled by its old fashioned basic design, this internal sound card has a lot of impressive features to offer.
With the premium Sound Blaster quality at 192kHz/24-bit, true 7.1 channel Surround Sound and a dedicated 600 ohm amp for headphones, Audigy Rx is best sound card in it’s class when it comes to gaming.
To our surprise, this sound card gives optimal performance with EAX technologies too.
The only word of caution for this sound card is the driver support. Though, the company promises it’s compatibility with all the recent Windows versions but a few issues are reported in some cases.
Best External Sound Cards for Gaming 2018
Unlike, the Internal sound cards, an External Sound card basically a plug and play hardware. It substantially improves the audio output and provides better audio experience.
You have already read that all the Internal sound cards work with a PCIe x1 port. In case, your motherboard does not have a PCIe port, than only an External sound card can help you improve your game.
Check out list of best External Sound cards for gaming that you can buy in 2018.
1. Creative Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 Review
Creative leads when it comes to sound cards whether it is internal or external. The Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 is an aesthetically pleasing external sound card for gaming that offers impressive sound quality.
Being a sound card under $100, Omni 5.1 is slightly more expensive than others but comes with all the necessary accessories you will need to start things up.
Omni 5.1 runs on the same software suite used in the internal Creative sound card mentioned in the section above. The plus points are the EAX support and Scout Mode which combine to give a great in-game audio performance.
2. Asus Xonar U7 Sound Card Review
Asus Xonar U7 Sound CardAsus is not very far behind in the game of external sound cards. The Asus Xonar U7 is probably the best external sound card that offers 7.1 channel audio output.
Xonar U7 has all the specifications that you can find in the most high-end sound cards available. From 7.1 surround support, 114 dB SnR, Dolby Home Theatre V4 and C-media 6632A audio processor to a nice curvy look, Asus has bundled everything in this one.
Also, the headphones jack is equipped with a dedicated Cirrus Logic CS4398 2-channel DAC to further improve the audio quality while using headsets or earbuds.
Downside? Well, you wont get any better performing sound card under $100. The only thing to know about this, you have to deal with a lot of drivers to have all the features of Asus Xonar U7 working for you.
3. Sewell Direct Sound Box Review
Well, this one is the last entry on our list of best sound cards for gaming. And, if you are not willing to spend anything more than $50 on an external sound card than we recommend you to try Sewell Direct Sound Box.
Yeah, we know Sewell is not an established sound cards brand but there is a reason why we have included this sound card on our list. Actually, Sewell Direct Sound box has satisfied a major share of users whoever bought this.
A very simple driver software will help you to tweak around with 7.1 channel output, though its quite a task to fire it up.
Sound Card Buyer’s Guide 2018
Now that know all about the most popular sound cards and their features, you need to understand which gaming sound card is going to be the best fit for you.
Before buying any of the sound card, you must understand the things to look for when buying a sound card.
- Compatibility: The most common issue with the discrete sound card users is the compatibility. Before investing money in this hardware, do have a check that the sound card you are buying is totally compatible with your system. Normally, Internal Sound Cards requires a PCI or PCI express port to be connected to the motherboard. So, you need to make sure your motherboard has PCI / PCIe slot for the same. While things are little simpler for external sound cards as they generally require a USB 2.0 port that is common on almost all the motherboards.
- Sound to Noise Ratio (SNR): Sound To Noise Ration actually defines the quality of the audio. Basically, it is the ratio of the desired signals to the power of the unwanted noise that exists in the audio output. SNR is measures in dB and more the value of SNR, the better will be the quality of the sound card. Make sure when you buy any internal or external sound card for gaming, the SNR should be at least 105-110 dB.
- Frequency Response: This is one of the most important parameters to consider while buying a new sound card. You must have read about the frequency response while searching for a sound card. Actually, it defines how sharp and clear will be audio output from the sound card. The frequency range audible to the human ear is 20Hz to 20KHz, so the sound card you choose must have frequency response higher than this range.
- Software: Also, a software that controls the sound card is one of the most important things to look for. The software helps you to configure and tweak the performance of your sound card according to your personal needs. You can manage the sound output, frequency response, surround sound etc using the software interface on your system. Some software also allow the users to analyze the performance of the components for a better output. Though almost all sound cards are accompanied with companion software but you must make you have an easy and functional software suite.
- Environment Audio Extensions (EAX): If you are a hardcore gamer and want a sound card that enhances your overall gaming experience, you should only choose a sound card that supports EAX engines. Most of the modern games use the EAX engine to simulate real-like sound effects for more immersive experience while you are playing. Popular games like Mass Effect, Bioshock etc use EAX engine technology for their high qaulity sound output. Therefore, as a gamer, you must get an sound card with EAX engine.
- Technical Attention: Some sound cards really require a lot of attention to make sure all the components are working properly. This situation mostly comes while using internal sound cards. The reason can be the size, driver issues, software issues etc. So, while buying making sure there are no such technical hardships involved.
- Positional Audio : Being a gamer, positional audio effects are must. Various software technologies mimic the real-like sound output that will make you feel that you are actually inside the game rather than just seeing it through a monitor. Different manufacturers uses such technologies like Creative uses EAX while Asus uses GX technology to render the positional audio. Make sure any sound card that you buy is capable of rending positional audio for a better audio output.
- 5.1 or 7.1 Channel Output : Now this is the hard choice. Choosing between a 5.1 sound card or a 7.1 sound card totally depends on the your requirements and usage. If you generally use headphones for gaming, then a 5.1 channel output is enough. It will provide very good quality sound output for in-ear headphones. But if you have a 7.1 surround system that you wish to use for gaming, then make sure the sound card you are buying supports the 7.1 channel system.
So, after all the research and reading our buyer’s guide, we are sure that you must have chosen the best sound card for gaming.
Though some of the sound cards are expensive but they will surely improve your gaming performance as well as audio quality. You already know that if you really want to make difference in your PC gaming experience, a discrete sound card is must. HT Omega Claro II and Creative Sound Blaster Z are definitely the best gaming sound card in this category.
For those people who are on budget, out list has great inexpensive option to choose especially Asus Xonar DGX and Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX.
So go on and buy the best sound card for gaming and see the difference. And Good luck for the games you play!! Don’t forget to tell us your favorite sound cards in comments below!