Characteristics in the rating
A person has several senses, but when consuming media content, we use only a couple of them-sight and hearing. The better the content, the more positive emotions we get. This also applies to the sound subsystem of the PC, as it is responsible for the depth of the sound picture. Currently, laptops and motherboards of stationary computers are equipped with built-in cards that perform a simple function – audio playback. They are not able to convey all the charms of the sound picture, which is why separate devices were created to solve the problem.
They are of two types – embedded (internal) and external. The first few are cheaper due to the lack of an expensive case and are designed to improve personal computers. The second type can be larger – thanks to its connection via USB ports, it can be attached to laptops, significantly expanding the functionality of the latter, which is very convenient if recording or listening takes place in several places and you need to constantly move with your equipment. In addition, they often support both 5.1 and 7.1 formats.
We have selected for you a rating of the best representatives of sound cards in three categories. Meet and choose!
Best low-cost internal sound cards: budget up to 5,000 rubles.
Let’s start with the most budget-friendly representatives. Devices in this segment are characterized by moderate performance. They are only enough for everyday tasks such as listening to music or watching movies. The attractive price is due to the lack of an external case. These models are installed inside stationary PCs, and the connection is made via the PCI and PCI-e interfaces.
3 Creative Audigy Fx
A sound card that provides good sound, clear bass, and clear and intuitive adjustment of the equalizer bands for an inexpensive price. Users write in reviews that after installing this device, the sound has become more saturated, the stereo effect is more expressive, and the high and low frequencies feel detailed and more balanced. The volume in the headphones is now higher – there is a built-in headphone amplifier. The SBX Pro Studio sound improver allows you to get a more pleasant sound.
There are no problems with installation and configuration. Just connect the hardware, install the driver and get an increase in sound quality in proportion to the financial costs. Often, users buy this sound card precisely to enhance the sound of their good headphones. The map also performed well in 3D games, playing surround sound.
2 BEHRINGER U-CONTROL UCA222
Super-budget excellent “sound card” with good sound, the simplest installation and even support for the ASIO 2.0 driver. Thanks to the latter fact, this sound card is considered the best for its money for novice computer musicians.
The form factor of an external device allows you to connect the device to both a stationary PC and a laptop. Included is a disc with a variety of VST tools and the Energy XT multitracker. Analog stereo output and the stereo input on the tulips, a powerful headphone output with volume control. You can’t hear the analog noise – they write in the reviews. There is a digital optical SPDIF output. If you want to buy a budget sound card for the highest quality and well-developed sound in headphones and a stereo system, then U-CONTROL UCA222 is your choice.
1 Creative Sound Blaster Audigy Rx
The first line of the rating is also occupied by a representative of Creative. The silence-to-noise ratio is 106 dB. The maximum frequency of the DAC in multichannel mode is 96 kHz, against 192. It is worth noting that this model provides more space for sound recording. To do this, the device has two built-in microphone inputs and one line input. This bundle allows you to record from two sources simultaneously, such as guitar and vocals.
Proprietary software is represented by such utilities as karaoke Player, SmartRecorder and WaveStudio. With their help, you can not only enjoy high-quality sound, but also do Amateur sound recording on your computer. For better sound and lower latency, the device supports the ASIO V. 2.0 standard.
Best external sound cards: budget up to 10,000 rubles.
The second category includes external sound cards that can be connected to a computer via a USB connector. Such devices are recommended for laptop owners or those who want to create their own recording Studio. They allow you to expand the number of audio outputs and connect more devices.
4 Creative X-FiSurround 5.1 Pro
We start with a budget and simple device. It costs about 5,000 rubles. For this money, the buyer gets a good system for watching movies with 5.1 audio format. The device is not capable of doing more than that. This is not due to the highest maximum DAC frequency – 96 kHz. Also, when buying, you should take into account that you will not be able to connect a 7.1 sound system – there are only 6 analog output channels with 4 connectors.
Of the useful things, it is worth noting the presence of ASIO V. 2.0 and EAX 5 versions. The package also includes a remote control for switching tracks, adjusting the volume, etc. According to user reviews, this is a good option for a home PC for your money.
3 ASUS Xonar U7
The third place is taken by the model from ASUS with the index U7. Compared to Creative, the maximum frequency of the DAC here is simply excellent and is 192 kHz. More and output channels – only 8 pieces, which makes it possible to use surround sound format 7.1. There are three types of output connectors:
- RCA (“Tulip”),
- Mini Jack,
Switching between them is carried out using a washer located on top of the housing. It also acts as a volume control. The silver medalist doesn’t have a remote control.
This model is recommended for purchase by those users who appreciate high-quality surround sound in movies and video games and at the same time do not plan to record sound. Users who stream or want to record their own track should take a closer look at more expensive models.
2 Steinberg UR12
The model was introduced at the end of 2014 and has not lost its relevance. The main advantage is a record for affordable prices, while maintaining all the characteristics of the previous generation. The device is placed in a completely metal case, has power from the USB bus, the ability to connect a condenser microphone. In total, there are 6 connection modes, from 44 to 192 kHz. Equipped with a preamp from Yamaha. The interface works with any music programs running on MacOS and Windows operating systems. It is also fully compatible with the IPad.
Compared to more expensive devices, the interface performs very well and this is clearly audible on equipment with high detail. This is noted by users in their reviews, and the number of complaints about quality is getting smaller with each generation.
1 Audient ID4
Favorite U7 pushed slightly more expensive model ID4 from the company Audient. And believe me – it’s worth it. The main advantage here is the filling. Microphone preamp migrated here directly from full-size Studio consoles. The instrument input here is built on dust transistors. The manufacturer takes a responsible approach to the Assembly of devices and, according to user reviews, does not even save on converters. The dynamic range of the DAC here is one of the best in the segment – 115 dB.
Despite the meager delivery package consisting of the device itself and a USB wire, all the main buns will become available after registration on the official website of the manufacturer. The card itself is dual-channel (you can connect two sources) and can simultaneously accept both a condenser microphone and an electric guitar. Both channels have separate gain and indication. The ID4 combo input has support for line connections, which allows you to connect not only instruments and microphones, but also devices with line outputs, such as preamps.
Best sound cards for gamers
Gamers are a special layer of buyers. They use only the best equipment and computers from top manufacturers, often producing special limited versions of devices. Sound cards that have received special “game” improvements that allow you to fully immerse yourself in the gameplay are also not left out.
3 ASUS Strix Raid DLX
Opens the TOP of the best gaming sound cards created by ASUS. StrixRaid DLX is the top card in the manufacturer’s assortment due to its good technical characteristics. The maximum frequency of the DAC is 192 kHz, 8 channels are supported, and the signal-to-noise ratio is excellent-124 dB. The only fly in the ointment may be a slightly inflated price relative to competitors.
The appearance does not cause any complaints – it is moderately aggressive, simple and at the same time attractive. An additional unit allows you to connect a gaming headset, adjust the volume, and switch between normal and game mode using the “RAID” button.
Special attention should be paid to the proprietary utility for managing the sound card. ASUS SonicStudio allows you to change the volume, adjust the equalizer, adjust the number of audio sources, etc. According to customer reviews, the interface has a pleasant color scheme and functionality, making it easy to master.
2 Creative SoundBlasterZx
In second place is the sound card from Creative. The SoundBlasterZx model is the successor to the popular Blaster Z. It has an attractive price, which is due to slightly lower capabilities than the competition. The maximum frequencies and signal-to-noise ratio are approximately the same, but only 6 channels are supported. Otherwise, we get almost the same amount for a lower amount.
The original appearance is due to the presence of a “viewing” window in which the main chip is visible. There is also a remote unit. You can connect headphones and a microphone to it. However, keep in mind that the volume control only works with headphones – the audio system connected directly to the sound card does not communicate with the external unit. But there is a connector for connecting to the front panel of the PC.
According to user reviews, the map is perfectly suited for games due to the optimal combination of all frequencies and creating a sound volume. This advantage will be difficult to assess when watching movies, as there is an emphasis on Central channels.
1 ASUS Essence STX II
The main feature of this Hi-End segment model is the updated filling and support for the 7.1 format. the Card has a removable metal screen above the analog part, but its value is purely decorative. But what helps to achieve high parameters is good wiring and separation of analog and digital circuits on a four-layer printed circuit Board. The already high-quality filling of the card has acquired new muses operational amplifiers, created specifically for sound equipment. German wima film capacitors and linear non-pulse power regulators that act as filters. The list of improvements is not limited to this.
Cheap quartz resonators were replaced with thermocompensated ones, which reduced jitter. A nice bonus will be a set of UUS and a tool for installing them. The chips are changed without soldering, which further facilitates the repair or replacement of components. In addition, you can experiment with the sound.