Best PCI Sound Card – Buyer’s Guide

When it comes to sound cards, sometimes it’s a touchy subject among PC enthusiasts whether or not a dedicated sound card is really even needed at all, and if so, which is the best sound card for the money. In previous years it’s been the accepted opinion that the built-in sound on most PC motherboards is commonly of average or poor quality. Therefore, if you wanted decent sound for your gaming experience, buying a separate sound card was always a no-brainer.

In today’s market, however, the built-in sound found pre-installed on modern motherboards is usually really good, though it still lacks some of the features that can only be had by using a dedicated sound card for your system.

Of course, when it comes to computer sound quality, a lot depends on your speakers (or headphones) and your drivers. But one area you can always tweak for maximum signal and performance is by adding a higher quality soundcard. If gaming is your thing, then you want the best gaming soundcard possible to give you that full immersive experience. Or if you use your PC for music production and are looking for a wider assortment of inputs and better signal-to-noise ratio, installing the best external sound card for your system might really do the trick and kick your output quality straight between the proverbial audio goalposts.

What is the best gaming sound card? How about the best USB sound card? From inputs to interface, there are a lot of options to consider, and many available choices. Below we present a buyer’s selection of ten sound cards worth considering for your build, or even just as a good upgrade option for your onboard sound device.

What is the Best Sound Card for Gaming? A Buyer’s Selection

1. Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card

Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card Best Sound Card

Creative has been in the sound card business for decades now and is known as one of the top names in the sound card industry. This card features high-quality connections with gold plated connections that help keep the connection strong minimizing noise interference and keeping an SNR or signal to noise ratio of 116 DB which translates into 99.9% pure audio that’s 34.4 times better than your onboard sound found on your motherboard. Another nice feature of this card is the Crystal Voice technology that helps remove noise interference from your microphones such as ambient noises, echoes, and the ability to maintain your voice level if you’re near or far away from your microphone. At around a hundred bucks, you get a sound card that’s much better than your onboard audio and the quality sound you expect from Creative. A top sound card you really can’t go wrong with. 

2. ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E GX2.5

ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E GX2.5 Sound Card

Asus is a company well known among PC enthusiast as having some of the best motherboards on the market and their sound cards are no exception. This sound card from Asus features a neat design auto-detecting when your front audio jacks have been plugged in automatically switching from front to back audio with no need to worry. You’ll also enjoy a built-in audio amp that gives you three different options depending on your gaming needs. With the Asus Xonar DGX GX2.5, you get Dolby 5.1 high definition surround sound that’s perfect for gamers that want to be aware of their surroundings. At a price of around 50 bucks, you get an excellent sound card that helps keep you ahead in the games you play delivering the performance you expect from an Asus product. One of the best sound cards for those on a tight budget.

3. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe RX 7.1

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe RX 7.1 Sound Card

This is another Creative sound card you want to consider if you’re in the market for a good gaming sound card for your gaming needs. Featuring 7.1 multi-channel sound that’s ideal for all your gaming, movie, and music needs along with a 106 DB SNR giving you the best audio quality without the interference commonly found on onboard sound devices. You get a 24-bit 192khz stereo playback that’s definitely impressive along with a 600-ohm headphone amplifier that gives you the ability to power even the best studio headphones on the market. If that wasn’t enough, Creative has also included their own recording software eliminating the need to purchase additional software to meet your recording needs. This mid-priced sound card is built by one of the best at a price you can afford.

4. SIIG SoundWave 7.1 PCI Sound Card

SIIG SoundWave 7.1 PCI Sound Card

This wonderful sound card from SIIG gives you one of the best prices to performance ratios found on the market. Before getting into too much detail it’s important to note that this sound card is a PCI and not a PCI Express card. Featuring 7.1 surround sound, 8 channel output, and 24 bit 96khz digital output quality, you get a card that meets all your needs and some. The Siig SoundWave 7.1 PCI card also includes unique karaoke capability that’s not found on a lot of cards on the market which includes key shifting, vocal cancellation, and mic echo. On the less expensive end, you get a card that meets a sweet spot for performance per dollar.

5. ASUS STRIX RAID DLX (For Serious PC Enthusiasts)

ASUS STRIX RAID DLX Enthusiast Gaming Sound Card

Another wonderful card from Asus is their Strix Raid DLX featuring 124DB SNR for superior audio quality that beats the competition. Included with the purchase is the Asus Sonic Studio software giving you all the control you would ever need for your gaming sound needs. Upon further inspection, you’ll notice a 600-ohm headphone amp that gives you crystal clear sound so you know exactly where the enemy is around you. The best feature of this card is its programmable RAID MODE that enables you to switch between different audio settings on the fly. Though the price is in the upper range for a PC sound card, you get your money’s worth — this one is the best of the best for your gaming needs. Just plug in your headphones and taste the rich audio goodness. It’s definitely the best sound card for gaming you can buy today.

6. Creative Sound Blaster Zx PCIe Gaming Sound Card

Creative Sound Blaster Zx PCIe Gaming Sound Card

This is another great card from Creative that’s worth considering while you’re searching for your sound card. Right off the first thing, you’ll notice that sets this sound card apart from the rest is the Audio Control Module. This module gives you the ability to adjust headphone levels with an easy-to-turn knob and built-in connectors that make for easy plug and play capabilities. You’ll also get 116DB SNR for 99.9% pure audio quality that only Creative can deliver. Last but not least you get Creative’s Crystal Clear technology that removes background noise, changes volume automatically depending on your distance from the mic, and removes echoes giving you a crystal clear voice to your teammates. With an upper mid price well over a hundred bucks (but not in the multi-hundred dollar extreme upper end), you still get the extremely high quality only Creative can provide.

7. Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe Audiophile Grade Gaming Sound Card (Best Performing Sound Card, BY FAR)

Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe Audiophile Grade Gaming Sound Card

If you’re looking for the best possible audio experience from creative and price isn’t an issue look no further than Creative’s Sound Blaster ZxR. For a hefty price in the upper end (though not the most expensive card out there), you get 124DB SNR with 99.9% pure audio quality, scout mode that enables you to hear your enemies before they hear you, a 600-ohm headphone amp, and the ability to switch between headphone or speakers with an easy to flip switch. Great drivers and a low signal-to-noise ratio add to the value. The same Crystal Voice technology comes included as mentioned earlier on previous mentioned Creative sound cards and a 5.1 digital surround sound that gives you the best gaming experience ever created by Creative.

8. Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D SB1356

creative sound blaster recon3d SB1356

Another great from Creative featuring digital 5.1 surround sound, the ability to connect to your home theater system with just one single digital cable, and a 600-ohm amp. You have the flexibility to customize every aspect of the Sound Blaster Recon3D backed by a quad-core Sound Core3D Audio Processor giving the flexibility you want with the power you need. You get one of the best sound cards at a price you can afford. If you’re looking for a mix of value and technology, the Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D is the card for you.


ASUS PCI-Express x1 XONAR ESSENCE Professional Sound Card for PC

Asus XONAR ESSENCE is another great sound card brought to you by Asus. Featuring a 124DB SNR, a Hi-Fi headphone amplifier, and multiple input/output slots giving you the versatility you need when you need it. The price for this Asus sound card comes in around two hundred bucks or so, and while that may be more expensive than some would like to spend on a sound card, you get one of the best sound cards on the market backed by a brand you can trust. Like its still-more expensive older brother the Asus Xonar Essence STX, the Asus Xonar Essence PC Express x1 really delivers the goods. 

10. HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Channel

HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Channel Sound Card

The HT OMEGA CLARO II is a 7.1 channel sound card that gives surround sound quality to keep you one step ahead of your enemies while gaming. With further inspection, you’ll notice this card has front panel audio support, two-pin digital output and two-pin digital input built onboard, and gold plated connectors to give you the best connection possible while minimizing noise interference. It’s important to note that this particular sound card is a PCI and not a PCI Express card so you’ll want to double check your motherboard to ensure proper compatibility. For a priced under two hundred dollars, you get a top-notch sound card to keep you one step ahead of your friends on the battlefield.

Whether you’re looking to build a whole new system or looking to upgrade from the onboard soundcard built into your motherboard, you can’t go wrong with the ten best gaming sound cards listed above. In the competitive landscape of modern era computer gaming, having a dedicated sound card can give you the edge you need to stay one step ahead of your competition on the battlefield by keeping you fully aware of what’s going on around you at all times. None of these ten sound cards will disappoint, and all are robust with rock solid user reviews and serious longevity. Whichever one you choose, it will be sure to last you for years to come.

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