Best sound cards for gaming, yes or no?
There is probably no more controversial issue apart from the Intel AMD discussion among gamers.
This question has been asked by every player in his life and the answer remains as vague as ever: it depends on the circumstances.
But do not worry, this article goes into detail about the best sound cards for gaming and explains in detail when this piece of hardware is useful and when not.
Best sound cards for gaming 2021
There are many expansion cards for better sound quality. However, not all offer a good price/performance ratio or are suitable for players. That’s why the best gaming sound cards 2017 follow. So you can quickly and easily select a model that suits you based on the short description.
Best internal sound cards 2021
This variant is usually connected to the motherboard via PCI or PCI Express. They are cheaper than external sound cards, but they can not be used on laptops or very small computers.
1. ASUS Essence STX II 7.1
Four years after the debut of the Essence STX – a long time one of the best sound cards for gaming ever – ASUS comes back with a new derivative, the Essence STX II (here in the 7.1 variant). The ASUS Essence STX II 7.1 delivers the industry’s leading audio standard with a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 124 dB. That’s up to 64 times more than a typical onboard sound card. The headphone output as well as the six audio outputs of the additional daughter card reach 120 dB (SNR).
A high-precision clock is crucial for audiophiles. The integrated switches are sensitive to heat and temperature fluctuations, which is why the Essence STX II 7.1 has a high quality temperature compensating crystal oscillator clock source (TCXO). This ensures extremely accurate timing technology that provides ultra-low jitter, i. a greatly reduced and barely noticeable flicker.
The Essence STX II 7.1 uses its own 4-pin Molex power connector rather than sourcing the power from other expansion sound cards like other sound cards. Above all, this means a clean power supply. The power output is also ensured by high-quality LDO (low-dropout) controls, while WIMA capacitors ensure a balanced sound.
The Op Amps MUSES 8920 and MUSES 8820 provide the listener with a realistic audio reproduction and a spacious sound picture. The built-in headphone amplifier supports up to 600 ohms of impedance, so that audiophile listeners can enjoy the pure quality of the Essence STX II 7.1 even with high-impedance headphones.
The sound card is also equipped with an additional gain control knob for high-sensitive in-ear monitoring headphones that allow musicians and audio purists to channel the audio channels perfectly by isolating ambient noise and hide ambient noise.
The sound card benefits from various Dolby surround sound techniques. Dolby Digital Live technology generates a Dolby Digital data stream in real time. It allows audio to be transferred from the PC to Dolby Digital receivers or home theater systems via a single digital connection. With Dolby Virtual Speaker, the user enjoys 5.1-channel surround sound from just two speakers. Dolby Pro Logic II provides a natural 5.1-channel sound experience.
As a processor, the known for its excellent sound characteristics ASUS AV100 is used. This processor and the high-end digital / analog converters ensure a harmonious and impressive sound. The sound quality not only enriches the home theater, but also leaves a lasting impression on music and games.
Even with headphones, the user can enjoy the multi-channel capability. Here is Dolby Headphone the keyword. It creates an impressive 3D spatial effect and conveys the listening experience of a complete 7.1 surround sound system even with stereo headphones.
The Essence STX II 7.1 also benefits from interchangeable Op Amp sockets that allow the user to create different timbres and sound combinations. The card comes with a swap kit that includes three additional op amps and pliers that allow the user to swap the op amps themselves.
The Essence STX II 7.1 comes with a multi-channel daughter board that delivers true 7.1-channel surround sound with 120dB SNR outputs. Each channel is fully customizable with nine replaceable op-amp sockets.
The card uses a PCIe connector. It is therefore not compatible with conventional PCI slots.ProsCons
- high quality components
- Isolation Analog-to-Digital
- large scope of delivery
- relative expensive
2. ASUS Xonar Essence STX
You should find there the most important technical data Asus Xonar Essence STX- thus you can check whether the hardware meets your expectations. When delving into next pages of the user manual, Asus Xonar Essence STX you will learn all the available features of the product, as well as information on its operation. The information that you get about Asus Xonar Essence STX will definitely help you make a purchase decision.
If you already are a holder of Asus Xonar Essence STX, but have not read the manual yet, you should do it for the reasons described above. You will learn then if you properly used the available features, and whether you have not made any mistakes, which can shorten the lifetime Asus Xonar Essence STX.
However, one of the most important roles played by the user manual is help in solving problems with Asus Xonar Essence STX. Almost always you will find there Troubleshooting, which are the most frequently occurring failures and malfunctions of the device Genus E4552 along with tips on how to solve them. Even if you do not succeed in solving the problem on your own, the instructions will show you how to proceed – how to get in touch with the customer service or the nearby serviceProsCons
- Very good sound
- Changeable OPAMPS
- perfect driver
- relative expensive
3. Creative Soundblaster Z
The Creative Soundblaster Z should sound much better than the technically related Recon 3D. In the test we hear the Creative Soundblaster Z for games, music and movies exactly.
With the Creative Soundblaster Z, PC gamers get a bit more choice when it comes to the best sound cards for gaming for their favorite hobby. Because Creative aligns the Soundblaster Z consistently to players and offers useful features, especially for headset users.
Even those who like to listen to music and watch movies should get their money’s worth with the Soundblaster Z. The Soundblaster Z is not a new development despite the name, but almost identical to the Creative Soundblaster Recon 3D available since spring 2012. The Soundcore 3D sound chip is on both boards, but the Soundblaster Z is better on the paper analog / digital converter and should therefore sound better – if the theoretical differences are actually audible, we check in the Creative Soundblaster Z test.
The Creative Soundblaster Z will appear in three versions: as a Soundblaster Z including a separate table microphone for about 90 euros (already available). Then as a Soundblaster Zx for about 150 euros (not yet available), in addition to the microphone nor a desktop remote control with headset ports and volume control included. And finally, as about 250 euros expensive Soundblaster ZxR, which has even better converters and preamplifier, in addition to the hi-fi known 6.3 instead of the usual 3.5-mm jack connectors and a separate board for the inputs – a test of Soundblaster ZxR coming soon.
there is already the Soundblaster Z for 75 euros as a bulk version without accessories, so without the microphone. In addition, the bulk version of the shield seems to be missing and the capacitors look, according to photos, unlike the regular Soundblaster Z – whether it sounds the same as the tested board here, so it is unclear.
Both Soundblaster Z and Soundblaster Recon 3D use the “Soundcore 3D” sound chip, a proprietary development from Creative. In the Recon 3D, however, there are not only four DSPs (“Digital Signal Processors”) in the mini-chip, ie the units specialized in various sound processing tasks, but also the analog-to-digital converter intended for recording and the digital sound processor. analog converter. The latter makes an analog from the digitally calculated signal in the sound chip, which is then output via the outputs of the Soundblaster Recon 3D to the speakers. These integrated transducers are not very good at Recon 3D, the so-called dynamic range, a measure of the quality of digital-to-analog converters, is Creative with only 102 decibels – which is on the level of better onboard sound chips on motherboards.ProsCons
- stable driver
- good value for money
- easy installation
- Jack bushes are not marked in color, symbols are sometimes very small
4. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy RX
Chipset: Creative E-MU Chipset • Channels: 8 (7.1) • Resolution: 24bit • Sample Rate: 192kHz • SNR: 106dB • Inputs (Analog): 2x Jack (3.5mm) • Outputs (Analog): 5x Jack (3.5mm) • Outputs (digital): 1x Toslink • Special features: EAX 4.0
Sound Blaster Audigy Rx
The ultimate recording solution for PCIe soundcard platforms
Experience premium quality podcasts and sophisticated multi-channel surround sound! Hardware-accelerated EAX effects provide you with a host of unbelievably good-sounding sound effects in no time at all! In addition, the card with 106 dB signal-to-noise ratio, a 600-ohm headphone amplifier for studio monitoring and a comprehensive software package for seamless sound customization to your taste.
The Sound Blaster Audigy Rx is a carefully designed best sound cards for gaming that’s ideal for switching from traditional motherboard audio solutions to immersive surround sound. With their perfectly designed chipset for our legendary EAX reverb engine, the Sound Blaster Audigy Rx delivers a truly realistic 7.1 audio experience that is second to none. In addition, the card offers 106 dB signal-to-noise ratio and the exclusive Sound Blaster Audigy Rx Control Panel, a dedicated PC software that gives you complete control over all the features of your best sound cards for gaming.
Not only entertainment enthusiasts should fall in love with the EAX Studio software, which provides more surround sound effects in music, movies, games and voice applications with CPU-relieving hardware acceleration; and the built-in 600 ohm headphone amplifier provides monitoring capabilities in the purest studio quality.
E-MU chipset for optimized effect processing
Behind the Sound Blaster Audigy Rx is the exclusive Creative E-MU chipset with the legendary EAX (Environmental Audio Extensions) reverb engine that delivers stunning audio effects in the movies without bringing the CPU to its knees. Enjoy top-quality audio without sacrificing processing speed.
Two microphone inputs
The best sound cards for gaming has two microphone inputs so you can record your vocal performances in duet! Or you can use the second input z. B. accompany with an MP3 player while singing. The possibilities are endless!
Ultra-low latency audio recording
Enjoy the Sound Blaster Audigy Rx with dedicated audio stream input / output drivers (ASIO drivers) as a perfect platform for high-quality audio recording without annoying delays.ProsCons
- good sound
- numerous connection options
- no decoding of the new HD sound formats possible
5. ASUS Xonar DGX 5.1
ASUS Xonar DGX
PCI Express ™ 5.1-channel gaming sound card
The integrated headphone amplifier amplifies every single sound detail in the game
The amplifier can be adjusted to the respective usage scenario via three different gain modes – VoIP, Pro-Gaming and Exciter mode
Experience 5.1 surround sound with stereo headphones with Dolby® Headphone ™
Exclusive ASUS GX 2.5 gaming audio engine for realistic 3D sound effects
The Xonar DGX sound card combines Dolby® Headphone ™ 5.1 HD surround sound with the exclusive ASUS GX 2.5 gaming audio engine and built-in headphone amplifier. The result is exceptionally precise and intense audio reproduction that reproduces every single detail of the sound , Thus, the new Xonar DGX 5.1 is the ideal best sound cards for gaming who want to fully immerse themselves in the gaming environment.
Integrated headphone amplifier
- The integrated headphone amplifier amplifies every single sound detail in the game.
- The amplifier can be adjusted to the respective usage scenario via three different gain modes.
- The amplifier can be adjusted to the respective usage scenario via three different gain modes.
- The Xonar DGX offers three different modes that allow the amplifier to be configured for different usage scenarios: VoIP, Pro Gaming and Exciter modes. Spatial location provides gamers with more precise ambient sounds, keeping them one step ahead of their opponents in multiplayer first-person shooter games.
The VoIP mode was developed especially for VoIP headsets. He makes sure that the sound is clearly and clearly reproduced both during communication and when listening to music.
Pro-Gaming Mode: The Pro-Gaming mode provides more dynamics at higher frequencies, providing improved spatial positioning.
Exciter mode: With extremely intense bass and a full sound field, the user immerses in the middle of the game.ProsCons
- good value for money
- good amplifier for headsets
- Software partly a bit confusing
how you find the best sound cards for gaming
Now that you’ve seen some good sound cards, this section explains what matters when choosing the right model. It also explains in detail when an external or internal sound card is needed
How does a best sound cards for gaming work?
A basic understanding of how a sound card works is especially important to find out what is better: onboard sound or sound card.
The basic principle of the best sound cards for gaming is here to be limited to three components. In practice, it is much more complex, but that’s basically enough.
The audio processor of the sound card handles the processing of the sound and converts digital signals into analog signals and vice versa. This has many advantages, but more on that later.
For the actual conversion, two components are responsible:
Outgoing signals, for example to speakers or headsets, are processed by a D / A converter (Digital / Analog – DAC for short) and are thus available to the playback devices.
The A / D converter (short: ADC) does exactly the opposite. He receives analog signals, for example from the microphone, and converts them into digital. The sampling rate in Hz and the sound depth in bits are very important. In the end, they decide on the quality of the recording.
Does a sound card really affect the sound?
The analog audio signal is largely responsible for the sound quality. A good sound card offers a far superior signal compared to the onboard version. Accordingly, it definitely brings tonal benefits.
However, one aspect must not be forgotten: the best audio signal does not help with bad speakers or headphones!
After all, a sound card costs money and with very cheap audio systems, this money can be better invested in good speakers or head sets. However, if you already own mid-range output devices you should definitely think about whether an external or internal sound card is worth the money for you!
Is a best sound cards for gaming necessary?
Not usually, except the onboard version of your own motherboard does not support the speakers used. For example, some boards do not provide enough connections to use a 5.1 surround system.
In this case, a sound card is essential. But again, if the PC is purchased new, investing in a better motherboard can save a lot of money here. In contrast, if the sound system is added to the existing computer, an additional sound card is indispensable in this case.
For 7.1 systems, a sound card is even usually required. Very few motherboards support this speaker configuration from the start.
For very high quality audio playback devices, such as studio speakers or high impedance headphones, a best sound cards for gaming is required. The high-quality near-field monitors, for example, suffer massively from the inferior signal of the onboard variant. High impedances of many high-end headphones are not even supported by most motherboards.
Do I want a soundcard?
That’s probably the most important question for 90 percent of gamers. Who wants to get the maximum sound quality, which is dependent on a decent sound card in conjunction with proper playback devices. This is a matter of taste, however, and some players do not even hear the difference.
When recording music, YouTube videos, and the like, a sound card is also important. At least if you want to produce regularly. The quality of the internal sound card is very limited in terms of incoming signals. Here, the extension brings even more advantages than in playback.
Further Pros And Cons
Today’s onboard chips are significantly better than previous models. Nevertheless, electrical interference can lead to noise and the lack of additional audio amplifier restricts the performance of playback devices.
The only real drawback of a sound card is its price. The onboard version is included in the motherboard and thus generates no costs whatsoever. An expansion card costs between 35 and 250 euros. The advantages of technical and acoustic nature, however, are decisive.
Acoustic advantages of a best sound cards for gaming
Good sound cards offer a much clearer sound than onboard variants. The individual frequencies are reproduced more precisely. For many, that alone is a reason to buy. However, the D / A converters of the integrated mainboard alternative also offer a poorer coverage of the different frequencies. As a result, the sound card also provides sounds that can not be heard without It also increases the effect of effects. This applies to both games and films. Explosions, moving cars, fighting sounds and much more sounds much more realistic. Even conversations seem clearer.
This effect is particularly impressive in complex music. Here, the onboard chip is often overwhelmed with the variety of different frequencies in rapid succession. A sound card is more precise.
High quality bass is another advantage of a soundcard. Many gamers buy expensive equipment and put a lot of value on a good subwoofer. However, these are often limited by the cheap chips on motherboards. The depths are not only more intense with a best sound cards for gaming, but also fuller.
Some models offer features designed specifically for gamers. These include, for example, the EAX technology. It is not supported by onboard chips. Some very popular games support this sound enhancement, such as Civilization, Battlefield or Fallout. In addition, for example, Creative offers a “Scout mode”, which improves the first-person shooter acoustical detection of other players. These are just two examples, all available features would go beyond the scope here.
The technical advantages of the dedicated best sound cards for gaming
Clear: Good speakers have a rich sound and a decent volume. However, the amplifiers integrated in sound cards significantly improve these factors and thus more can be taken out of an existing system. This is especially interesting in large rooms.
Individual setting options can be found in dedicated sound cards to a much greater extent. In addition to the usual features such as an equalizer or a surround simulation additional things are used. An example would be the targeted adjustment of the recording quality. This allows a content creator to specifically control whether he wants to record in high quality or compact for use in particularly small MP3.
Supporting full sampling rates is another advantage. For example, an internal chip can usually only output 16 bits at 48 kHz. That beat decided sound cards by far, which is especially relevant for Blu-Rays. However, the increasing speed of the domestic Internet ensures that even streams can benefit from it, even if that is only slowly becoming reality.
A sound card also provides more and better outputs for your audio devices. On the one hand, this is important for those who like to put on a 7.1 system for movies. Here is a sound card almost inevitable. However, audiophile players also love first-class and high-priced headphones. These usually have a high impedance, but onboard chips can not handle it.
Finally, a sound card relieves the CPU of the computer. It has its own audio processor (Digital Signal Processor) and thus performs a variety of calculations. Although this is no longer particularly crucial today, it should not be kept secret. It has a small effect on the performance.
The most important aspects when buying a sound card
Not all sound cards are the same, they even differ significantly from each other. Therefore, the sometimes significant price differences come. If you have decided on the decision onboard sound or sound card for the latter, the following points are especially important for you!
The right playback devices are required!
The best sound cards for gaming is only useful in conjunction with good speakers or headphones. Although they also improve the sound of cheap output devices, here the money would be much better invested in proper equipment.
The positive effects are very limited with very cheap headphones and speakers.
The supported technologies
Many sound card manufacturers offer special effects for gamers. These are of course very interesting. For example, Creative offers EAX, while ASUS offers GX. In addition, a variety of modes for a variety of situations in video games are offered. All this makes a best sound cards for gaming interesting for many players.
If you use sound systems that support, for example, Dolby Digital Live or similar technologies, buy a suitable best sound cards for gaming. Only if both components of the sound reproduction support these technologies, they are also usable.
The compatibility to your own computer
A sound card is an extension. This usually requires a PCI slot, a PCI Express slot or a USB port, depending on whether an external or internal sound card is the preferred choice. The corresponding port must of course be free in your own computer.
In addition, the own housing is very important. Not every case offers enough space for additional expansion cards. Especially players should be careful here: sound cards are clearly in the vicinity of the graphics card. There flow high currents, which can lead to noise. A distance of at least four centimeters is highly recommended.
The technical aspects
Later, we will go into more detail on the different terms used in sound cards. Here are the most important ones for the selection of a sound card :
- The ADC and DAC data capacity is given in bits and is a measure of the sound depth. The higher this value, the better
- The sampling rate is important for recording audio signals and how often the input signal is recorded per second. A higher value is accordingly better
- The frequency response indicates the range of the tones that are output. A wide channel is highly recommended. However, even in full health, human hearing can not hear sounds above 20 kHz
- The signal-to-noise ratio or signal-to-noise ratio is an important measure for the evaluation of the quality of analog audio signals. It is given in decibels (dB) and more is always better here
- Many sound cards have different connections and different numbers of channels. That is why it is especially important to pay attention to what is needed. The most important is the support of 7.1 systems and the right connection options. Examples include optical connectors, jack or RCA (coaxial)
- Different certificates distinguish the quality of different audio devices. Examples are Dolby Master or THX
The right use of a best sound cards for gaming
Two aspects are especially important when using sound cards. Note these and get the most out of this piece of hardware:
- Driver and software should always be kept up to date. Newer drivers usually improve the performance of your hardware and this is especially true with sound cards. The software can bring many benefits and is underestimated by gamers like. For example, the included equalizer is usually finely tuned and offers so many options. And that’s just one of the many benefits.
- Technologies should only be used for what they are intended for. For example, EAX and GX are great for video games, but they can distort the way they play movies or music.
Important abbreviations and technical terms
best sound cards for gaming are a very complex topic. The various manufacturers are throwing at you with a variety of abbreviations and technical terms and few understand what is behind it. Therefore, the following section details the various aspects.
Analog / Digital Converter (ADC)
This component does exactly what the name implies: It converts analog audio signals into digital. For example, the sound of the microphone is recorded. The higher the data capacity in bits and the sampling rate in kHz, the better.
It is, so to speak, the counterpart of the ADC and converts digital signals into analogs. This is especially important for the playback of audio signals. The most important frame data is identical to the ADC.
The electrical resistance is measured in ohms and referred to as impedance in audio equipment. The higher the supported value of a sound card, the better speakers and headphones are supported.
Electromagnetic interference (EMI)
The electromagnetic interference is a measure of the susceptibility of the audio signals. High-quality sound cards, on the other hand, are shielded, which indicates this abbreviation.
This value is measured in kHz and is very important for the recording of audio signals. Simply put, it indicates how many tones are recorded per second. The higher this value, the more accurate the resulting audio track.
Signal / Noise Ratio (SNR)
This value indicates how effectively the best sound cards for gaming can filter noise. It is expressed in decibels (dB), a higher value is always better.
This value indicates how far loud and soft sounds can be from each other. It is given in dB and a high value is very important for the playback of complex music pieces. Especially classical music often plays with the volume of different instruments.
Frequency Range or Frequency Response
This refers to the amount of tones supported. The lowest and highest reproduced frequencies are indicated. 20 to 20,000 hertz are required here, but a broader frequency response is always better.
Input / output (I / O)
This abbreviation stands for the available connections. They are listed below. Examples are coaxial outputs, jacks or optical connections.