An onboard or integrated sound card is sufficient for most users. It works great when you are listening to music, watching some cool YouTube Videos, and doing other light stuff with background music on.
However, if you are an audiophile or a hardcore gamer, you are serious about sound. You want something that will heighten your immersion levels.
You probably own high-quality headsets but you feel something is still ruining your immersion level. So buying a dedicated sound card becomes your only option.
Various sound cards exist that deliver high-quality 5.1ch and even 7.1ch surround sound. In this article, we break down for you the 5 best sound cards that are compatible with your Windows 10 PC.
Note: Deals are subject to change. Keep in mind that the price tag often varies. We recommend going on the vendor’s website to check the price. Some of the products may be out of stock by the time you’ve made your purchasing decision. So, hit the buy button while the sale is on!
Top 5 best sound cards for an immersive sound experience
- Professional-level surround sound
- Immersive highs and lows
- Incredibly crisp sound overall
- Customizable RGB LEDs
- The sound blaster software has some minor issues
The Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5 PCIe gaming sound card is our top pick in this department, as it offers incredibly powerful and crisp sound.
This useful sound card not only allows you to immerse yourself fully in the environment you’re exploring in your games but also defies explanation when it comes to its sound clarity.
Besides this, it is the only sound card from this range that allows you to use the Xamp, a customized headphone amplifier that will take your gaming session to the next level.
- Powerful bi-amp technology
- ESS SABRE-class 9018 DAC
- DSD64 playback support
- DTS Connect Encoding/ Dolby Digital Live
- Software customization tool included
- The bass control setting from the software is sometimes lagging
The Creative Sound Blaster AE-7 is our second pick in this guide, as it offers some very useful features that are sure to improve your audio-listening experience no matter if you’re watching a movie or playing a game.
Using this sound card while gaming enables you to feel integrated in the environment that you’re exploring, thus allowing you to focus even more on the task at hand.
The double amplifier offers crystal-clear sound, covering low, mid, and high-pitch noises to the level of perfection.
Besides this, it also uses true hardware-accelerated audio powered by a quad-core processor that will never leave you lagging power and clarity.
- 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound
- SBX Pro Studio - advanced audio processing
- Comes with the Sound Blaster Audigy Fx Control Panel
- 106 SNR and 24-bit 192kHz DAC playback
- 96kHz ADC recording
- Needs updated drivers to run at full power
The Sound Blaster Audigy is a high-performance sound card that is also incredibly cheap. Creative has positioned itself as a top brand in the manufacture of sound cards. Their Sound Blaster Audigy has earned customer’s trust due to its simple design, quality features, and affordable price. This sound card delivers a compelling 5.1 multichannel surround sound that easily converts your PC into a cinematic entertainment system.
The Audigy is not as complicated as most of the top-end sound cards but it delivers 106 dB of signal to sound ratio (SNR). This means that you get 20db more than what you get on the standard sound cards on motherboards.
It comes with a suite of Sound Blaster audio processors such as SBX Pro Studio that allows you to change the level of bass, left/right balance, and more. The high headphone amplification of up to 600-ohm impedance results in high-performance and distortion-free audio.
- Dual-microphone array
- Sound Core3D Audio Processor
- SBX Pro Studio for 3D effects
- Audiophile-grade capacitors
- Gold-plated I/O connectivity
- When drivers are not updated popping sound appears
If are looking for a classy sound card powerful enough to handle all your gaming audio needs, then you might want to try out the Sound Blaster Z PCIe.
This sound card has a series of attractive features that every audiophile would want. It features a Sound Core3D Audio processor for advanced audio capabilities. This adds to the inbuilt SBX Pro Studio sound technologies to deliver unprecedented sound clarity with stunning 3D surround effects.
An inbuilt control panel allows you to switch between two options. It lets you toggle between your headphones and the computer speakers with a flip of a switch.
This sound card delivers 116db of sound to noise ratio (SNR) which Creative claims it’s 99.99% pure sound, and 34.4 times better than motherboard audio.
In addition, this sound card comes with a removable dual microphone. The Sound Blaster Z is compatible with Windows 10 and you can download the drivers from the manufacturer’s site. Its price fluctuates under $100, but definitely keep an eye on the discounts.
- Amazing sound quality
- Muses op-amps
- Powerful 124dB SNR
- Output can be changed only from the driver
ASUS hi-fi sound cards deliver sound quality that is hard to describe, and the STX 11 is no exception. These high-end sound cards don’t come cheap, but they deliver quintessential performance that keeps the spirit and philosophy of audiophiles alive.
The signal to noise (SNR) ratio of the Essence line is usually higher than that of standard cards found on motherboards. While standard cards hover around 88 dB SNR, the Essence STX 11 boasts of industry-leading 124 dB SNR.
Another important feature that every audio-savvy looks for in a sound card is surround sound support. The STX 11 provides 7.1 multichannel surround sound. This allows you to hook up to 8 speaker audio system and get rich surround sound as opposed to the 5.1ch setup which can only support up to 6 speakers.
In addition, ASUS provides an op-amp swap kit with the STX 11 that allows users to easily change the tone and timbre of the sound they hear.
And if you like using headphones, then you’ll love the ASUS headphone amplification that supports up to 600-ohm impedance. This amplification boosts the sound while removing any distortions to deliver a sound that is close to the original recordings.
Moreover, the STX 11 is compatible with Windows 10 PC. ASUS has drivers for Windows 10 both 32 and 64bit. However, they are not on the CD and you have to download them from the Asus site.
When it comes to sound cards, there are many options available for those looking to build custom computers. However, it’s important that you first check whether the sound card you intend to buy is compatible with your operating system.
For instance, most sound cards, which have been around for a while, are not compatible with Windows 10, while others are not fully compatible. You can find more suggestions below.
Other high-end sound cards such as the Sound Blaster Z do not have support for Linux. Our list contains only the sound cards that are compatible with Windows 10.
We hope this list will land you to the best sound card for your custom build computer.
Frequently Asked Questions
It all depends on what do you want to do with your PC. However, here’s a list of soundcards that will accommodate all needs and budgets.
If you need to produce studio-level music, then you’ll need the same sound cards that professionals use. Here’s a list of the best sound cards for music studios.
Producing music is made easier when your sound card features an optical output. Check out this list to find the best ones.