5 best sound cards for Windows 10 PCs [2021 Guide]

Madalina Dinita
by Madalina Dinita
Former Managing Editor
Madalina has been a Windows fan ever since she got her hands on her first Windows XP computer. She is interested in all things technology, especially emerging technologies -- AI and DNA computing in... Read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Whether you're an audiophile or a gamer, we prepared the best sound card for your PC.
  • Our best choice is a device from Creative that comes with a Quad-Core processor.
  • There is another choice from the same manufacturer that is great for multi-purpose audio and comes with an attractive price.
  • You can also try an ASUS audio card that features an industry-leading 124 dB SNR sound.
What are the best sound cards for Windows 10

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 icon
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!

What are the best sound cards for immersive sound?

Creative Sound Blaster AE-7

  • 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 first 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 into 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.

It comes with a top-notch 127dB DNR ESS SABRE-class 9018 DAC and a Quad-Core processor that will handle all the audio tasks to perfection.

The Xamp discrete headphone bi-amplifier powers each earcup of your headphones separately with 1Ω output impedance.

It can also drive studio-grade headphones of up to 600Ω, including high-end planar-magnetic headphones so the better your equipment, the better the sound quality.

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX

  • 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 20 db 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.

Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX

  • 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 one of our top picks 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.

The AE-5 Plus is the equivalent of a high-end graphics card for sound and it supports 5.1 discrete and 7.1 virtual surround, as well as Sound Blaster’s Surround Virtualization technology.

The SABRE32 ultra-class PCI-e DAC provides Hi-Rez sound with up to 32-bit / 384 kHz playback and a 122 dB DNR, that practically gets rid of any distortion and jitter.

This sound card is not only about the perfect sound but it also ensures the show because it features customizable RGB LEDs on its body, and also features an included RGB LED strip.

So, it doesn’t even lack the bling of a gaming card. Even if it’s an internal device, you will find a way to display its talents.

Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe 

  • 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 116 db 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, beam-forming dual microphone perfect for in-game communication.

The Sound Blaster Z is compatible with Windows 10 and you can download the drivers from the manufacturer’s site. Its price fluctuates, but definitely keep an eye on the discounts.

ASUS Essence STX II

  • 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 an 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.

How to choose a sound card for my PC

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.

What will you use the card for?

It’s a big difference if you want a gaming audio card or one for listening to music. Of course, you need something else for music production.

So, the first thing to do is to decide what will you use the card for and pick one accordingly. A gaming card will need to have at least 5.1 support for your audio system.

If you’re an audiophile, you will need a Hi-Rez audio DAC and a great stereo output with great support for your headphones output.

Of course, for audio production you will need more high-end inputs for your instruments and microphone.

External or internal audio card?

External audio cards are more convenient, and they usually have more features. However, they can come with latency issues.

Those can come because they use a single USB connection to your PC or laptop. Anyway, you should choose one with the latest USB 3.1 or 3.0 standard for maximum speed connection.

The internal cards can, however, feature better performance as they regularly use the PCI direct connection on your motherboard.

Watch for the necessary connectors

Look for the requirements of your other devices. For instance, if you have a S/PDIF output device, it’s a pity not to get a S/PDIF enabled soundcard as it’s the best way to convey high-end sound.

You should also look for the best cables and connectors you need for your microphone, amplifier, and instruments if you plan on connecting any.

We can now conclude our list with the best sound cards for Windows 10 PCs and our guide on how to get the perfect card for yourself.

This specific deal is part of our bigger selection of the best sound card deals you can find so you should also check them out.

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.

If you have any other suggestions about sound cards, we wait for them in the comments section below.

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Avatar Johnny Bahjat

Audigy has terrible support to Windows 10 drivers. my card stopped working and will not launch the setup.exe after windows 10 H20 the October 2020 update. the latest driver was released by Audigy on Aug. 2018 ?! nothing new. auto update utility would not even launch.

Avatar Bogart

Tried to research to find out what sound cards are compatible with Windows 10 with no luck. I just need something to replace a blown sound capacitor of my Mobo. I don’t need a surround sound to do a zoom or meeting call. Can anybody point me to somewhere? Thanks.

Avatar adel amir

Please , what are the card which are not crap ?

Avatar Goldmonger

What do you intend to do with the card?