The 5 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.
The best sound cards for Windows 10
ASUS Essence STX II (recommended)
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 audiophile 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 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. Its price is around $210.
HT OMEGA CLARO II 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card (suggested)
The HT Omega Claro 11 comes with a breathtaking design that sets it apart from other sound cards. But design is not all there is to admire. This sound card delivers amazing 7.1ch surround sound with audio quality that blows away the competition, thanks to the CM18788 audio processor. It also provides multiple options for those who may want to build custom computers for different uses.
The HT OMEGA Claro 11 provides up to 7.1ch analog outputs, coaxial output, optical input/output, 2Pin digital input and 2Pin digital output onboard. The analog outputs are further enhanced by the AD8620BR OPAMP, which results in high-quality and unrivaled audio experience. At a weight of 1 pound, this sound card is lightweight so it’s very easy to handle. The Claro 11 is a great choice for custom computer builders. You can purchase it for $184.99.
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX
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 that 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.
The Sound Blaster Audigy sound card is also compatible with Windows 10. However, since the product was in production even before Windows 10 arrived, the enclosed CD-ROM only works with Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs. To use it on a Windows 10 PC, you will have to download and install the Windows 10 Install Pack from the manufacturer’s site. It’s price is around $40, depending on the shop/site you’re purchasing it.
Sound Blaster Z PCIe
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 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. It’s price fluctuates between $90-$100.
Read also: How to fix static noise issues in Windows 10
StarTech 7.1 Channel Sound Card (PEXSOUND7CH)
If you are looking for a sound card that works perfectly in Windows 10 right out of the box, then the StarTech is your best bet. This sound card saves you the trouble of scouring the web looking for drivers or compatibility report for Windows 10. Surprisingly, at only $46, it’s one of the cheapest high-performance sound cards in the market. Despite its price, the sound quality is on par with most of the high-end sound cards on the market.
This amazing sound card delivers 7.1 ch surround sound. It supports optical and analog audio devices through the SPDIF input or 3.5mm analog output. Installation is simple and straightforward. Unlike other sound cards, the StarTech is much smaller in size, which allows it to fit in custom builds of any size. It also comes with multiple connectivity options so you can easily connect a microphone or other recording devices to your computer. You can find it for $47 on Amazon.
Read also: Top 5 audio enhancers for Windows 10
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.
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