There are lots of different soundcards with even more features so it can feel tricky to pick one. No worries, though, we have got you covered. Here are the key specs to look for when shopping.
Connection: Soundcards go into slots on the motherboard of your computer, but not all slots are compatible. You will need to choose a soundcard that’s compatible with your current motherboard. Make sure to take a quick peek at your motherboard’s manual before you make a purchase.
Channels: Soundcards support different numbers of audio channels. All winners featured below either have 5.1 channels (five speakers plus bass) or premium 7.1 (seven speakers plus bass). Both work great and which type you choose comes down to your speaker setup and personal preference.
Signal-To-Noise Ratio (SNR): Sounds complicated but it is actually pretty simple: SNR measures the level of your audio to the level of unwanted background noise that any speaker makes. SNR is the measurement of the strength of the sound you want compared to that of the unwanted static. It’s measured in decibels (dB), and higher is better.
Digital Connector (SPDIF): The digital connector is the rectangular looking plug on the back of some soundcards. It’s used for some devices in home theaters and other digital high-fidelity systems. Most people will never use this, but others require it, so we wanted to make sure to point out which soundcards feature it.
Front Panel Header Support: The front panel header is the part of your computer you can see from the outside (you guessed it, at the front). If your soundcard has Front Panel Header Support, you will be able to connect it directly with the buttons and lights you see externally on your computer, giving your convenient control.
Size: The size of your soundcard only becomes important if you have a small motherboard or case. Rest assured, almost any modern soundcard will fit in most computer setups. However, if space is an issue then double check if the soundcard will fit. The size of the card has no connection with audio quality.
Ok, now we are ready to get into the good stuff! This list of the top sound cards for gaming and music is the result of lots of and research. We thought of it all: Games, music, movies, podcasts, and more! If you’re short on time, take a look at the Top Pick and Budget Pick. We hope they’re music to your ears!
Article last updated on:
June 4, 2019