When playing on the computer, the feeling does not come across properly, because the sound is too one-dimensional? In the home theater, there are no real emotions, because the background melodies and superficial sounds sound tinny? Then it may be time for an additional sound card.
Discover sound cards that can be easily integrated into your surround system and can be used extremely versatile with numerous inputs and outputs.
How to find the right soundcard in 2019
- With a good sound card, you get the best out of the audio peripherals out of the existing systems. Before you change your speakers or even buy a new PC, you should rather think about a high-quality and powerful sound card.
- When skyping, gaming or enjoying streaming movies on your laptop, sound is the most important factor besides image quality and transfer speed . Do not settle for lousy sounds anymore, but treat your headphones in stereo clear tones with a sound card.
- Not only in team-speak gaming, the audio quality with a sound card is almost always better than that of the integrated onboard sound card. You do not always have to replace the internal sound card, because there are clever ways to integrate the sound cards with appropriate connections in the audio world.
If you can no longer hear the sound of cheaper, integrated audio systems, you do not have to invest in a completely new PC. Quite the opposite, because even by buying relatively cheap sound cards can achieve great effects.
Use our 2018 sound card comparison to find the appropriate models for gaming, home theater, or even headphone amplifiers. Get to know the main inputs and outputs so that you can actually connect the sound cards where they are needed.
1. Why no sound comes out of the device without sound cards
Sound cards are generally so-called sound cards,which are installed in laptops as well as in tower PCs or tablets.
They are referred to as built-in sound cards in the form in which the manufacturer integrates them into the devices . They manage digital as well as analogue audio signals.
For example, sound cards can convert the analog signals of an old record into a digital form so that you can use the files on a variety of modern playback devices.
An internal sound card takes care of the entire management of sound signals in a computer. That is, it processes the respective files and signals that are stored therein, for example, at the start of a particular game.
The compressed data is read from the sound card hardware and converted. From these data, the respective sound card audio interface is then activated,which generates from the signals the sounds audible to our ears.
Many sound cards are integrated in the form of a plug-in system firmly in the housing of the computer or are integrated as a flexible plug-in variant. However, the range of sounds in the factory-installed sound or sound cards usually quite clear, which can be significantly improved by the use of an external sound card.
Especially those who like to enjoy music on the PC, play their own songs or play elaborate games will benefit from the various sound card features.
2. Purchasing advice: Select the right type of sound card and avoid buying mistakes
In very different sound card tests has been shown time and again that buyers like to go the second before the first step.
It is researched for differences between 7.1 sound cards and 5.1 sound cards, connections are rated according to their number and technical finesse such as the signal to noise ratio come to the fore.
Since we have compared different sound card tests, we want to explain in more detail the design of sound cards in the first step. Because only then do you know in advance, which work steps to come in the actual use to you.
We generally distinguish three types of sound cards:
- USB sound card
- Onboard sound card
- Sound cards for installation
Viewed in detail, the respective variants have different properties, advantages and fields of application.
2.1. USB sound cards are extremely easy to use
In contrast to internal variants, which are integrated as a sound card via PCI interfaces , USB cards can be connected as simply as an MP3 player or a charging cable for the smartphone.
On a TV, laptop, PC or tablet, simply look for the USB port and connect the sound card and the device to each other via the USB port.
You do not have to unscrew the calculator for the use of these USB sound cards or take any other circumstances into account.
As charming as this variant may sound, please count in advance how many USB slots your computer, laptop or tablet has. If in doubt, the few slots are already occupied by a connected headset, an external mouse and possibly a keyboard, so that there is no space for a USB sound card. And then you have to decide whether you can get along while gaming or working on the computer, etc. without a mouse or the like.
If the slots are already occupied, which is very quickly the case on a laptop, you can still think about the use of this sound card. Maybe it’s a way, for example, with the headphones on the jack plug as a connection switch.
Because you better not screw a laptop to replace the built-in sound card with a new, internal sound card. Thus, USB sound cards are particularly suitable for laptops, which can be used flexibly anyway due to their USB ports.
2.2. Built-in sound cards – pay attention to their quality when purchasing computers
A new laptop, computer, or even a new tablet is usually not necessarily selected according to how powerful the built-in sound card is.
In today’s devices, the integrated sound cards are indeed much more powerful than a few years ago, but mostly not as high quality as external sound cards.
If you are considering purchasing a new computer, laptop or tablet, you should pay more attention to the built-in sound card.
If you want to watch movies, play games or try creative as a DJ or musician, then you should definitely treat yourself to a good sound card.
In audio card tests, every test person and tester immediately noticed the difference between the conventional sound card integrated by the manufacturer and a USB sound card or a permanently installed alternative .
You really do not have to be a musician or an expert, even a normal hearing with normal hearing habits already clearly notices the acoustic difference.Even if you buy a very cheap sound card, you already notice the effect.
2.3. Sound cards for internal installation – tricky, but effective
In this form, you replace the existing sound card with a better alternative, but you must install it inside the case. Sound cards are connected via the PCI interface.
PCI is the abbreviation for Peripheral Component Interconnect. This is a so-called serial bus, which presents itself as white stripes on the motherboard inside the computer.
Attention: You should only install the soundcard yourself if you are technically and artificially affine. Laptops, tablets or PCs need to be opened for installation. Ask in the electrical trade, with manufacturers or independent repairers, whether they can make the installation for a fee for you.
An internal, high-quality PCI sound card is a durable, uncomplicated solution to enjoy really good sound.
The effort is worth it, because after a single occupation with the PCI sound card, you experience the full sound every minute.
3. Make sure you choose the right sound card when choosing the best sound card
The technical details of the respective sound card as well as its later use are the condition for which characteristics the model should possess.
Terms such as signal-to-noise ratio, sampling rate and the available connections play an important role.
3.1. The signal to noise ratio ensures clean sound
The word component of the noise is to be taken very literally in this property. The signal-to-noise ratio (dB) is also referred to as the noise-to-noise ratio or signal-to-noise ratio.
This is the distance between noise and user signal, whereby a value of 100 dB is already very good.
Sound cards with a signal-to-noise ratio of 100 dB are suitable for gaming as well as home theater or for editing music.
If you want to completely eliminate the noise, you must select models from soundcard tests that have 124 dB or more.
3.2. Sampling rate – what is behind it and how high it should be
To understand the function of the sample rate, imagine a standard audio recording.
In the sound card, a signal is routed via the microphone input to the analog-to-digital converter (ADC). Within the chip, the analog signal is again converted to a digital signal.
With a scanning depth of min. 16 bit is also the sampling rate (kHz) together.In order for the audible sound to reach a quality like the telephone, you need at least 8 kHz.
For the sound quality of a CD, however, you already need 44 kHz. Most built-in sound cards have the aforementioned 44 kHz, while studio-quality sound cards have 96 kHz.
3.3. Which connections the sound card should have
In a variety of combinations, sound cards have the following connectors:
- Output for headset, headphones
- Output for active speakers (line-out)
- Input for recordings (line-in)
- Microphone input (Mic-In)
- Input for RCA jacks or jack analogue (stereo 5.1, 7.1)
- Outputs and digital inputs (HDMI, SPDIF)
4. Why sound cards expand sound and usage
As already mentioned, the sound can be significantly improved when gaming on the PC or in the context of the home theater installation by an internal or external sound card.
The variants integrated by the manufacturer are usually not as powerful as the additional audio cards. If you choose cards with the appropriate connectors, enjoy even more benefits.
For example, if you own a record collection or cassettes, you can easily digitize them thanks to a sound card. Use the line-in cable to connect the player to the sound card and connect it to the PC.
In most cases, you will need to install a sound card driver in advance, which will guide you through the operation with a user-friendly menu.
Without such a sound card driver, the functions are sometimes limited. Almost all brands and manufacturers deliver the necessary software online or by means of a CD.
The advantages and disadvantages of sound cards at a glance:
- improved sound, also in combination with headsets
- reduced noise and background noise
- Digitization of analog sources
- external sound cards occupy USB slots
- Installation of internal sound cards often tricky
5. Get to know accessories around the sound card
Depending on the provider, you can enjoy a wide range of different software that opens up a variety of design options right on and in the PC.
To record and create music, but also to improve the soundscape in gaming, the diversity is enormous.
Furthermore, by investing in high-quality speakers, sound systems and headsets you can further enhance the sound experience and enjoy a movie or a game even more intensively.
A new sound card presents itself in the comparison with pre-installed built-in solutions as follows:
Included in the purchase price
$6 – $200
Max. 44 kHz
48 – 192 kHz
internally or externally
6. The exchange of built-in sound cards is worthwhile
Many people have already become accustomed to the usual sound volume of tablets, computers or laptops. But those who have once enjoyed the really pure tones, the rich variety of ups and downs with an external or subsequently integrated sound card, will definitely not want to miss them anymore.
7. Important questions and answers about sound cards
7.1. Which manufacturers offer sound cards?
In great variety you will find sound cards from famous brands like Asus or Behringer.
There are also many other providers, such as Creativ Sound or ESI, who often focus on gaming, home theater or the needs of musicians.
7.2. How do I find out what type of sound card I own?
On the Windows PC you call the operating system and there the device manager.
In the video, audio and game controller category, the name of the product being used, such as Creative Sound Blaster PCI-Express or similar, will be displayed.
At Apple, you proceed in a similar way to the operating system.
7.3. What is my soundcard called?
As described in the previous question, you can have the exact name displayed on the operating system of your PC.
For home cinema systems, it is worth taking a look at the operating instructions, where the technical components are often listed in great detail.
In case of doubt try to ask for the desired information by phone or via the manufacturer’s homepage.