The best USB sound card can drastically improve the media playing capabilities of your device, no matter if it’s a PC or Mac, a desktop or laptop, or even a tablet or games console.
Rather than having to put up with the basic onboard sounds included with your device (built-in soundcards are some of the first things manufacturers skimp on to save money), you can quickly add a USB sound card that can provide high fidelity music and audio, and even add surround sound, to your device. Best of all, USB sound cards are extremely easy to install – all you have to do is plug one into a USB port of your device (or connect it wirelessly via Bluetooth), then connect your speakers or headphones to the sound card, and you’ll get an instant audio upgrade.
Top 10 Choices For The Best USB Sound Card
Here are several top-quality picks for the best usb sound card to consider, no matter what your budget.
1. Creative Sound Blaster X3
This high-resolution USB DAC is the perfect solution for elevating your audio experience at your desk. It’s the only external USB DAC that features Super X-Fi tech, which recreates the experience of a high-end multispeaker sound system in your headphones. This is one of the few options that has a USB-C port, making it compatible with modern-day setups. It also helps you find that sweet spot between two audio sources. This comes in handy when you need to control the volume mix between video game audio, and the audio of your teammates so you can hear them better. This audio solution is compatible with PCs, Macs, the PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
2. StarTech.com 7.1
If you want the highest quality possible, you won’t think twice before considering the StarTech.com 7.1 USB External Sound Card a great choice. Powering up your 7.1-channel audio system will be a piece of cake with this reliable and quality-oriented adapter. Just hook it up to your PC, and it will start playing everything with clear audio. Whether it is music or movies, this adapter plays it all on your 7.1-channel system. For sure, it comes with all the jacks you could need for powering up your audio devices. It offers the back, line-in, surround, front, and even center/bass for extra capacity. And if you’re using headphones, then that won’t be an issue either, as there’s a single output just for that.
3. EPOS Sennheiser GSX 300
Epos, the company formerly known as Sennheiser’s gaming division, has turned out something of a treat on its first attempt. The GSX 300 sound card is compact and relatively inexpensive at around £70, but it produces a great expanded sound stage and offers an immersive simulation of 7.1 surround sound on stereo headsets. High resolution sound is supported, up to 24-bit 96kHz, and the GSX 300 can drive headphones up to 75 ohms. That meant my 50-ohm Sennheiser HD 598 SE worked fine, but the 300-ohm HD 600 is off the table.
4. Sound BlasterX G6
Sound Blaster has been synonymous with PC audio for decades and the G6 is the current cream of the crop. It’s technically aimed at gamers, but anyone looking for great audio will enjoy the virtual 7.1 surround sound, the dedicated headphone amplifier, and the absolutely superb 32-bit 384kHz DAC .which makes this more than a match for the best quality lossless audio files.
5. TechRise USB Sound Card
This device has some cool features. Firstly, it offers 3 audio interfaces. These interfaces can support microphones, headphones or speakers. Secondly, TechRise USB Sound Card features two independent buttons for audio mute and mic mute. With this feature, you can avoid being listened to over the internet. Finally, this product offers a volume control dial – you can easily adjust the volume to get your desired sound output. In addition, this USB sound adapter is compatible with Windows, MAC, Linux, and Chrome operating systems. To support the features already listed above, here are some of the most important tech specs for this product: 3.5mm microphone jack and USB type A port.
6. ASTRO Gaming MixAmp Pro
The Astro MixAmp Pro is more than your average Amp and DAC You can get the MixAmp Pro along with the Astro A40 headset in a bundle, or just standalone. Either way, it’s an excellent solution for those who want extra control over their audio experience. Design-wise, the entire look of the MixAmp Pro has been updated from its predecessors. The two knobs are now in a horizontal position instead of a vertical one. There’s a 3.5mm jack on the front and indicator for PC and PS4 settings. The bigger knob is for volume control, while the right knob is the mixer for game audio and voice chat. You can determine how much game audio you hear and how loud your teammates are. A button on the bottom helps in switching between the EQ presets. The top button is used for activating Dolby surround sound or presets.
7. EVGA Nu Audio Card
The EVGA Nu Audio Card is a sound card for high-end audio equipment. If you use a mainstream gaming headset or gaming speakers, you won’t need this one. This card is for those who want the ultimate aural experience and have audiophile-grade equipment to pair with the card. Just remember that this card works best with stereo hi-fi equipment. If you have the big guns, this card delivers. Expect extremely wide soundstage and crystal-clear audio. Lively sound with superb dynamic range. For all of you RGB fans out there we have good news. The card comes with RGB support.
8. HyperX HX-USCCAMSS-BK
The HyperX Amp USB Sound Card is your best choice if you aim to upgrade your audio. With a custom-tuned virtual 7.1 surround sound that allows for advanced digital signal processing, convenient plug-and-play setup, and precise controls to quickly adjust volume, you can expect nothing less than perfect results. What’s more, you will enjoy excellent mic noise-cancellation features that will undoubtedly shape your audio crystal-clear.
9. Creative Blaster Audigy Fx 5.1 PCIe
If you are very tight on budget but don’t want to spend it on toys, take a look at Creative Blaster Audigy. It was released many many years ago, but that does not matter, it is still present and able to compete with younger “sisters”. For its price range, the specifications are simply amazing! Two stereo line ins and two line outs with RCA and 6,3mm jacks, instrument and microphone input (XLR in the back). But sadly, there’s no phantom power – this might be limiting since you’ll probably want to plug a condenser mic to try some recordings.
10. Asus XONAR SE 5.1
Coming from a company that has built an incontestable name in the gaming hardware industry, the Asus Xonar SE is a powerful card perfect for both games and movies. It’s also a budget-friendly option that proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to get great PC sound cards. This low-profile bracket makes it easy to plug this card directly into the PCIe x1 slot and works on any new motherboard. By using hyper grounding technology, you get better sound without all the interference and distortion. It also features a 5.1 channel high-res audio at up to 192kHz/24bit.
How To Choose The Best USB Sound Card?
A sound card is an important but usually overlooked computer part. A USB model has a trade-off of a single USB port for several audio ports, including a 3.5mm output jack, a 3.5mm input jack, coaxial S/PDIF jack, and optical S/PDIF jack. Aside from the ports, you also need to consider the quality of the material used. For long-lasting use, you have to choose the best USB sound card to reap the maximum sound quality benefits. Here are few advantages of an external card over an internal one:
- Easily accessible and installed. It means that you do not have to open or take your computer apart to use and connect an external SD card. An external sound card is a simple plug and play.
- It is compact, small, and portable.
- No risk of electric shock. There is always a risk of a static shock involved working with internal SD cards, which can damage a computer’s internal components when opening it up.
- You can add fantastic surround sound capabilities to your laptop.
- Protect your storage equipment from dust and bugs.
The best USB sound card will really depend on your needs and potential uses, so we’ll highlight brands and models with a range of I/O (input/output). We’ll start with the smaller units and move down the page toward the larger ones. It’s organized by the number of XLR mic inputs. All of the interfaces should work with both Mac OS and Windows, but I’ll mention if that’s not the case or if there have been any issues. Most are USB 2.0 but there are a couple that use USB 3.0 along with newer models using Type-C.