Picking the Best Sound Card For PC/Mac, 6 Things You Should Consider

Learn how to pick the best sound card for your pc / mac depending upon your use case, either you are a gamer, musician or an audiophile.

With So Many Brands Competing with One Another, Each Claiming to The Best Class in the World. But the problem with average consumer is which one will they consider?
Not everyone is an audiophile, or can afford to be one, or are gifted in ways they could spot out several frequencies of certain instruments in a given audio track.

  • Compatible Interface.
  • Connection Availability.
  • Use Case Scenario
  • installation and Driver Support.
  • My Recommendations.
  • Pricing and Conclusion

With the Above Highlighted Points Considered, Let’s Learn the Appropriate Way on How to Pick the Perfect one.

Compatible Interface

Ensure that you have the available connection on the computer. Sound cards are available as both PCIe and USB, they are named Internal Sound-card, and External Sound Card

PCIe – Today, most cards available are PCIe or PCI if they are just as ancient; if you plan on using your sound card for such things as casually playing games and watching DVD movies, I will highly Recommend in Picking a PCIe Sound Card, and not to spend an arm or a leg on it.

USB – Today, The Real fun for audiophiles start here, not only the price range gets interesting, but here are things that an average joe won’t be able to figure out as multiple factors including but not limited to are considered such as AD/DA Converters, Dynamic Range, Mic EIN, THD-N, Crosstalk, Number of Input and Outputs and More.

In addition to verifying your computer has the available connections, it is also important to look and see if your computer has onboard audio (a sound card built onto the motherboard) and verifying that this sound card is disabled or will be disabled from the motherboard bios or device manager when the new sound card is installed

#In case of Mac Users Its recommended to Pick the USB or Thunderbolt.

Connection Availability

After determining the available connection on the sound card, it is also important to look at the available connections on the card. When purchasing a sound card, it is important that it has the available connections on the card.

Available speaker connections – For computer gamers it may be important that the card has two available speaker connections. One connection for the front speakers and the other for the rear speakers. Users who do not plan on using four speakers or utilizing this technology only needs one speaker connection to connect the set of two speakers to.

Midi port and Game port – The midi port allows a user to connect a Midi keyboard; however, it is more commonly used as a game port, allowing users to connect game paddles and joysticks to the card., This is specifically important for Musicians who game in their free time an are looking to get better footstep sounds, along with their Wishlist considered.  

Microphone connection – Today, a standard with all sound cards, it’s important to verify your sound card includes a Microphone connection, The connection Can Vary Between a 3.5mm Jack (Pink Port) to an XLR Input or Combo XLR Input which includes 6.35mm jack (TRS)

For Mac Users, its highly recommended to pick an External (USB / Thunderbolt) Sound Card

Use Case Scenario

If you are a Gamer – I assume you Won’t happen to care for Converters, Dynamic Range and Technical Stuff that go over your head, I won’t tell you to budge in to them, picking an internal Gaming Sound Card from Asus / Creative Will Do You good, just make sure that they have updated drivers.  Asus is Recommended when it comes to driver stability, since they have a known reputation for building solid drivers

And Don’t Worry they sound Dope and Offer What’s Sufficient for Hearing those footsteps better than anyone else.

If you are an Audiophile – Ah you do Care, Feels good man. Anyway yes, there are plethora of options out there, Including both PCIe (Internal Sound Cards and External Sound Cards)

If you are looking for just a great sound card that will tear through those lows and bring out them bass, bright mids and incredible highs with outstanding dynamic range, minimal harmonic distortion (THD-N) and with an AMP that can Power them Headphones you own..

Well, you have two options, you can buy a DAC. Zen Dac’s Are pretty dope to suffices your requirement.

Or You May Pick a Top Of the Line Gaming Sound Cards, That Can Drive Your Headphone, Provide you with AKM or ESS or PCM Converters with TI (Texas Instrument’s) AMP’s

Gamer or not, Asus Makes Such Cards, but they are Costly

If you are a Musician who Plays Games – Well Whatever I Have said here in both the cases applies to you, You would be needing an External Sound Card, Either PC / Mac Proper are Driver support being equally Important along with Midi In’s and Out’s

Installation and Driver Support

Driver Support is a very vital thing, No one Likes Blue Screens on windows, or Kernel Panics On mac. Beneath I have shared my personal experience with certain brands which I have used overtime.

MOTU (Mark of the Unicorn) Audient, Steinberg, Focusrite, SSL (Solid State Logic), Presonus are very Great Players when it comes to considering everything I have said and added with excellent driver support. They update their drivers regularly (Specially Presonus) and their support is just remarkable.

RME, Universal Audio, Apgoee, Antelope Audio These are Top Players, I have heard their names and haven’t been lucky enough to experience them yet. From what I have heard, they are used in films and production houses and people with “Budget? … Yes “

My Recommendations

For just Gamers and average joes – you may happily buy an Asus Xonar or a Creative Sound Card provided u have a spare PCIe Slot and you are good to go. SteelSeries and others make great alternatives too.

For Everyone Else including Musicians – Things I Will Strongly Recommend are From, MOTU, Audient, Steinberg, Focusrite, SSL, Presonus, They Possess Great Quality Preamps (XLR-Combo Inputs) and Great AD/DA Converters

Things I will recommend u from staying away are Behringer and Tascam, Its not that they are bad, but they are horrible if you consider working with them, Suppose running your small production house where you record audio, they have horrible driver support and noisy preamps (XLR Inputs) just enough to ruin your vocal or guitar jamming with statics and electrical buzzes. And no surge protector wont work, you need cloud-lifter an that’s costly too.

Pricing Conclusion

How much should You spent ?

Considering the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees for everyone, looking to spend more than 100$ for a decent sound card is too much for many people, but enthusiast or musicians who really need the power that it provides, then from 250$ onwards some serious firepower start to show up.. the choice is simple, please pick what you need, and what suffices your available connectivity requirement, platform compatibility and market availability, as not all brands are available everywhere.

Do You really need a sound card in 2022? This section is critically important for an Average Gamer who is reading this and doesn’t understand much of audio and its complicated theories.

You will only be needing sound card depending on Either of the two circumstances

  1. Your motherboard is not outputting sound, i.e. your On-board audio broke
  2. You Know what you are doing and simply not happy with lame audio provided by motherboard, your headphones are not sounding up to the mark

Note that Motherboard Audio’s Have Been Great Ever since past decades. Now you will Laugh if I Take the name Realtek.  Its because cheap motherboard gives horse-shit audio that’s plain and simple. Their PCB design have so much empty space in them that you can actually setup your own house, apartments, shops, complexes.. What more to expect?

But On Second Thoughts Realtek is Known for their audio too, I loved Their ALC 898 in my Gigabyte Z77X UD5H Motherboard that’s about a decade back. The 898 Could Easily Power my Audio Technica ATH-M50X with ease.

Now a days premium motherboards ship with ALC 1220 and more. The 1220 is an outstanding audio chip, in a premium motherboard costing over 250$ has all the bells and whistles to cover all your gaming needs you won’t be needing a sound card if gaming and listening to audio / movies is your only use case.

You can go through your motherboards manual / specifications on the website to find out which you are using. 

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