Best Budget Soundcards 2020
Updated: December 2020
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Before making any purchase it is always best to make sure you take your time to know exactly what it is you need and what choice suits you best. When it comes to sound cards, there are multiple factors to take into consideration. Such factors like, does your computer meet the requirements to effectively use the sound card? What sound system would work best for me? Which is why we have compiled this handy guide for you, helping you make the most informed decision that you can.
The first important factor to consider, is what do you personally need a sound card for? This can alter your purchase drastically, as some sound cards are built with specific functions in mind.
Many people choose to purchase a new sound card to enhance their gaming, thanks to the use of 3D audio effects, gaming has never been more immersive. However, one of the more popular reasons is that someones career might require it. Sound editing and music creation typically requires improved sound to help you perform the best you can.
Cards that are better suited for sound editing are typically much more expensive than your typical sound cards due to their inclusion of premium features. When it comes to listening to music and playing games, your best bet is to go for a cheaper, budget sound card. Carefully consider your need and requirements before making a purchase, so you can be sure that the sound card you have chosen is the best one for you!
When it comes to finding the best sound card to suit your purposes, staying within budget is perhaps the biggest consideration you will make. It wouldn’t be wrong of you to assume that the more features packed into a sound card, the higher the asking price. Weighing up what you require from a sound card will help ensure you stay within your set budget.
A cheap sound card for everyday use shouldn’t set you back much more than $20, but if you are wanting the best sound quality and 3D audio effects – expect to shell out a lot more than this. Which brings us back to your need and requirement. A gaming sound card is far cheaper than a heavy duty, top of the line sound chip, but your budget might allow for some wiggle room.
When it comes to sound cards, you get what you pay for. Check that the card you require is within your budget range and both your wallet and ears will thank you.
Surround sound is an extremely common term you will see when purchasing anything audio based. From wireless speakers to sound cards, this is one of the biggest reasons you may be considering purchasing any audio device. As complicated as it sounds, surround sound is simply a measurement of how many external speakers the device can connect to. This offers an incredible method of improving audio fidelity and depth. The most common value you will see, is 5.1 surround sound, which as you may have guessed means you can connect up to 6 external speakers. However, as technology has improved, many sound cards now offer 7.1 surround sound, giving you an unparalleled sound experience – Audio quality has never been better.
Environmental Audio Extensions, or EAX for short, is also another term to be aware of. However, over time this technology has become less popular due to the newer improved version, EFX. This feature is most commonly found in sound blaster cards and is usually used to enhance your gaming experience. Although it is not entirely linked to surround sound, EAX is a method used to accurately replicate how sound works in real-life.
Most budget cards feature 5.1 surround sound, but it’s still worth checking what the card you are interested in offers. Who knows, you might be lucky and find a cheap 7.1 surround sound card!
Each buyer is unique, and so are their requirements and needs. Ensuring that the card you choose has all the requirements you need is a very important step. From MIDI support to multi-channel sound there is a plethora of functionality available today. Most sound editors will appreciate the added depth that a multi-channel sound card offers but a typical user may not need this. Consider each and every option carefully, you could save yourself some money in the long run without sacrificing what your truly need from a sound card.
Whether or not you choose to purchase an internal or external sound card, you will need to ensure your computer is compatible. Many sound cards on the market today utilize your CPU to enhance sound quality, so there isn’t much point in splashing out on a high-end sound card when your CPU will struggle to keep up. It also probably isn’t a good idea to choose a 7.1 surround internal sound card if you plan on only using a 2 speaker system. Checking that your computer is up to the task before making a purchase can you save you from an incredible amount of hassle further down the line.
If you want to be doubly sure that your CPU’s going to keep up, you might want to invest in one of our best cheap CPU coolers.
As great as it is to have the best hardware available, software can be an underappreciated and much overlooked upgrade to any PC. Checking what software your sound card comes with is an excellent way to save yourself a little bit of money in the long run. A $30 card that comes with free access to $100 software can be better than a $100 card that offers no software. Sound Blaster cards tend to come with excellent software, and offer a free control panel for your system, making these one of the best budget sound cards to look out for. It is also worth checking out what operating systems the audio card is compatible with. Typically, as long as you are using Windows 7 on wards and iOS 10+ you should be fine.
Always check that the computer system you wish to install your sound card in has the correct interface that you require. If it doesn’t you will have to either get a new motherboard or choose a different sound card, making this something to be extremely cautious of. Thankfully most sound cards use the same interface, PCI and ISA, making this a fairly straightforward decision. Refer to this quick guide, to see the differences and a brief breakdown of these 2 connection types:
Another thing people tend to overlook is whether or not your computer already uses a built-in internal sound card. A lot of modern motherboards now come with an onboard sound card system, so always check whether or not you can disable this before purchasing a separate one. This will either be automatically disabled when attaching a new card or you will need to disable it manually before installation.
External connections are something that should be planned for ahead of purchasing your new sound card. Checking that your sound card offers the connection capabilities that you need is incredibly important. You don’t want to unbox your brand new 5.1 channel surround sound card, only to find out that you can only connect 2 audio output speakers to it. Here are a few typically available:
3-D acceleration is one of the top audio features developers will use to enhance gaming audio. Adding an immersive sound output can benefit any type of game and can be a really useful thing when competitive gaming is involved. Here are just a few common tech terms you may find:
Ensuring that the electrical product you are a purchasing features some form of warranty or tech support is an important step when it comes to purchasing computer hardware. Due to how unique some designs can be, it is extremely difficult to repair a sound card yourself if something goes wrong. Therefore, if you purchase a sound card that includes fault protection, you are saving yourself hefty repair costs down the line. It’s best to ask yourself things such as “What is covered by the provided warranty?”, “Can i receive tech advice seven days a week if needed?” before buying a new card. Overlooking tech warranty and support can come back to bite you further down the line.
It can also help to check customer reviews for the product and do some research regarding the manufacturer to see if they can be trusted. What may look like an incredible deal now, can become a nightmare when it becomes the reason your entire computer system shuts down. Reading seller reviews is also an essential step when it comes to purchasing electronic goods, nobody wants to receive a knock off product. Whether this is online or in the store – always check that the seller can be trusted and that you are fully aware what you will receive. Never be afraid to contact sellers or hardware experts to make sure that your chosen PC sound card is a sturdy piece of hardware.
Thankfully, we have done some of this research for you and compiled a list of the top 10 best budget sound cards of 2020. Read on to discover exactly what makes these cards some of the best on the marker, and who knows, you might just find the one for you!
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