Audio is a entertainment factor that most music or gaming lovers often take for granted. Currently, on-board sound has improved leaps and bounds. Most times, users are happy with merely running on-board sound for most tasks. However, when you actually start distinguishing audio in the PC by gaming, watching movies, listening to music, then you may experience a missing connect. It may not be clearly visible in the start, but you will require updating and upgrading your sound experience.
For many, buying a sound card only entails buying a device that allows the computer to have sound; but its benefits lie beyond that. When you are planning to buy the best budget sound card, there are a number of factors that can confuse you. At times, some complications may create difficulties when you want to install your sound card in your computer. As such, before you finally pick the best budget sound card for you from the vast market; it is imperative to take into consideration certain key points. This guide will assist you in making an informed decision while you decide to buy the best budget sound card. It elaborates on the different factors that you should keep in mind when purchasing one.
|Sound Blaster Z||Built-in dual microphone, direct stereo facility, reasonably priced||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|Creative Sound Blaster Audigy||Pocket-friendly, exemplary performance, better sound quality, Dolby Digital Support||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|ASUS Xonar DGX||Budget-friendly, excellent sample rate and SNR, GX 2.5 fro improved In-Games Audio||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|StarTech.com PCI Surround||Budget-friendly, easy to use onboard controls, better than onboard laptop audio||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|Syba IO Crest PCIe X1||Excellent sound quality, best budget option||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe||Better sound quality, built-in microphone, excellent gaming audio||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|Creative Labs SB0880 PCI Express||EAX support, AE-5 Hi-resolution, Easy to set up, hear 3D positional audio||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|Sound BlasterX AE-5 Hi-Resolution||Discrete headphone amp, top-notch software suite, built-in Camp||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|Diamond XS51 XtremeSound||Reasonably priced, 5.1 virtual speakers, excellent surround sound||PRICE AT AMAZON|
|SHINESTAR PCIe||5.1 3D stereos surround sound, 16-bit editing decoder||PRICE AT AMAZON|
Factors to Consider when Buying the Best Budget Sound Card
Carefully consider the following points to make a smart and wise purchase.
Your need and Requirements
Whether you buy a sound card or any other device, the very first point that you must consider without any second thought is your need and requirements. This is because, we purchase any product to fulfill a particular need that the product has the capability to satisfy. If you just randomly pick up any product without actually knowing what you want, then you will merely waste your time and money. The very first thing that you need to take into account when buying sound card is the intended usage. In case you are in need of simple sound support and not an amazing 3D surround sound, then it is advisable that you aim for a low budget and economic option. However, if you wish to have spectacular surround sound with enhanced speaker connectivity options, you will want to buy a completely dedicated sound card that provides better facilities.
They say money matters. Yes, when you buy a product, it does matter a lot. If you are spending a significant amount, then you would want to get all current features available in the market. If not all, then at least all the features that are of utmost importance to you. As such, budget is always a key point to consider whenever you make a purchase decision. In today’s time, a normal, basic and no-frills sound card is available at around $10. On the other hand, the latest, trendy, heavy-duty sound card with surround sound support may cost you around $250. But, if you requirements are low, and simple sound support may suffice, then it is recommended that you don’t waste money in buying a high-grade sound card. The extra features may get wasted if you have no need for them. You should rather stick to a basic budget sound card and save money for better investments.
When buying a surround card, one of the most crucial factors to take into consideration is sound standard. Find out what level your sound card supports. In the market today, the most high-end sound cards offer EAX and 5.1 surround sound supports. This allows a user to connect a maximum of five speakers to these cards. You can thus enjoy surreal, 3D audio effects at your home and get an amplified sound experience. A number of the best budget sound cards these days even offer 7.1 surround sound support.
Each one of you has some unique requirements that you need your purchased product to satisfy. If you have some special features that you absolutely need, then it is essential to consider. For instance, if you are into professional, multitrack music recording, then you will require a proper multi-channel sound card. On the other hand, if you are someone who likes features like MIDI, you will require a sound card that supports enhanced MIDI support. Consider all the other requirements, in order to make the most of your budget sound card.
Does Your Computer Have the Updates
A sound card is closely associated with your computer, as it is a device that gets installed in it. So, if you wish to benefit from the latest and high-end features offered by the new sound cards in the market, then you will also need to make sure that you have a powerful and updated CPU to match it. It makes no sense to have the best-in-class sound card, if you do not have an enhanced computer to support it. If you are installing the high-end sound card into an old Pentium 3 computer, then you are merely wasting your money.
When buying a best budget sound card, it is also important to carefully look for the software that comes along the sound card package. Several sound cards such as the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS are marvelous, as they offer a great music and audio software. It will help you in saving money. This will work well, especially, if the package offers the software that you always desired for.
Make sure that the computer you wish to install your sound card in has the available connections. Generally, sound cards are compatible with both PCI and ISA.
– PCI – In the current market system, many sound cards are available as PCI. As such, if are planning to use your best budget sound card for playing games and watching DVD movies, then, it is advisable you at least buy a PCI sound card.
– ISA – Currently, the ISA cards are available on relatively cheaper rates as compared to their counterparts. They are suitable for people who may not have money to have proper sound on their computer system. Additionally, they are not only affordable, but also efficient. Buying an ISA sound card helps you to keep an extra free PCI slot available.
– Furthermore, you must not only verify that your computer system has the available connections , it is also imperative to find out if your computer has a built-in sound card attached to the motherboard. Find out whether the main sound card can be disabled, or will automatically be disabled when you install a new sound card.
It is imperative to know about the available connections on the card.
– Speaker connections – If you are a gamer, then it is imperative that the sound card that you buy offers two speaker connections. One connection for the front speakers, and the other for the rear speakers. There may be people who do not wish to utilize the all the four speakers, or do not plan to use this feature. Some may be comfortable only with one speaker connection to connect a set of two speakers. But, it is essential that you consider this point, before making a purchase to avoid future regrets and extra costs.
– Midi port and Game port – With the MIDI port connection, you can easily connect to a MIDI keyboard. However, this is most likely used only for gaming as it allows users to connect game paddles and joysticks to the card.
– Microphone connection – Presently, it is a norm to check if the sound card offers a microphone connection. It is imperative to verify whether the sound card you are looking for includes a microphone connection or not.
3-D Acceleration is used and found widely in the latest computer games. Here is a list of the 3-D Accelerations found in the market today:
DirectSound 3D by Microsoft: It comes with API software that also includes DirectX.
EAX Creative Labs Environmental Audio Extensions: It offers realistic and amplified sound effects that enhance the whole gaming experience.
A3D Originally by Aureal: It is A3D API software, specially designed for additional 3D acceleration sans utilizing Microsoft’s API code.
Warranty and Support
It is undeniable that electronic devices need proper maintenance and care. Most of the devices have heavy repair costs attached to them. As such, if you buy the best budget sound card that offers a good warranty period and excellent support system, then you’re saving yourself from incurring expenses in future. Carefully consider the warranty period offered by the company; understand its inclusions and exclusions. Furthermore, take into account the technical support that is provided. Is it available for 24 hours, 7 days a week and do they have a toll free number? Considering the support factor is essential, as you may need help anytime.
After carefully understanding the factors, you should read the review of the product, for appropriate information, before you decide to make a final call. If you think that you’ve understood the functioning and qualities of a budget sound card, move ahead with the purchase decision. However, make sure that the place from where you are planning to buy the sound card from is reputable, trustworthy and has goodwill in the market. So conduct your research and analysis carefully – either online or personally, before making the purchase. You can read expert reviews online and customer testimonials to comprehend the device better.
If you’re searching for the best budget sound card 2018, then you have to look no further. Our experts have prepared a list of the best budget sound card sof 2018, after hours of research and testing. Check out the list given below and choose the sound card that fits your requirements.
Top 10 Best Budget Sound Cards 2020
1. Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card
The new Sound Blaster Gaming sound card is designed around the powerful Sound Core3D™ audio processor. This Z series has once again, raised the industry standards with regards to PCIe sound cards. It is specially designed to fulfill the standards for people who desire who superior quality experience, over motherboard audio. It comes with external DACs that deliver 116dB SNR, along with 600 ohm audiophile-grade headphone amp. It is also has an extensively customizable SBX Pro Studio technology and a Sound Blaster Z pack to provide a solid audio effect.
Additionally, it includes an external high quality dual-microphone. The sound card duly supports operating systems such as Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. It also comes with a Stereo Direct facility, that lets you listen to your music, pure and unprocessed. It offers a marvelous bit-rate of 24-bit 192 kHz. You come comfortably use this sound card to jump between your headphone and speakers.
2. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe RX 7.1
Sound Blaster Audigy is a perfectly designed PC application that allows users to control and alter the functions your sound card depending on your needs. You can easily adjust your Creative Multi Speaker Surround (CMSS or CMSS 3D) settings to precisely upmix the stereo content to your multi-channel speaker system. This will help you to add the acoustic depth to your multi-channel content, making it all the more realistic. Additionally, you can use the Mic Monitoring and Stereo Mixing feature to hear yourself while you record – it helps you to listen to the effects immediately.
It has an advanced chipset to process the legendary EAX reverb engine that provides strong and better quality audio. The sound card’s features include a 106dB SNR that ensures a high level of audio quality, and a 24-bit 192 kHz stereo direct playback. It supports operating systems such as Windows 8, Windows XP SP2 or higher, Windows Vista SP1 or higher, Windows 7 and Windows 10. This amazing sound card allows you to immerse in full cinematic 7.1 multi-channel audio experiences that is perfect for games, movies and music. It is the best budget sound card under $60.
3. ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E GX2.5
The Xonar sound card is specially optimized for gamers. It helps in immersive gaming action, through precision audio. It combines audio card and Dolby Headphone 5.1 high definition surround sound, with the ASUS-exclusive GX 2.5 gaming audio engine. Additionally, it also has an on-board headphone amplifier. It provides accurate and deep audio effect, that brings every nuance and sound across perfectly. This makes the new Xonar DGX 5.1, a perfect sound card for gamers who essentially remain completely unaware of their gaming atmosphere. It comes with an inbuilt Headphone AMP, that boosts up every sound detail in gaming. Also, it offers 3 headphone Amp gain modes for suit different usage scenarios. It features a GX2.5 for realistic 3D audio effects and an audio processor with High-Definition Sound Processor. It has an automatic jack-sensing front-panel output. It is the best budget sound card under $40
4. StarTech.com 5.1 Channel PCI Surround
The StarTech sound card comes with 5.1 channel audip, that is o to be attached to a desktop PC through a PCI slot. This Surround Sound Card allows you to add 5.1 channel audio, giving you great audio output, and microphone/line input via 3.5mm mini-jacks. It offers a cost-effective multimedia solution that provides high quality surround sound. It helps you enjoy full-duplex, 48 KHz/ 16bit audio playback/recording. It also supports HRTF 3D positional audio, Microsoft DirectSound, DirectSound 3D, and A3D. Additionally, it offers three internal auxiliary input connectors that help you connect your CD drive directly to the sound card. In case your drive features external control buttons, then this sound card allows you playback sans impeding your PC’s performance. It is available under $40 in the market.
5. Syba IO Crest 5.1 Channel PCIe X1
Now you can easily expand your system with this multi-channel PCI-Express sound card. This sound card offers a HRTF-base 3D positional Audio with wavetable music synthesizer. It has a compatible midi interface, and requires 4 pin Power to provide the best experience. Its high fidelity multi-channel audio, home theater and entertainment station, provides an amazing experience overall. The controller offers surround sound output and perfect audio quality – for playback and recording. It makes use of an x1 pci-e lane with the media chipset, that provides for the output of high quality sound. This is the best budget sound card available under $20
6. Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe
The Sound Blaster ZxR is specially designed to work with the philosophy of “Total System Performance”. The Sound Blaster has been made by combining audiophile-grade componentry, with unique audio playback and recording technologies. It comes with refined audio playback and high-fidelity recording capabilities. It is also equipped with a CrystalVoice Voice Enhancement and Clarity Technology, that helps you express yourself and record your voice. You can hear audio crystal clear in video conferencing, multiplayer games and online chats. It features a high-quality headphone Amp that supports studio quality headphones and has a Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect that allows your home theater system through a single digital cable for intense 5.1 surround sound.
7. Creative Labs SB0880 PCI Express
With the Creative Labs Titanium sound card, you can now you can watch your DVDs in cinematic surround sound with PowerDVD software having DTS and Dolby Digital-EX decoding. The sound card comes with a PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium, featuring fantastic inputs and low-latency ASIO drivers for great music recording. The Hear 3D positional audio is so precise, that you can locate enemies by sound while enjoying your game. It makes game-playing highly exceptional, and you can hear the crackling gunfire and earth-shattering explosions. The EAX 5.0 delivers amazing audio sound effects to enhance your gaming experience. If you’re a hard-core gamer, then this is the best budget sound card under $60 to make your game experience better. It also helps to enhance your performance with hardware audio acceleration.
8. Sound BlasterX AE-5 Hi-Resolution PCIe
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 is an Ultra Class Hi-Resolution PCIe Gaming sound card and DAC. It also features Xamp, a new unique headphone amp that uses bi-amplification technology. It provides and amazingly clear audio and stands out with the Aurora Reactive Lighting System – with 16.8 million customizable colors. It is the very first sound card to have Xamp, the specifically discrete headphone amplifier. Every audio channel is distinctly amplified, and allows the AE-5 to provide enhanced audio fidelity.
It offers audio sound that is unaltered, and precisely reaches each ear-cup profoundly needless of the demand. Its ultra-low 1O output impedance drives 16-600O headphones with precision. It is specially designed for enjoying games, music, and movies. The sound card provides around up to 32-bit 384kHz playback with a 122dB DNR, ultra-low distortion and jitter. This amazing all-in-one is a little heavy on your pockets and is available at $150, but if you have so many features at hand, then price isn’t a matter of concern.
9. Diamond XS51 XtremeSound 5.1 PCI
The Diamond XtremeSound XS51 sound card is one of the most affordable options for anyone looking for better audio and sound. It provides an extraordinary a cinematic effect to your daily computer audio experience. This 5.1 Channel sound card offers high-quality audacity that helps in recording live audio through various sources. It also features 5.1 virtual speaker shifter providing surround sound for CDs, and MP3s EAX 2.0 and A3D sound support. It works on PCI 2.2 interface with bus mastering and burst modes, enhancing your audio listening experience. It is available on Operating Systems such as WIN 8.1, WIN 8, WIN 7 32, WIN 7 64, WINVISTA32, WINVISTA64, WINXP, WINXP64, WIN2000 and MCE. Additionally, it comes with a One Year Limited Warranty and can be bought under $20.
10. SHINESTAR PCIe Sound Card
This surround sound card allows you to add 5.1 channel audio to a desktop PC through a PCI slot, giving you audio output, and microphone/line input via 3.5mm mini-jacks. It offers three internal auxiliary input connectors, that help you to connect your CD drive directly to the sound card. This is the best choice of sound card for PC desktop, offering a profile bracket for 2U case. Additionally it features a 16-bit multimedia digital signal editing decoder inside that supports 32/64-bit audio processing, recording and playback. This small wonder is available under $20.