Best Cheap Sound Cards 2020

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.

Current Price
Sound Blaster ZBuilt-in dual microphone, direct stereo facility, reasonably pricedPRICE AT AMAZON
Creative Sound Blaster AudigyPocket-friendly, exemplary performance, better sound quality, Dolby Digital SupportPRICE AT AMAZON
ASUS Xonar DGXBudget-friendly, excellent sample rate and SNR, GX 2.5 fro improved In-Games AudioPRICE AT AMAZON
4) PCI SurroundBudget-friendly, easy to use onboard controls, better than onboard laptop audioPRICE AT AMAZON
Syba IO Crest PCIe X1Excellent sound quality, best budget optionPRICE AT AMAZON
Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIeBetter sound quality, built-in microphone, excellent gaming audioPRICE AT AMAZON
Creative Labs SB0880 PCI ExpressEAX support, AE-5 Hi-resolution, Easy to set up, hear 3D positional audioPRICE AT AMAZON
Sound BlasterX AE-5 Hi-ResolutionDiscrete headphone amp, top-notch software suite, built-in CampPRICE AT AMAZON
Diamond XS51 XtremeSoundReasonably priced, 5.1 virtual speakers, excellent surround soundPRICE AT AMAZON
SHINESTAR PCIe5.1 3D stereos surround sound, 16-bit editing decoderPRICE 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.

Surround Card

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.

Unique Requirements

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.

Connections Offered

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

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

Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Beam Forming Microphone

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.

  • Features built-in dual microphone
  • Supports several operating systems
  • Features a direct stereo facility that allows for unprocessed music listening
  • Is reasonably priced
  • One can easily switch between speakers and headphones
  • Comes with an average software

2. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe RX 7.1

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy PCIe RX 7.1 Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp

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.

  • A pocket- friendly option
  • Features 7.1 surround sound
  • Offers exemplary performance
  • Features an advanced chipset for better sound quality
  • Supports operating systems such as window 7, 8 and 10
  • Comes with a MIC monitoring to let one record themselves as they listen
  • Features scout mode for improved in-game audio
  • Has a built-in headphone AMP
  • Features Dolby Digital Support
  • Lacks EMI shield

3. ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E GX2.5

ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E GX2.5 Audio Engine Sound Cards

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

  • Budget-friendly option
  • Perfectly supports surround system
  • Features an excellent sample rate and SNR
  • Features a GX 2.5 fro improved In-Games Audio
  • Comes with a built-in headphone Amp
  • Performance could be improved

4. 5.1 Channel PCI Surround

5.1 Channel PCI Surround Sound Card Adapter - PCI Sound Card - 5.1 Sound Card - Audio Card - Computer Sound Card

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.

  • One of the best budget-friendly option in the market
  • Supports surround system
  • Comes with easy to use onboard controls
  • This soundcard is better than onboard laptop audio
  • Has fewer features as compared to other models of the same price

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

  • Offer excellent sound quality
  • One of the best budget option in the market
  • Offers HRTF-based 3D positional audio with a wavetable music synthesizer
  • No cons

6. Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe

Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe Audiophile Grade Gaming Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Desktop Audio Control Module

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.

  • Offer better sound quality than most of its competitors
  • Features a built-in microphone
  • Offers excellent gaming audio than onboard
  • Features 5.1 surround which is a bit on the lower side

7. Creative Labs SB0880 PCI Express

Creative Labs SB0880 PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Sound Card

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.

  • Features full 7.1 surround capability
  • Comes with EAX support
  • One of the best cheap AE-5 Hi-resolution
  • gaming soundcards available in the market
  • Easy to set up
  • Plug and play with most PCs
  • Priced on the lower side
  • Features the hear 3D positional audio that is precise
  • Features a lower SNR and sample Rate

8. Sound BlasterX AE-5 Hi-Resolution PCIe

Sound BlasterX AE-5 Hi-Resolution PCIe Gaming Sound Card and DAC with RGB Aurora Lighting System Black

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.

  • Features a discrete headphone amp
  • Features a top-notch software suite for an enhanced music experience
  • Features aurora reactive lighting system with several customizable colors to choose from
  • Features a built-in Camp
  • Features a distinctively amplified audio channels
  • Priced on the higher side than other models with the same features

9. Diamond XS51 XtremeSound 5.1 PCI

Diamond XS51 XtremeSound 5.1 PCI 16 bit Sound Card for windows 7, 8.1

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.

  • Reasonably priced
  • Features high performance without distortion
  • Features 5.1 virtual speakers
  • Boasts excellent surround sound
  • Allows for secure connectivity with most home audio equipment
  • Comes with a dedicated USB port
  • The general performance can be improved

10. SHINESTAR PCIe Sound Card

SHINESTAR PCIe Sound Card, 5.1 Internal Sound Card for PC Windows 10 with Low Profile Bracket, 3D Stereo PCI-e Audio Card, CMI8738 Chip 32-64 Bit Sound Card PCI Express Adapter

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.

  • Seamlessly converts the PC into an entertainment system thanks to its 5.1 3D stereos surround sound
  • Comes with 16-bit multimedia digital signal editing decoder
  • Supports direct audio and also windows XP/7/10
  • A best cheap option for PC desktop
  • May be relatively more expensive than other products with the same features



Jeff Day
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