Computers are excellent for many things, but unfortunately, when it comes to listening to music, the audio quality is often subpar. Therefore, if you regularly listen to music through your PC, it’s worth investing in a top rated sound card for music listening. However, if you’re new to the world of audio equipment, worry not, as we’ve reviewed and compared the best internal & external ones to help you find the best soundcard out there.
In a hurry? The best soundcard for music listening in 2021 is the AE-5 Hi-Res Plus, closely followed by the Creative Sound Blaster Z SE. These are the best internal sound cards for music listening, but if you’re looking for the best external sound card, check out the Sound BlasterX G6.
Sound Cards For Listening To Music: Quick Comparison
Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus||Check Price|
Creative Sound Blaster Z SE||Check Price|
Sound BlasterX G6 ||Check Price|
Creative Sound Blaster X4||Check Price|
Audigy FX PCIe ||Check Price|
What Is The Best Sound Card For Music 2021: Reviews
1. Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus Internal High-Res Computer Sound Card
Best PC Sound Card For Music Listening
If you’re after the best PC internal sound card for music listening, you won’t be disappointed by the hi-res audio production of the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus.
It utilizes the advanced SABRE32 ultra-class PCI-e DAC to deliver up to 32-bit / 384 kHz playback with a 122 dB DNR. This results in pristine, detailed audio with minimal distortion and jitter.
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus also features the Xamp, a custom-designed discrete headphone amp with bi-amplification technology to power each earcup individually. Therefore, the sound card will work with all studio-grade headphones up to 600 ohms and gives 7.1 virtual surround support.
- Super high audio fidelity for crystal clear, accurate playback
- Built-in headphone amp with bi-amplification
- Works brilliantly with high-impedance headphones
- The software can be difficult to install/use
2. Creative Sound Blaster Z SE Internal PCI-e Computer Sound Card
Best Internal Sound Card For Music Listening
It also gives immersive surround sound with 7.1 channel support for headphones and 5.1 for speakers.
The Sound Blaster Z SE features innovative speaker optimization technology and digital content encoding capability, along with a Crystallizer that helps improve the dynamic range and a Bass that provides a bigger punch on the low end.
These functions improve the digital audio performance further, resulting in low-latency and high-fidelity audio for all file types, including recordings.
This top-rated computer sound card also rates high in connectivity. It features five 3.5mm headphone jacks, including the front and back speaker, subwoofer, headphone volume amplifier, and a microphone slot.
- Surround Virtualization technology
- Produces low-latency and high-fidelity music
- Lots of connectivity options
- Made from high-quality components
- One of the older models
3. Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res External USB Sound Card
Best USB Sound Card For Listening To Music
If you prefer the easy installation of external sound cards, the Sound BlasterX G6 will surely impress. With its USB connection port, you can plug it into any PC or console for instant audio improvement.
Plus, this sound card gives extremely high-resolution playback, thanks to the 32-bit / 384 kHz high fidelity and 130 dB SNR.
Other features we love are the Dolby Digital decoding, virtual 7.1 surround sound, and of course, the Xamp discrete headphone amplifier, responsible for the highly detailed audio reproduction. Furthermore, the G6’s built-in DAC has an oversampled multi-bit modulator with mismatch shaping technology, virtually eliminating all distortion.
- The highest-fidelity you can get
- 7.1 surround sound
- Xamp discrete headphone amp
- Straightforward set-up
- It can get pretty hot after extended use
4. Creative Sound Blaster X4 External USB DAC and Amp Sound Card
Best External Sound Card For Music Listening
The Creative Sound Blaster X4 is another of the best USB sound cards for listening to music because of its array of impressive features.
These include 7.1 channel support, Sound Blaster Surround Virtualization, and Super X-Fi technology.
Because of this, it’s ideal if you typically listen to music through headphones as the X4 recreates the multi-speaker listening experience in your headphones.
The USB-C connection port makes this soundcard super easy to set up and use. In addition, you can connect multiple audio devices, such as external microphones and headsets up to 600 ohms. What’s more, thanks to the three EQ modes, volume control knob, and audio balance feature, the audio output is just as easy to adjust.
WIth 114 dB audio clarity and hi-res 192 kHz/24-bit playback, the X4 is perfect for you if you want an external soundcard to use between multiple devices.
- Most easy to use
- Many adjustment controls
- Ideal for headphone use
- Quite expensive
5. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card
Best Budget Sound Card For Listening To Music
If you’re interested in the most affordable computer sound cards for music, you won’t find a better budget sound card for music than the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe.
Despite costing less than $50, this top-rated sound card features advanced audio processing technology, including SBX Pro Studio and Stereo Direct.
The sound card has a high 24-bit rate and 192 kHz frequency response and delivers highly detailed music through your speakers with a 106dB signal-to-noise ratio.
It is compatible with all headphones up to 600 ohms and includes separate line-in and microphone connectors so that you can connect two audio sources at once.
- Incredible value for money
- Features advanced audio processing technology
- Clear and expansive audio
- Works with studio-grade headphones
- There may be some noise interference as it has no EMI shield
How Do I Choose A Good Sound Card For Music Lovers?
Internal Or External Sound Card
Some sound cards are internal PCIe cards that require installing them inside your computer. Other sound cards are external types that connect to the computer via the outside, usually via the USB port.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both types. The most significant advantage of external USB sound cards is that they are much easier to set up as you do not need to take your PC apart to mount it inside.
Furthermore, they can produce less floor noise than an internal model. However, many audiophiles believe internal sound cards have better audio quality, and they are usually cheaper. Read also: Best Sound Card For Music Production 2021
Sampling Frequency And Bit Rate
When looking for a soundcard, two technical specifications you should pay attention to are the sampling frequency and bit rate. All good sound cards for music will have a sampling rate no lower than 44.1 kHz. However, we recommend opting for a soundcard with a sampling frequency of 96 kHz or higher for the best audio quality. In addition, the bit rate should be a minimum of 24-bit, but most of the top-rated computer sound cards for music will be 32-bit.
Final Thoughts About The Best Sound Card For Music
So, now you know how to improve your PC’s mediocre sound quality and upgrade your music listening experience. After we reviewed and compared the top rated music sound cards, we found the two best internal ones are the AE-5 Plus High-Res Sound Card and the Creative Sound Blaster Z SE Computer Soundcard. Alternatively, the best external sound card in 2021 is the Sound BlasterX G6 USB Sound Card.