Computers are not only tools for productivity but also entertainment-centric gadgets for playing videos and music. But, how can you make them professional music recording devices? Equipping your computer with a sound card changes it from a music player to a music production device. Below, we review the top audio cards to equip your computer in.
Looking for external and internal pocket-friendly Sound Cards in 2021? The best-rated sound card for performance is the Behringer UMC404HD Phantom Power Audio Interface, and the cheapest sound card is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo Pro 3rd Generation Audio Interface.
Read also: best audiophile sound card 2021
Music Production Sound Card: Quick Comparison
Behringer UMC404HD Phantom Power Audio Interface||Check Price|
Focusrite Scarlett Solo Pro 3rd Generation Audio||Check Price|
Native Instrument Komplete Two-Channel Audio 1 ||Check Price|
StarTech External Laptop Sound Card||Check Price|
Asus Xonar SE 116dB Hi-Res 5.1 Channel Sound Card||Check Price|
Best Sound Card For Recording Music 2021: Reviews
1. Behringer UMC404HD Phantom Power Home Studio Audio Interface
Best External Sound Card For Music Production
If you plan to put up a home studio, then the Behringer UMC404HD audio interface might be the best choice. This audio interface has 4 outputs and 4 inputs, making it suitable for self-recording your music when you have minimal outboard gear.
Also, this audio interface features 4 MIDAS-designed mic pres and an incredible 24-bit/192kHz converter, enhancing the sound mix, making it one of the high-quality audio interfaces.
Also, the mix control in this audio interface doesn’t have input monitoring latency, which allows you to listen to your performance clearly without lag or delay to the feedback signal.
With a headphone output port included in this audio interface, you can listen to the performance live without distortions. Also, the built-in MIDI input and output allows you to link your favorite outboard MIDI hardware and keyboards. With a single-screen interface, you can easily control this audio interface in high resolution while performing.
The music reproduction software featured in this audio interface comes with all the necessary tools and functionalities for a professional recording studio. However, the drivers seem faulty as the 48kHz setting changes the sound pitch.
- Ideal for self-recording with a minimal outboard gear
- The 4 MIDAS mic press and 24-bit/192kHz converter enhances the sound mix
- Allows listening to your performance without lag
- Allows easy control of the audio interface while performing
- Features all the necessary tools for studio recording
- The 48Hz configuration changes the sound pitch, making the drivers seem faulty
2. Focusrite Scarlett Solo Pro 3rd Generation Professional Audio Interface
Best Value Audio Card For Music Production
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo audio interface is designed to deliver top-shelf sound in an easy-to-use compact and bag-friendly format, making it suitable for solo podcasters, guitarists, and singers.
This audio interface has switchable phantom power for selectable air circuits and condenser microphones, enhancing sound clarity. Apart from the one XLR microphone input, this audio interface has a ¼-inch input for facilitating the drum machine, synthesizer, or direct guitar connection.
The 24-bit/192kHz DA/AD converters help achieve high-fidelity resolution and standard CD quality recording capability, ensuring the accurate and detailed capturing and reproduction of signals.
Also, you can connect the headphones or active speakers through the ¼-inch output port and then use the direct monitoring to listen to the live input without latency, distortion, or distraction.
With the Focusrite Scarlette Solo being a bus-powered audio interface, it’s portable, and you can use it even in remote locations. However, this 3rd generation Focusrite USB driver tends to drop connections after some time, which may inconvenience you.
- Enhances sound clarity
- Ensures accurate reproduction of signals
- Allows listening of the live input from the headphones without distortion
- Portable to use in remote areas
- After some time, the USB drivers may drop the connections
3. Native Instrument Komplete Two-Channel Audio 1 Audio Interface
Best Sounding External Sound Card For Laptop Music Production
If you want a portable audio interface, then you can’t go wrong with the Native Instrument Komplete. This audio interface offers a high recording resolution of up to 24-bit/192kHz, making it suitable for solo vloggers, podcasters, vocalists, and musicians.
This audio interface comes with a 3-pin XLR jack with selectable phantom power, making it ideal for a wide array of sources. Also, this audio interface comes with a pair of five-segment input LED meters and per-channel gain controls, which allows you to manage the input levels effectively.
The dedicated ¼-inch headphone jack and RCA output port level controls allow you to listen through the stereo headphones and active speakers conveniently. The direct monitoring function in this audio interface uses the mix knob to eliminate latency when live to monitor the recording.
Also, the mix knob enhances the control over the custom blend playback and input signals for playback mixing or overdubbing. However, this audio interface doesn’t allow the switching between the different monitoring outputs.
- Offers a higher recording interface
- The selectable phantom power makes it suitable for a wide range of sources
- Allows effective management of input levels
- Allows convenient listening through active speakers
- Eliminates latency when monitoring the recording
- Enhances control over the input signals for playback mixing
- The interface does not allow switching between different monitoring outputs
4. StarTech ICUSBAUDIO7D 7.1 External Sound Card For Laptop Music
Best Budget Audio Card For Recording
The StarTech ICUSBAUDIO7D external audio adapter sound card uses a USB port to connect with the laptop, delivering a 7.1-channel sound.
With this external sound card, you can add high-resolution audio to your desktop or notebook without the need to disassemble the computer system for installation.
With 44.1 and 48kHz sampling rates, this external sound card supports digital and analog audio for recording and playback. With onboard buttons, you can control the volume of this external sound adapter with ease.
This sound card comes with 3.5mm output connector ports that offer center/bass, surround, and front connectivity. The mic left-channel and mic right-channel jack allow you to record with two microphones if the sound is deep.
The installation CD and USB cable included in the package ensures the connectivity and installation are hassle-free. However, the SPDIF ports can only support 2 stereo channels and can’t support the 7.1 surround sound.
- Allows addition of high resolution audio without disassembling the computer system
- Supports digital and analog audio for recording and playback
- The onboard buttons ensure easy volume control
- The output connectors enhance center/bass connectivity
- Allows recording with two microphones in cases of deep sound
- The package ensures a hassle-free installation
- The SPDIF ports cannot support the 7.1 surround sound
5. Asus Xonar SE 116dB Hi-Res 5.1 Channel Sound Card
Best Internal Sound Card For Music Production
This internal sound card delivers 5.1 channel 24-bit/192kHz studio-quality audio with an excellent signal-to-noise ratio of 116dB.
This internal sound card features a 300-ohm amplifier for the headphones, delivering defined, detailed and rich bass. The Asus Hyper Grounding technology used in this sound card enhances the signal insulation for reduced sound interference and distortion.
Also, the Xonar Audio Center offers full control of all sound aspects, from speaker level balancing to sound equalization. The Asus Xonar SE is compatible with most Windows operating systems, including Windows 7, 8.1, and 10.
This sound card connects to your PC using the PCIe interface, with S/PDIF, three 3.5mm jack output ports, and one 3.5mm input port. Besides, the Asus Xonar SE internal sound card features interchangeable brackets to facilitate its fitting in small casings. However, this sound card can cause audio glitches and freezing of sound output applications.
- The amplifier allows the delivery of a defined bass
- Enhances signal insulation, reducing sound distortion
- Offers to control over sound effects
- The interchangeable facilitates fitting in small casings
- The sound card may cause freezing of sound output applications
Professional Sound Card For Studio Music Recording FAQs
Internal Or External Sound Card?
Internal sound cards have a higher noise floor than external sound cards. If you want a clean output, then an external sound card is better. However, the external sound cards have some latency, unlike their internal counterparts.
Is A Sound Card Worth It For Music Production?
If you want to produce clean and high resolution music sound, investing in good sound cards for music is worth it. It will allow you to record vocals, keys, bass, and guitar even at home.
Which Is The Best Audio Card For Home Studio?
When it comes to a home studio, the Behringer UMC404HD is the best option. It features 4 input and 4 output ports, adequate for home instruments. The converter 24-bit/192kHz delivers professional-studio quality sound.
Final Thoughts About The Best Sound Card For Music Production
Whether you want a budget audio card for use in the home music recording or a high-performance sound card for use in a professional studio music production in 2021, you have it on the above list. The top sound cards, such as the Behringer UMC404HD Phantom Power Audio Interface, can handle multiple musical instruments without latency or sound distortion. Even the cheaper options, such as the StarTech ICUSBAUDIO7D 7.1 USB External Laptop Sound Card, will still deliver a professional sound quality.