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11 Best External Sound Cards for a More Immersive Listening Experience

Take your computer’s audio to new heights!

best external sound cards 2019

An external sound card offers an easy way to upgrade the sound quality of your favorite laptop or desktop computer, especially if it's an affordable or midrange model. These gadgets are easy to set up, and they typically connect to your computer via its USB port.

Getting started on a PC might require you to download and install software drivers that typically come with the device. Mac setup is often even easier — all users have to do on most occasions is connect the device and select it as an audio source from the sound settings on the Mac.

Picked to suit a range of budgets, here the 11 best external sound cards to consider.

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1 Creative Sound Blaster X3 External Sound Card

This high-resolution USB DAC is the perfect solution for elevating your audio experience at your desk. It's the only external USB DAC that features Super X-Fi tech, which recreates the experience of a high-end multispeaker sound system in your headphones. This is one of the few options with a USB-C port, making it compatible with modern-day setups.

It also helps you find that sweet spot between two audio sources. This comes in handy when you need to control the volume mix between your video game audio and your teammates' audio, so you can hear them better. This audio solution is compatible with PCs, Macs, the PS4, and the Nintendo Switch.

More: We Tested 30+ Gaming Headsets to Find the Best Ones Out There

2 EPOS SENNHEISER GSX 1200 PRO External Sound Card
Now 19% off

The GSX 1200 PRO is an external sound card that was specially designed for gamers looking to improve the sound quality of their favorite games. The accessory amplifies the sound to help improve gamers’ spatial awareness and ability to lock on to specific positional audio cues within their games.

For those who like to fine-tune EQ settings, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that this gaming audio amplifier has dedicated EQ presets for you to easily balance sound frequencies and improve audio accuracy. This option also has a convenient game/chat mixer wheel so you can adjust the volume of your voice while you're wearing a gaming headset.

If you’re looking for a top-tier amplifier with 7.1 virtual surround sound, an easy-to-use interface, and a sleek-looking design that won’t take up too much room on your battle station, you won’t be disappointed with this one!

3 Creative Sound Blaster G3

Gamers looking to improve their audio for their gaming headset should look no further than Creative's Sound Blaster G3 sound card.

This option will immediately improve audio performance and provide a more immersive gaming experience. It'll help you hear footsteps in the distance while playing games like Fortnite or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Plus, its GameVoice feature comes in handy for balancing your game audio with the chat audio on your PlayStation or gaming PC.

Best of all, it doesn't require any drivers or software to use!

4 ASTRO Gaming MixAmp Pro
ASTRO Gaming

When it comes to audio, Xbox gamers often get the short end of the stick. Wireless headsets for the console are few and far between, and the original Xbox One console didn't even have a 3.5-millimeter jack for plugging in your gaming headset. But ASTRO clearly doesn't want to leave Xbox owners hanging yet again!

This nifty audio solution is perfect for gamers looking to improve sound quality and voice communication within their favorite games. It features Dolby Digital Surround Sound processing, and lets you quickly adjust game and voice balance so your friends’ voices don’t get drowned out by your intense game soundtrack.

The accessory has plenty of customizable EQ modes, and lets you adjust the volume on the fly with just a turn of a dial. ASTRO sells a MixAmp that's compatible with the PlayStation 4, too.

5 Creative Sound BlasterX G6 External Sound Card
Now 29% off

Creative is one of the leaders in the market for external sound cards, and the Sound BlasterX G6 is one of the company's best-selling options. 

It's a versatile sound card that can provide an audio upgrade to your gaming console, PC, or MP3 player. It features Dolby Digital decoding and 7.1 virtual surround sound, and it supports Hi-Res audio formats. 

6 StarTech.com ICUSBAUDIO2D External Sound Card
Now 21% off

Despite its rather uninspiring name, this affordable external sound card will provide great home-theater audio support via an S/PDIF output. The gadget is also capable of producing high-quality audio via a built-in DAC. Other key features include a volume knob, as well as the ability to control the bass and treble via a dedicated switch. 

For those who have a desktop and don't need a device as small as this one, StarTech offers a larger option that supports dual microphones.

7 FiiO E10K External Sound Card

This compact USB DAC and headphone amp performs fantastically, especially considering its sub-$100 price. It offers a simple but premium design — just a 3.5-millimeter headphone out on its front and a coaxial and 3.5-millimeter line out on the back. Its volume knob feels solid, and has just the right amount of resistance to it. 

The device will greatly improve your computer's audio quality and boost its bass without the need to install any drivers.

8 Creative Sound Blaster X7 External Sound Card

If you have no budget constraints, the Creative Sound Blaster X7 is the external sound card to go for. The most feature-rich pick on this list, the X7 has a high-resolution, digital-to-analog converter, a studio-grade headphone amplifier, and more connectivity options than one can shake a stick at. Those include Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC for high-quality audio streaming, among others.  

9 Creative Sound Blaster Omni External Sound Card

This device packs a duo of microphones for superior quality voice calls, 5.1-channel surround-sound support, and handy software for enhanced controls. Its amplifier can power the most demanding headphones (with impedance of up to 600 ohms). 

Although this sound card doesn't cater to audiophiles, if you're looking for an easy way to improve your computer's built-in audio, the Sound Blaster Omni is an excellent option.

10 Sabrent USB External Stereo Sound Adapter

The Sabrent external sound card has a plug-and-play design and low price tag. It features a duo of 3.5-millimeter audio jacks: one for the microphone and one for your headphones. 

This is a perfect and cheap solution in case your computer's built-in sound card goes bust — as long as you don't expect mind-blowing audio performance.

11 AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB Sound Card

This dongle is a sure way to upgrade the sound quality of your favorite pair of headphones. It may be more expensive than most other options, but if you want to improve the detail and richness of your music and games, it's one of the best options available. Plus it's backed by a 1-year warranty.

This pick was also rated highly by the editors at What Hi-Fi? and forum members on Head-Fi. If you're in search of a portable USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier with plenty of power, this is the one to buy.

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