An external sound card offers an easy path to upgrading the sound quality of your favorite laptop or desktop computer, especially if it’s an affordable or midrange model. The gadgets are easy to set up, and they connect to the computer via a 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.
We’ve rounded up several external sound card picks at various price points that are worth a look.
Sound BlasterX G6 External Sound Card
Creative is one of the leaders in the market for external sound cards, and the Sound BlasterX G6 is its latest creation. It’s a versatile option that can provide an audio upgrade to your gaming console, PC, or MP3 player.
It features Dolby Digital decoding, 7.1 virtual surround sound, and supports Hi-Res audio formats. It’s a no-brainer pick in its price category.
Creative Sound Blaster Omni External Sound Card
The device packs a duo of microphones for superior quality of voice calls, 5.1-channel surround sound support, and a handy software for enhanced controls. Its amplifier can power even seriously demanding headphones (with impedance up to 600 ohms).
Although this sound card doesn’t cater to audiophiles, if you are looking for an easy way to improve your computer’s built-in audio without breaking the bank, the Sound Blaster Omni is an excellent option.
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.
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’re looking to improve detail and richness of your music and games, it’s one of the best options available. It’s a portable pick with plenty of power, and it’s backed by a 1-year warranty. This pick is held in high regard by What Hi-Fi?, and forum members on Head-Fi. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
StarTech.com ICUSBAUDIO2D External Sound Card
Bearing a rather uninspiring name, this affordable external sound card will provide 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 of the device include a volume knob, as well as the ability to control the bass and treble via a dedicated switch.