For the most part, integrated sound cards offer minimum input and output options, emphasizing low cost and compactness. However, anyone that appreciates quality sound while listening to music, playing video games or watching movies won’t be entirely satisfied with their integrated sound card. Thus they look for alternatives, the most convenient one being the purchasing of the best external sound card.
In essence, external sound cards will turn any average sound-playing device into the high-quality sound-playing machine, assuming that the external sound card is quality made.
The purpose of this article is to review ten best external sound cards currently available on the market. Moreover, the article will also contain detail regarding the external sound card technology. We will focus on the product’s most prominent features, explaining the pros and cons of each device.
We will also provide you with concise buyer’s guide, where we will provide useful tips on how to buy the right external sound card. It is important to know that, while all the products we review are the best of the best (according to consumer feedback, brand, input/output options, design, audio transformation, etc.), you are the ultimate judge.
We suggest that, if you do decide to obtain an external sound card, you go for the one that will fit your budget and fulfill your needs and requirements.
Best External Sound Card Reviews
We are starting our list with the Sabrent Aluminum USB External Stereo Sound Adapter, the most inexpensive external sound card on the list.
The product is slim and compact, design to fit every possible device, including slim Mackbooks and Ultrabooks. The sound quality is decent (48KHz/44.1KHz), backed up by 16-bit resolution. The product comes with extension USB cable (2 ft).
It features one input and one output, 3.5 mm. Sabrent Aluminum USB External Stereo Sound Adapter doesn’t require you to install any drivers; simply plug in and play. It is compatible with 2.0 USB port. It is also worth stating that this sound card doesn’t require an additional power source (it draws power from the connected device).
Though slim, this sound adapter is somewhat wide, and you won’t be able to use the USB port next to it unless you use the provided USB cable.
- slim, neatly designed (comes in two colors)
- inexpensive, cheapest on the list
- made of solid plastic, robust
- decent audio conversion and playback
- too wide
EC Technology USB Sound Adapter is a 2-port, aluminum made an external sound card, compatible with both Windows and MacOs systems. It features standard 3.5 mm jacks, one for mic and one for audio.
The product is convenient and easy to use and doesn’t require that you install any drivers. It is sturdy and compact, made of lightweight aluminum. This external sound card features Mac-like stylish and silver design.
It doesn’t require an external power source and comes without compatible USB cable. It comes with the manual, so go through it to set everything up with your OS.
The downside is that this product (to my best knowledge) doesn’t work with Windows 10. Perhaps you could get it to work, but it is easier just to buy the one that is compatible with Windows 10.
- decent sound quality, excellent replacement for broken or poor-quality integrated sound card
- sturdy, aluminum made
- stylish silver design
- lightweight and compact
- not compatible with Windows 10
Unlike the two previous product, the UGREEN External Stereo Audio Adapter features 3 USB hub ports, allowing you to connect three devices and thus preserve their USB ports.
The product features audio output and microphone input, the 3.5 mm ones. Note that the microphone port is compatible with TRS jack only (the one that features three conductors).
This is both hub and external audio card, meaning that you can plug in USBs and transfer data to the dedicated device with the speed of up to 5 Gbps. It is compatible with all 2.0 and 1.1 USB ports.
It has micro USB power port, which you can use during power intensive actions. For instance, if you connect the HD 3.5 device to it, use the external power for adequate powering. It is compatible with all operating systems.
Note that the product comes without USB and Micro USB cables.
- a 2 in 1 device, acts as a USB hub and external sound card
- space saving and convenient
- excellent sound quality
- compatible with all operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.)
- not compatible with TS or TRRS microphones (2 conductors and four conductors)
BEHRINGER U-Control Uca202 is multipurpose and multifunctional external audio card. Used for both recording and playback, this device is compatible with Windows and Mac, featuring free downloadable Behringer software (visit Behringer’s official website to download).
The product features two analog outputs and inputs (mono), as well as the headphone output (stereo). It features 48 HZ audio conversion, perfect for playing 320 KB/s music. BEHRINGER U-Control Uca202 is suited for professionals, for it also features S/PDIF optical output, allowing you to convert from audio to digital format directly.
This device excels at digital conversion and audio playback. It doesn’t require an external power source. You also don’t need any driver to use the device. Upon purchase, you receive BEHRINGER U-Control Uca202 and the user manual.
This product is perfect for musically inclined people, as well as for professional use, but it might be too complicated for the casual user’s who are looking for a simple external audio system.
- crystal clear sound quality
- suited for professional use
- robust, made of quality material
- integrated S/PDIF optical output allows direct audio to digital conversion
- value for money
- not fit for casual users
Micolindun External Sound Card features two audio and one microphone 3.5 mm ports, allowing you to plug in and use two headphones at the same time.
I love the futuristic and robust design, which will certainly attract gamers. The product features 2 USB ports and comes with 1.2 m integrated USB cable, which you can plug in the dedicated device (desktop pc, laptop, Mac, PS4, etc.). It also acts as a power source (no external power supply needed).
This product is highly responsive, cost-effective and compatible with standard operating systems. It doesn’t require driver installation. It is extremely compact and lightweight, which makes it perfect for carrying with you.
If you are a gamer looking for quality made an external sound card, the Micolindun External Sound Card is the one for you. We only wish the audio has little more bass to it. As such, it is not for music enthusiasts, but for gamers-only.
- sturdy and durable
- 2 USB ports, decent transferring speed
- perfect for gamers
- sleek, futuristic design
- made mainly for gamers (music enthusiasts will dislike the lack of bass)
BENGOO USB Sound Card Adapter is extremely lightweight and compact. It features two audio outputs and one microphone input, easy to navigate volume wheel, as well as the mute microphone/audio buttons.
Though made for the casual consumer that want to enhance their audio experience, the BENGOO USB Sound Card Adapter is made mostly for gamers who seek better gaming experience. The adapter will not only produce quality audio but will also allow you to control the volume from exceptionally quiet to extremely loud levels.
It is easy to use, requires no external power source nor driver installation. It is compatible with all standard operating systems. The product also comes with user manual, which explains the built-in software mixer.
We commend the sleek and compact design, audio quality and customer service. The volume is somewhat difficult to set up, so you’ll have to do some experimenting before you find your balance.
- best suited for gamers
- friendly and helpful customer support
- convenient design, easy to use volume wheel and on/off buttons
- volume is somewhat difficult to manage, will require adjusting to find the perfect balance
Creative Sound Blaster Sound Card is the most expensive audio card on our list but is also the one that emphasizes sound quality more than any other on the list. The product features enhanced audio technology, delivering 5.1 channel crystal clear sound, perfect for entertaining purposes.
This sound card is quality made, featuring stylish red and black design, easy to use volume control wheel, and has built-in double microphones. These microphones feature Crystal Voice Technology and grant headset-free experience.
The product is also highly customizable, allowing you complete control over the device: you can set it up for gaming, movies, music, and so forth. Moreover, it features microphone amplifier (600 ohms), and the Scout Mode, which will delight gamers, specifically those who play First-Person Shooters.
Upon purchase, you receive the Creative Sound Blaster Sound Card, Micro USB cable (for charging), Stereo RCA adapter (the product does have optical output). You will also receive installation CD, manual and warranty.
- Dolby Digital Live technology, suited for entertainment
- Scout Mode (perfect for gamers)
- compact design, easy to use volume wheel
- features built-in double microphones
- excellent sound quality (600 ohms amplifier)
- somewhat expensive
- requires set up before use
Sabrent USB External Stereo Sound Adapter is Windows and Mac compatible, extremely lightweight and compact. It is rather simple, featuring one input and output, with the option to select between two USB types (Type-A and Type-C).
It is flexible and easy to use, requiring no driver installation or external power source; merely plug it in a laptop, Mac, or desktop pc and enjoy. It works best with 2.0 USB ports but is compatible with 1.1 USB port.
This product is fit for casual users and gamers and delivers quite decent audio. The microphone output is not that good, so if you do seek external sound card mainly for microphone purposes, this isn’t the device for you.
Other than that, we have no complaints regarding the device. It is inexpensive, durable and delivers good sound quality.
- lightweight and compact
- easy to use, just plug in and use
- compatible with standard operating systems
- delivers good sound quality
- microphone output is poorly designed
UGREEN USB Audio Adapter External Stereo Sound features mono microphone input and stereo audio output. It features a simple design and is the perfect replacement for broken or poor quality integrated sound cards.
Like most products on the list, this sound card doesn’t require an external power source, nor does it require driver installation. The microphone is TRS compatible (only TRS). Also, it isn’t compatible with PS3.
The product works with standard operating systems, offers excellent customer service and comes with 18 months warranty. Interestingly enough, this product delivers amazing sound despite its price and power. It will remove any static or hissing noise, so if you experience this issue with your default devices, consider opting for UGREEN USB Audio Adapter External Stereo Sound Card to resolve these issues.
- value for money
- sturdy and compact design
- easy to use, no drivers or external powering needed
- delivers fantastic audio quality
- compatible with standard operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, etc.)
- not compatible with PS3
- TRS compatible only
The last on our list is the Creative Sound BlasterX G1, a gaming sound card that enhances gaming experience through the power of 7.1 channel audio support. It has only one headset output, so if you are looking for the product that has a dedicated microphone input, you may skip the description.
This product focuses entirely on sound, sound virtualization, and enhancement. It features Scout Mode for better in-game locating and positioning and boosts the headphones up to 300 ohms.
This audio card uses BlasterX Acoustic Engine, which grants fantastic adjustability and customizability. The product is compatible with PCs, Macs, and PS4. It is made for gamers explicitly but can be used for various purposes (music, movies, etc.) Not that the Scout Mode is functional for Windows only.
It is quality made, robust and durable, but expensive when compared with others on the list. The sound is amazing, but some modes are limited to Windows only.
- supreme sound quality
- Scout Mode will enhance the gaming experience
- sturdy and durable
- BlasterX Acoustic Engine grants a lot of adjustabilities
- stylish design, lightweight and compact
- though compatible with standard systems, some modes are limited to Windows only
- features only one input
Best External Sound Card Buyer’s Guide
Here we will briefly discuss some of the most important features you should look for when buying an external sound card. We will explain why would you want to purchase external sound card and discuss compatibility, purpose, and design.
Benefits Of The Best External Sound Card
As we said in the introduction, external sound cards enhance the audio playback and recording. The focus is put on analog to digital transformation.
External sound cards are designed for professional musicians, gamers and casual users who want to use them for entertainment purposes. Unlike integrated sound cards, external ones offer more adjustability, better sound quality and of course, better production value (this is where integrated sound cards usually fail).
Moreover, most modern laptops come without separate microphone jack (mine does). External sound cards frequently have a separate microphone input, and thus they grant enhanced recording experience (so that you don’t have to use integrated microphones).
Firstly, make sure that your dedicated device (whether it is a desktop computer, laptop, Mac, PlayStation, etc.) is compatible with the external sound card, hardware wise.
Also, make sure that the external sound card is compatible with the operating system. For instance, USB Sound Adapter, EC Technology is known to have issues with Windows 10. Similarly, UGREEN USB Audio Adapter External Stereo Sound Card isn’t compatible with PlayStation 3. Mind these things when going through our list.
Are you casual user looking for a causal sound card, or are you a gamer looking for the sound card that will enhance the gaming experience. If you are a gamer, Creative Sound BlasterX G1 is probably the best option for you (but mind that it has only one output and no separate mic input).
If you are a professional musician, BEHRINGER U-Control Uca202 Ultra Low-Latency is probably your safest bet, since it features best recording and audio management.
Most devices on our list are fit for casual users and feature simple one input one output design. They differ in design style, price and audio quality, through the differences in sound quality are minimal.
Design And Other Features
Consider compactness, durability, slimness and similar features. Also, look for a number of the USB port, audio and microphone jacks, and whether the product has an optical output (like the Behringer S/PDIF optical output).
Consider the devices powering(most don’t require an external power source), wheel volume control, customer service. Note that some devices require driver installation, but most don’t.
Also, some come with downloadable software and installation CD. For instance, BlasterX Acoustic Engine is available for the BlasterX external sound card, granting you more adjustability and customizability.
External sound cards are fit for everyone who seek enhanced sound playback and recording experience. Anyone enjoying listening to music, gaming, watching movies and recording or producing music should consider obtaining this piece of hardware.
More importantly, if your integrated audio card broke or is poorly designed, the best external sound card will solve that problem for you. If you decide to obtain one, make sure you go through our buyer’s guide to make sure that you buy the one that fits your needs and preferences.