Top 3 Best Gaming Sound Cards for 2016 (maximize your gaming audio)

top 3 gaming sound cards 2016

If you’re after the absolute best PC gaming experience possible, the audio capability of your rig plays a decent part in that, and using the built-in audio provided by most motherboards just won’t cut it.

With a dedicated sound card in your machine your games will come to life like never before with better quality surround sound that’ll allow you to hear subtle audio effects with more clarity and make music sound a whole lot better too, making for an overall more immersive and enjoyable experience.

Once you get a taste of what gaming is like with a nice sound card hooked up to a high-quality headset or set of speakers, you’ll never want to go back to integrated motherboard audio ever again. But just like shopping for any type of computer hardware, if you’re not a tech geek and don’t know what to look for it can get real confusing real fast.

This article is here to make your sound card choice a whole lot easier, so let’s get straight into my top 3 picks of the best gaming sounds card on the market right now in order from least expensive to most.


The Best Budget Gaming Sound Card:


best budget gaming sound card 2016

If you have quite a limited budget for a new sound card then don’t worry as you can still get one for under $50 that’ll still provide a noticeable boost in quality over on-board audio. Out of all the entry-level sound cards out there, the ASUS Xonar DGX PCI-E GX2.5 is without a doubt one of the better ones and a safe bet in terms of money well spent.

A common question I’ve heard gamers ask over the years is whether or not getting a cheap-ish card like this is even worth it and going to make a difference over motherboard sound. Some people believe that getting a dedicated sound card is only worth it if you play full-out and get an expensive high-end model, and that “budget” sound cards such as this one won’t make any difference over on-board audio.

I couldn’t disagree more, as even a very affordable sound card like the ASUS Xonar DGX will do wonders for your sound is well worth the small investment in my opinion. It’ll give you a noticeable jump over the majority of motherboards in terms of sound quality, clarity, and volume.


The Best Mid-Range Gaming Sound Card:

Creative Sound Blaster Z

best gaming sound card 2016

If you have more cash to shell out on a shiny new sound card I’d highly recommend the Creative Sound Blaster Z which is a very popular model among gaming enthusiasts (and for good reason).

With an audio resolution of 24-bit/96kHz and a SNR (stands for Signal to Noise Ratio which is one way of gauging sound card quality) of 116 this card produces very high quality audio for an immersive surround-sound experience in your games and music, and is a noticeable step up from the ASUS Xonar DG recommended above.

If all you’re doing is gaming and playing music, the Sound Blaster Z is all you need and it will satisfy 95% of gamers out there. Paying more for an even better sound card is something I’d only recommend to those who either need the extra audio power and features for music production of some sort, or for those lucky few who are putting together an extreme gaming build with no budget restriction.


The Best High-End Gaming Sound Card:

Asus Xonar Essence STX


The Asus Xonar Essence STX  is your best bet right now for a high-end gaming sound card to take full advantage of top-tier speakers/headphones. It simply will not disappoint if you’re after the absolute best quality and crystal-clear gaming audio with minimal distortion.

It boasts an SNR of 124dB (110dB for headphones), and a Total Harmonic Distortion of 0.0003% (0.001% for headphones). If you know something about audio quality you’ll know these numbers are impressive (check out a full list of specs here).

As I’ve mentioned already (probably multiple times but it’s worth repeating), ONLY get a card of this caliber if you’re also going to supplement it with top-tier sound accessories otherwise it’ll be a waste of money.

So that’s it for my roundup of the top 3 best gaming sound cards on the market. Any one of these cards is going to give you a noticeable jump over onboard/integrated motherboard audio.

Choosing between them obviously depends on your spending budget and what sort of quality and features you’re after. If you wish to do more extensive research of your own then be sure to have a read of How to Choose the Best Sound Card for Gaming to know what to look for in a sound card.

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