External Sound Cards
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[November 2022]10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening: Top Choices For Cinematic Sound System

Want to immerse yourself in a cinematic sound system while enjoying music and in-game sounds? Unfortunately, your PC and laptop can’t meet your needs.

No worries, buying a high-quality external sound card can enhance your listening experience without the cost of a whole PC.

 Whether you have a PC, Mac, laptop, gaming console, iPad, or tablet, their integrated music card is not sufficient to provide you with panoramic sound quality. Therefore, you should opt for an external sound for an optimal stereo sound.

Compared to internal sound cards, external sounds card are easy to install. They are also compact, portable, and trim. An external sound card lets you connect your headphones and microphones through the sound card’s inputs and outputs.

External sound cards are abundant on the market, so choosing one that best fits your requirements can be daunting. We have tested several external sound cards in our lab and selected the 10 best external sound cards that match the required criteria. 

Without further ado, let’s check them one by one.

Here are our top picks of the best external sound cards you can choose from if you don’t have the time to dig deeper.

  • EPOS | Sennheiser GSX 1000 External Sound Card

    10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening
    • Binaural Rendering Engine – 7.1 surround
    • Dedicated built-in DAC
    • Adjustable sidetone
  • Sound BlasterX G6 External Sound Card: Best Immersive Audio 

    10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening
    • Scout mode lets you hear in-game cues
    • Versatile connectivity options
    • Support for Dolby Digital decoding
  • ASUS Xonar U5: Best Cost-Effective Sound Card

    10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening
    • Integrated Headphone Amplifier
    • Input-noise reduction
    • Compact USB-powered device

Buying Guide for Best External Sound Card for Music Listening

The following factors should be considered while buying the external sound card

Compatibility

The first and foremost factor you should consider before buying an external sound card is its compatibility with your operating system. Using a Windows PC, you don’t have to worry about it; almost every sound card is compatible with Windows 10. 

With the development of the tech industry, now the latest and new-gen sound cards are compatible with Windows 7, 8,10, window vista, macOS, laptops, gaming consoles, PlayStation 4, 5, Nintendo, Xbox, or even IOS and smartphones.

Surround sound support

Before purchasing, you should consider the sound standard supported by the external sound card.

High-quality external sound cards should support at least 5.1 surround sound and EAX (Environmental Audio Extensions). With this feature, you can connect up to five speakers to your sound card to produce realistic 3D sound. The latest external sound cards support the latest 7.1 surround sound technology to provide a better audio experience.

Sampling Frequency

Consider the sampling frequency as the primary factor while buying an external sound card. The sampling frequency is measured in kHz. The higher the kHz, the more vivid the sound quality. The usual range of external sound cards is from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz.

Professional audiophiles also recommended getting a sound card with higher sample rates for better sound quality. 

Signal-to-Noise Ratio

You can determine a great deal about the sound quality of an external sound card by checking its signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).

Sound card SNR measures how well a signal can separate itself from background noise. An external sound card’s SNR usually ranges between 80 and 130 decibels. Better sound quality is associated with higher SNR.

List of 10 Best External Sound Card for Music Listening

Name AwardSampling FrequencyDimensions
1:EPOS | Sennheiser GSX 1000 External Sound CardBest Overall192 kHz5.63 x 5.47 x 2.76 inches
2:Sound BlasterX G6 External Sound Card Best Immersive Audio 384kHz4.37 x 0.94 x 2.76 inches
3:ASUS Sound Card Xonar U5Best Cost-Effective Sound Card

192KHz5.4 x 3.14 x 1 inches
4:AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB Sound Card Best Tiny but Powerful96 kHz2.44 x 0.75 x 0.47 inches
5:StarTech.com 7.1 External Sound Card Best Home Theater-ready Sound System 48KHz3.9 x 1 x 2.4 inches
6:T10 External Sound CardBest Multi-Functional Sound Card20KHz ‎3.94 x 0.79 x 4.33 inches
7:FiiO E10K External Sound CardBest Easy to Operate Design384KHz0.83 x 1.93 x 3.11 inches
8:Creative Labs Sound Blaster Play! 3 External USB Sound CardBest  High-Resolution External Sound Card96 kHz 5.43 x 0.87 x 0.37 inches
9:Creative Sound Blaster G3 USB-C External GamingBest for Gaming Consols 96 kHz5.12 x 0.98 x 5.51 inches
10:HyperX Amp USB Sound CardBest Cheapest Sound card48KHz ‎4 x 1 x 1 inches

1: EPOS | Sennheiser GSX 1000 External Sound Card: Best Overall

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 192 kHz
  • Bit Rate: 24 bit
  • Interface: Wireless
  • Dimensions: 5.63 x 5.47 x 2.76 inches

Sennheiser is one of the well-known brands for its outstanding devices on the market. If you are searching for the best external sound card for music listening and gaming as well, the Sennheiser GSX 1000 is a fantastic featured pack external sound card with HD audio and 7.1 surround sound. It delivers stereo sound quality, so you never miss a single beat or lyrics. 

Key Features

Sennheiser GSX 1000 has a dynamic amplifier that provides you with an immersive gaming experience with a boosted bass and activates the audio cues while gaming.

With its exceptional controls, you can control game audio and chat individually, as well as the sidetone and volume of your voice.

Regarding innovation, the GSX 1000’s binaural rendering engine is awe-inspiring. Using this feature, you can enjoy two-channel recordings, games, movies, and virtual surround sounds up to 7.1 on headphones.

Wireless connectivity allows you to switch from headset to speaker sound without removing the headset or plugging in any cables. Plus, you can connect Headphones that don’t leak sounds for a more immersive experience.

Pros

  • Binaural Rendering Engine – 7.1 surround
  • Dedicated built-in DAC
  • Adjustable sidetone

Cons

  • Not recommended for audiophiles

Final Verdict

The Sennheiser GSX 1000 is a desktop device that is designed specially to use with Windows and Mac computers. While using it, you do not need to download any additional drivers for the relevant operating system. A stunning amplifier enhances gaming and music listening, making it the perfect companion to Korean gaming monitors.

2:Sound BlasterX G6 External Sound Card: Best Immersive Audio 

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Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 384kHz
  • Bit Rate: 32 bit
  • Interface: PCI Express x4
  • Dimensions: 4.37 x 0.94 x 2.76 inches

The Sound BlasterX G6 is a great way to upgrade your game and audio quality on your system. It gives you a much better audio experience than you’ll get from your integrated motherboard audio or other USB Gaming DACs.

Key Features:

Sound BlasterX G6 has fantastic specifications. It comes with a 32-bit 384kHz DAC with a 130dB signal-to-noise ratio. 

A multi-bit oversampled DAC with mismatch-shaping technology eliminates distortions to guarantee the audio’s highest possible fidelity and detail. 

The Sound BlasterX G6 equips with Scout Mode, which enables you to hear the in-game cues, such as your opponents’ footsteps and gunshots, with incredible accuracy. 

Thanks to Dolby Digital decoding and 7.1 virtual surround sound support that produces high-quality sound.

Pros

  • Scout mode lets you hear in-game cues
  • Versatile connectivity options
  • Support for Dolby Digital decoding

Cons

  • A bit expensive

Final Verdict

With the Sound BlasterX G6, you can customize your audio and make it more realistic thanks to immersive 7.1 surround virtualization, accurate cues, bass boost, and in-game voice communication. It’s pretty expensive compared to other external sound cards, but it’s worth the investment.

3: ASUS Xonar U5: Best Cost-Effective Sound Card

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 192KHz
  • Bit Rate: 24 bit
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Dimensions: 5.4 x 3.14 x 1 inches

The Asus Xonar U5 is the best choice if you’re looking for a low-cost headset with high-quality sound. It’s a compact and portable device that delivers superb sound quality. You can enjoy immersive audio thanks to the built-in headphone amplifier.

Key Features

Asus Xonar U5 comes with the incredible feature of sonic studio software that gives you complete control over the 5.1 channel. Through this software, you can pre-set the audio profiles as per your requirements.

As part of its Perfect Voice technology, Xonar U5 can isolate speech from ambient noise using advanced algorithms. With this technology, you can communicate in-game, even when there is a lot of background noise.

In addition to 192 kHz/24-bit audio quality and a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 104 dB, the Xonar U5 is capable of reproducing 5.1-channel surround sound with consistent quality throughout. 

Take your audio to the next level with a small sound card!

Pros

  • Integrated headphone Amplifier
  • Input-noise reduction
  • Compact USB-powered device

Cons

  • No way to set different equalizer settings

Final Verdict

The Asus Xonar U5 is a small external sound card with incredible quality. The only downside is that there is no way to set different equalizer settings for headphones and speakers. This premium quality feature pack sound card can be reasonably priced. Compared to Sound BlasterX G6, it’s one of the best alternatives. You should consider this if you can’t afford a costly one. You can also explore budget gaming monitors under $ 150.

4:AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB Sound Card: Best Tiny but Powerful

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Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency:96 kHz
  • Bit Rate: 32 bit
  • Interface: USB Type A
  • Dimensions: 2.44 x 0.75 x 0.47 inches

DragonFly Red is a small, powerful USB external sound card from AudioQuest. Plug-and-play functionality makes it a user-friendly sound card. It does not require you to open the case and follow a complicated installation procedure. 

Key Features:

Next-generation Dragonfly red is compatible with Windows, Mac, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. It provides sound accuracy and high-fidelity sound quality in games, music, and movies.

You don’t need to install extra drivers since the built-in drivers allow high output (2.1 volts) to drive almost all headphones, even power-hungry ones.

Despite being able to decode files up to 24-bit/96kHz, DragonFly is capable of playing any file format, from MP3 to MQA.

With the additional $90 of DragonFly Cobalt, DragonFly Red has a real competitor. The specifications of the two models are nearly identical. In contrast, the Cobalt has a better DAC chip, a more advanced receiver chip, and USB-cleaning technology.

Pros

  • Compatible to smartphone
  • Tiny with Powerful features
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Red finishes are prone to chipping

Final Verdict

The versatile DAC provides high-quality immersive sound in gaming and entertainment by improving detail transparency,
immediacy, richness, and tone. Unlike DragonFly Cobalt, DragonFly Red offers almost the same features at a lower price. The fantastic features of this sound card make it one of the best external sound cards on the market.

5: StarTech 7.1 External Sound Card: Best Home Theater-ready Sound System

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 48KHz
  • Channel Support: 2-7.1 
  • Interface: USB
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 1 x 2.4 inches

If you are a music enthusiast and want to upgrade your average PC and laptop to a home theatre-ready sound system, the StarTech 7.1 external sound card is the best fit. It provides high-quality audio while listening to music, watching your favorite movie, and playing games. 

Key Features:

StarTech 7.1 USB sound card is the best alternative for a built-in or onboard sound card. It supports analog to digital audio channels 2.0- 7.1. It turns your ordinary PC and laptops into a home theatre-ready system that delivers panoramic sound quality,

This sound card can be easily switched to computers without opening the computer case for installation by connecting via a single USB 2.0 port.

This robust sound card is a great solution for audio applications that require high sound quality. It comes with two external microphone inputs and an easy-to-use volume control button. 

It has the multi-input capability that supports sampling rates of 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz for analog recording and playback or 48 kHz for SPDIF.

The best part is that you can switch between headphones and speakers without plugging or unplugging anything. So you can attach the best headphones for teens and TV speakers for hard of hearing for a more enjoyable listening experience.

Pros

  • Easy to install via USB
  • Versatile ten connectivity ports 
  • Easy to switch between headphones and speakers

Cons

  • Software is not included

Final Verdict


In terms of features, the StarTech 7.1 external USB sound card is up to the task. You can connect headphones with noise cancellation, as well as external speakers that provide superb sound quality, to this device thanks to its wide range of connectivity ports. This is an excellent solution for home theaters, gaming, and entertainment. 

6: PHOINIKAS T10 External Sound Card: Best Multi-Functional Sound Card

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 20KHz
  • Surround: 5.1
  • Interface: USB
  • Dimensions: ‎3.94 x 0.79 x 4.33 inches

The PHOINIKAS T1o is a multifunctional external sound card with a multi-channel design that supports many rhythm and environmental modes. This lightweight, durable, portable sound card provides many advantages over built-ins.

Key Features:

If you want the best external sound card for listening to music and enjoying games, consider the PHOINIKAS T1o. 

Thanks to its multiple USB ports, you can use it with a U Disk, Desktop PC, macOS, Tablet, or Laptop.

Moreover, it has a 6-in-1 USB hub that lets you connect peripheral devices such as microphones, headphones, speakers, mice, keyboards, and card readers.

In addition to offering volume control, microphone on/off, sound switching (previous/next), and pause/play, it also has a variety of functions that make it easy to use.

This device has preset sound modes and a mini LED so that you can adjust the sound effect based on your requirements. In addition to “Alternative” sound effects, there are “Music” sound effects, “Movie” sound effects, and “Game” sound effects as well.

Pros

  • No driver required
  •  Multiple system compatibility
  • Four feet cable allows you to place your sound card anywhere.

Cons

  • It doesn’t have a built-in microphone

Final Verdict

PHOINIKAS T1o is one of the best external sound cards with incredible features. You won’t have to break the bank to get this powerful external sound card. The price of this device is very low compared to the Sennheiser 1000 and the Sound Blaster G6. 

7: FiiO E10K External Sound Card: Best Easy-to-Operate Design

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 384KHz
  • Bit Rate: 32 bits
  • Interface: USB
  • Dimensions: 0.83 x 1.93 x 3.11 inches

The FiiO E10K External Sound Card has a compact, easy-to-use design that enhances the audio experience. It features a USB-C type connector that is compatible with a variety of devices. It is the ideal external sound card for music listening.

Key Features:

Besides providing an adjustment for gain, the E10K-TC has a bass boost feature. When it comes to music, high gain is designed for headphones with a higher impedance that may need a little more volume, while the bass boost is designed to meet the preferences of different music listeners.

With the E10K-TC, you get the flagship XMOS XUF208 for superior USB decoding. It supports PCM sampling rates up to 32-bit/384kHz, which improves the quality of your music compared to the original E10K.

A low-latency internal digital filter and improved flatness make the PCM5102 the best DAC regarding sound quality and audio delay. Moreover, high-current amplifiers deliver good power while exhibiting a great transient response.

Pros

  • Easy to Operate Design
  • Boost BASS with two gain levels
  • Low Noise Floor

Cons

  • The ASIO driver might cause some error

Final Verdict

A FiiO E10K is a superb external sound card that won’t hurt your wallet. You can enjoy the best sound quality with great compatibility with a PC and laptop. It’s fun to listen to music and play games with this stunning external sound card with rich features. 

8: Creative Sound Blaster Play! 3: Best  High-Resolution External Sound Card

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 96 kHz
  • Bit Rate: 24 bits
  • Interface: USB
  • Dimensions: 5.43 x 0.87 x 0.37 inches

Creative Sound Blaster Play 3 is a top-of-the-line external sound card with high resolution. This USB DAC is compatible with windows and Mac. Whether you’re listening to music or playing high-end games, this device gives you high-quality sound. By using it, you can listen to and talk to your teammates without any distortion.

Key Features

The sound quality of Sound Blaster Play! 3 seems excellent without buzzing or popping you can hear, even when switching input sources.

By installing this device, you can drastically improve your computer’s audio quality and boost its bass without having to install any drivers.

The plug-and-play function makes it very convenient to install and suitable for any PC, Mac, or laptop. 

This compact and portable device is an excellent upgrade from your built-in audio. You can enjoy immersive music, games, and entertainment with high-resolution 96KHz and 24-bit audio.

Pros

  • Convenient headphone connectivity
  • Sharp voice communication
  • Audio recording enable

Cons

  • Compatibility issue with PS5

Final Verdict

The Sound Blaster Play 3 is an excellent external sound card designed especially for music lovers. The sound profiles enhance the audio experience of connected headsets. Moreover, it improves in-game communication, which adds to gaming enjoyment.

9: Creative Sound Blaster G3 External Sound Card: Best for Gaming Consoles 

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency:96 kHz
  • Bit Rate: 24 bit
  • Interface: USB
  • Dimensions: 5.12 x 0.98 x 5.51 inches

Gaming enthusiasts place a high priority on finding the best devices that can help them play and win. Sound Blaster G3 USB external sound card is specifically designed for gamers. Additionally, it’s compatible with a wide range of game consoles and verticle gaming monitors.

Key Features:

Thanks to its plug-and-play format, the Sound Blaster G3 is easy to install without any drivers. This device can enhance the sound quality of your gaming consoles, like PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Furthermore, with USB audio connectivity, you can either connect your consoles via USB_C or via USB-C-to-USB-A converters.

Sound Blaster G3  has superb volume and mic controls switch on its sides. With just one touch, you can maintain and boost gameplay performance. You can mute your mic when you don’t need to communicate with your teammates.

The GameVoice Mix volume dial lets you adjust the volume of your voice chat during a game so you can hear your teammates better. You can also reduce the chatter and increase the audio without leaving the game.

Pros

  • Mic-monitoring and audio adjustment via mobile app
  • Convenient and direct audio control
  • Game voice mix feature

Cons

  • No noise reduction in the microphone

Final Verdict

With the Sound Card G3, you can adjust the sound without leaving the game screen, with the latest GameVoice Mix for game and voice chat balance capabilities, a customizable EQ preset with enhanced footsteps, and on-the-fly audio adjustments. All these features make it the best external sound card.

10: HyperX Amp External Sound Card: Best Cheapest Sound card

10 Best External Sound Cards for Music Listening

Main Specifications

  • Sampling Frequency: 48KHz
  • Bit Rate: 16 bit
  • Interface: USB 3.0
  • Dimensions: ‎4 x 1 x 1 inches

If you are frustrated with the sound quality of your onboard sound system, HyperX AMP external sound card is the perfect replacement. As a result, you get crystal clear and crisp sound quality, allowing you to immerse yourself in your favorite music and games.

Key Features

The HyperX Amp upgrades your stereo headset to 7.1 virtual surround sound. You can easily mute the microphone and adjust audio and mic volume with this convenient audio control box, which clips to your shirt. 

Whenever you connect the HyperX Amp to the DAC, you’ll benefit from enhanced microphone noise-cancellation and enhanced audio with Plug and Play functionality.

As soon as you plug in the amp, drivers automatically install, and it creates two sound profiles in Windows: HyperX Amp Game and HyperX Amp Chat. Depending on your requirements, you can choose one among them.

Pros

  • Enhanced microphone noise cancellation
  • Convenient plug and play
  • Compatible with PC and gaming consoles

Cons

  • Lack of clear markings on the volume control buttons

Final Verdict

The HyperX Amp delivers high-quality sound with crisp details. The noise-canceling audio is heard through your headphones, and the mic allows you to communicate with your teammates without causing any distortion to ambient noise. For an immersive sound experience, you can also connect the best headphones for teens with it. Currently, it’s available at the lowest price. If you are on a tight budget, it would be the best option.