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5 Best Audiophile PC Soundcards for 2022

Best Audiophile PC Soundcard

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Best Audiophile PC Soundcard in 2022
2022

Soundcards are often overlooked in PC building, but for audiophiles, it is a crucial component.

The built-in audio from a motherboard is more than enough for gaming. However, avid music listeners would go the extreme route and purchase the best audiophile PC soundcard for their computer. 

An audiophile soundcard will give you the needed power to drive your audio gear. Only then will you be able to maximize the potential of your listening equipment.

That said, unlike graphics cards, soundcards are challenging to find, and purchasing the wrong one would be a waste of money. Luckily, we have compiled the best soundcards for PC in the market.

What is a soundcard?

Before we get to the actual list of audiophile soundcards, let us first determine what exactly it is.

It depends on the type of soundcard that you will get. A PC soundcard is a component that goes into your computer. It connects either through the PCIe expansion slot or through the USB ports.

Soundcards provide better audio output and will improve the overall sound quality of your PC.

However, it is only noticeable on headphones and speakers capable of high-fidelity audio.

5 Best Audiophile PC Soundcards in 2022

Editor’s Pick

1. Creative Sound Blaster AE-9 Soundcard

4.5/5
Price Range: $$
Brand: Creative
Creative Sound Blaster AE-9
See Price on Amazon
…and another 37 Reviews

The Specs

  • Product Dimensions:  8.27 x 4.41 x 7.56 in
  • Item Weight:  2.73
  • Hardware Interface:  PCI
  • Platform:  Windows
  • Hardware Platform:  Headphones
  • Surround Sound Channel Configuration:  5 1
  • Audio Processor:  Sound Core3D™

What’s in the Box?

  • Sound Blaster AE-9 (main card)
  • Audio Control Module
  • Quick Start Leaflet
  • Warranty Leaflets
  • 2 x Stereo to RCA cables
  • 1 x Optical TOSLINK cable

The Creative Sound Blaster AE-9 is the top-end model from Creative – an established company regarding audio peripherals and sound cards.

The AE-9 is the company’s cream of the crop that features a 129 dB DNR and 32-bit/384 kHz playback. It is achieved through the hi-res ESS SABRE-class reference DAC and the Xamp fully discrete headphone bi-amplifier.

Moreover, the Sound Blaster audio processing technology ensures that you are only getting the best audio output possible.

The Sound Blaster AE-9 also features playback over PCM, and DSD64, and it has a Total Harmonic Distortion of -120 dB or 0.0001% THD. Now that is an impressive audio technology.

The AE-9 will have no problems driving it if you have high-fidelity headphones. This soundcard supports 600 ohms. Connect any headphones you know of, and it will run without any problems.

In addition, Creative has included CleanLine Technology, which aims to filter and reduce noise while providing pristine voice audio.

This soundcard connects to a computer through its PCIe slot. The Audio Control Module (ACM) weighs 480 grams – perfect for any desk setup. The main card weighs 230grams, but you need to have extra 6-pin power, so that is another consideration before getting this card.

The major drawback of the Sound Blaster AE-9 is its price.

You need to shell out around $350 for this dedicated soundcard. However, it is a small price if you want a long-lasting sound card to power your high-fidelity audio equipment.

Premium Option

2. Asus Essence STX II Soundcard

4/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: ASUS
Asus Essence STX II
See Price on Amazon
…and another 121 Reviews

The Specs

  • Product Dimensions:  ‎6.69 x 4.33 x 0.79 in
  • Item Weight:  ‎1.54 lb
  • Surround Sound Channel Configuration:  7.1
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio:  120 dB
  • Audio Processor:  ASUS AV100
  • Interface:  PCIe
  • Headphone output power:  Line output (RCA, 3.5): 2 Vrms (5.65 Vp-p) | Headphone output : 7 Vrms ( Vp-p)
  • Platform:  Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows 8

What’s in the Box?

  • 1 x Op-amp swap kit
  • 1 x 3.5mm-to-RCA cable
  • 1 x 6.3mm-to-3.5mm adapter
  • 1 x S/PDIF adapter
  • 1x Driver CD
  • Quick start guide

The Asus Essence STX II is a 7.1-channel internal PCIe soundcard with audiophile-grade technology features.

This soundcard has two components – the mainboard and the daughter board. The mainboard is responsible for the front, headphone out, line-in, and S/PDIF. The latter takes care of the RCA connections if you want a whole surround sound experience.

Like the Creative Sound Blaster AE-9, the Essence STX II needs external power. Use a 4-pin Molex connector for extra power.

Understandably, an extra cable is needed to power this sound card. The Molex connecter is almost obsolete. You must bring out an extra cable when using a modular power supply.

Now to the features. The PCM1792A DAC powers the onboard audio. The PCM1796 drives the surround system.

High-quality headphones are no problem since this soundcard supports up to 600 Ohms impedance. 

The Asus Essence STX II comes in at around $580. It is a very steep price considering its competition. It is the main reason why it is our second pick instead.

Now, why should you get the Essence STX II over the AE-9?

The STX II features 7.1 surround sound and top-notch audio quality. Asus did a great job focusing on audio quality.

Budget Pick

3. Creative Sound Blaster X AE-5 Soundcard

4.5/5
Price Range: $
Brand: Creative
Creative Sound Blaster X AE-5
See Price on Amazon
…and another 2,490 Reviews

The Specs

  • Product Dimensions:  5.71 x 0.79 x 5.04 in
  • Item Weight:  1 lb
  • Hardware Interface:  PCI Express x4
  • Audio Output Mode:  Surround
  • Hardware Platform:  Headphones, PC
  • Surround Sound Channel Configuration:  7.1
  • Maximum Sample Rate:  384 KHz

What’s in the Box?

  • Sound BlasterX AE-5
  • 1 x LED Strip (30cm/10 LEDs)
  • 1 x Extension Cable
  • Quick Start Leaflet
  • Warranty Leaflets

Besides high-quality audio, audiophiles would love to game as well, right? This is the time when the Creative Sound Blaster X AE-5 comes in.

This internal PCIe sound card is not just for gaming. If you love pristine audio, then you may get this as well. 

Here are some of the reasons why this soundcard is worth considering.

The Sound Blaster ZxR features the latest Sabre DACs and is capable of 32-bit 385-kHz playback.

The company also developed a new amplification technology. Creative XAMP does the amplification through the headphone channels. It also supports a range of headphones from 12-600 Ohms.

Moreover, this soundcard has a built-in RGB controller to complete the “gamer” identity. It connects through Molex power though, so that is a downside.

The Sound Blaster X AE-5 is available for $150. The price, like the Asus STX II, pushes this soundcard down our list. 

The AE-5’s price is on the more affordable side, but if you love crystal-clear gaming audio, then it is worth considering. It does not only provide clear gaming audio, but you will also have access to an audiophile soundcard for a crispy listening session.

Budget Pick

4. Asus Strix Raid Pro Soundcard

4/5
Price Range: $
Brand: ASUS
Asus Strix Raid Pro
See Price on Amazon
…and another 43 Reviews

The Specs

  • Product Dimensions:  ‎17 x 11.8 x 12.3 in
  • Item Weight:  2.53 LB
  • Hardware Interface:  PCIE x 1
  • Audio Output Mode Platform:  7.1
  • Hardware Platform:  Headphones

What’s in the Box?

  • 1 x Control box
  • 1 x S/PDIF optical adaptors
  • 1 x Quick start guide
  • 1 x Box link cable

Here is another entry from Asus. The Strix Raid Pro soundcard is an affordable option if you want to improve the sound quality of your PC.


For around $150, you get a 7.1-channel surround sound for an immersive listening session. You also receive a volume control box that not only looks amazing, but is easy and simple to use as well.

Sound quality is the priority of audiophiles. Despite the affordable price tag, Asus managed to sneak in an ESS Sabre9006A DAC for 24-bit 192-kHz playback. It also has an SNR of 116 dB, which is on the lower side, but it is still enough for daily use. This soundcard can drive powerful headphones of up to 600 Ohms. 

Like the other sound cards, the Raid Pro needs additional power. Luckily, it draws it through the PCIe slot. It does not need extra cables, which is good if you are picky about your cable management.

The Asus Strix Raid Pro is an affordable audiophile soundcard that can be used for long listening sessions and gaming.

Premium Option

5. Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Soundcard

4/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: Creative
Creative Sound Blaster ZxR
See Price on Amazon
…and another 47 Reviews

The Specs

  • Product Dimensions:  14.35 x 7.8 x 4 in
  • Item Weight:  3.3 lb
  • Hardware Interface:  PCI Express x4
  • Audio Output Mode:  Stereo
  • Platform:  Windows 7
  • Hardware Platform:  Headphones
  • Surround Sound Channel Configuration:  5.1
  • Analog Input:  24bit / 96kHz / stereo
  • Analog output:  24bit / 96kHz / 5.1ch or 24bit / 192kHz / stereo
  • Corresponding OS:  (64-bit or 32-bit,) 8, Windows7 Microsoft Windows

What’s in the Box?

  • Sound Blaster ZxR sound card
  • Sound Blaster DBpro card
  • Sound Blaster Audio Control Module
  • 1 x Optical Cable
  • 1 x Stereo(3.5mm)-to-RCA cable
  • 1 x DBpro cable
  • Quick Start Leaflet
  • Installation CD containing: Drivers for Windows 7 and Windows 8, Creative software suite & User’s Guide

Creative caps off our soundcards list with the Sound Blaster ZxR. The company is on a streak regarding audiophile-quality soundcards, and the ZxR is one of its trump cards.

The ZxR features flagship specifications such as swappable OpAmps. The PCM1794 DAC takes care of the headphone-out and front-out, while the PCM1798 is responsible for their rear and C/sub. However, there is still no 7.1-surround sound support.

In addition, this sound card is feature loaded. It has an impedance range of 32-Ohms to 600-Ohms. That is not just it. More features such as the crystalizer and smart volume are present to keep your listening experience pristine.

The Sound Blaster ZxR retailed for around $250. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued already. Do not worry though, as some retailers still have some units in stock. Else, a used item is still a great buy.

Conclusion

The best audiophile PC soundcard is the one you can afford and install on your computer.

Luckily for you, the models mentioned above vary in price. You have to choose which features work best with your needs but reach higher if you can to save your upgrading later.

Aim is a tech and gaming content writer who loves playing Apex Legends, Valorant, and Dota 2. He also plays casual games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Pokemon titles on his Nintendo Switch too. He also builds gaming computers and does tech troubleshooting on the side.

This post was last updated on 2022-12-08 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.


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