Rating of the best external sound cards



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External cards are equipped with high-quality professional-level converters, which makes the sound quality from an external sound card incomparable when using the internal interface. Bass will play, normal stereo, the sound will become clear and deep, previously hidden elements will appear. Secondly, VZKs are needed to connect professional equipment such as microphones, headphones, monitors, etc. Thirdly, the effect of sound delay is reduced when, when playing an instrument, the sound is played with a delay when pressed.

Top external sound cards

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3nd Gen is not the cheapest, but almost the top 24-bit card with support for sample rates up to 192 kHz and many unique options, including phantom power. A huge plus will be the availability of Pro Tools First, a professional software package for recording studios based on MacOS and Windows operating systems. Unfortunately, there are no balanced outputs here. The device is focused on use by guitarists, and high-quality converters will reproduce your music clearly and without interference.

In reviews, users consider 2i2 3nd Gen to be the best model in the mid-budget segment, able to compete with top-end representatives.

Pros and cons

  • High performance converters
  • 2 balanced line inputs
  • 2 microphone preamps
  • Air mode for clear sound recording
  • High impedance instrument inputs
  • Missing EAX
  • Few connectors
  • High price

Zoom UAC-2

Zoom UAC-2

The UAC-2 card connects to a PC/laptop via a USB 3.0 port for high speed data transfer. We note an excellent study of ergonomics: the case is metal and resistant to dust, the back panel is plastic, the edges of the regulators are ribbed and do not slip, and the overall assembly is excellent. The hardware allows you to achieve the sound of studio-quality music, there are two input and output channels, convenient combined XLR / TRS connectors, MIDI input and phantom power for the microphone. In general, we get a balanced device for both home and studio use. Bonus features include the MixEfx software mixer and the Loopback feature. At the same time, the reviews mention the lack of amplifier power for studio headphones and not the most successful implementation of ASIO support.

Pros and cons

  • Combined XLR/TRS inputs
  • Loopback function for live broadcasts
  • Low latency overdubbing
  • 120dB dynamic range
  • Quadruple upsampling
  • No EAX support
  • Inconvenient rear panel button setup
  • Inconvenient software
  • Bad ASIO implementation

ESI U24XL

ESI U24XL

Budget model with USB connection. It is compact in size, which allows you to comfortably take it with you to work in tandem with a laptop on a trip. It is primarily focused on sound reproduction, so it is ideal for lovers of listening to music, but recording is possible only through an additional connection of a mixer, since there is no microphone input. The headphone output is paired with one of the analog connectors, which many users in the reviews call a clear drawback. In addition, customers often complain about the inconvenient setup interface and possible freezes of the card when working in Windows. A nice bonus is the Cubase LE 4 audio editing software package.

Pros and cons

  • Support for MME and Apple Core Audio standards
  • Affordable price
  • E-WDM technology
  • Analog and digital connectors
  • Cubase LE 4 software included
  • Frequency limit 48 kHz
  • No instrument input
  • No microphone input
  • May be buggy on Windows

Steinberg UR-12

Steinberg UR-12

Budget model with two input and output channels, connected to a computer or laptop via a USB interface. Plays music up to 192kHz, but is limited to 96kHz for audio recording. It is made in a stylish metal case, equipped with the option of phantom power for the microphone and has an instrument input. In terms of the quality of sound purity, it belongs to entry-level models, but is close to average, which is very pleasant, given the affordable price of the gadget.

As for the opinions of users, the reviews are mostly positive, and the negative points are mostly logical for a budget model: there is no separate headphone volume control, not full adaptation to audio editors, etc.

Pros and cons

  • Support for WDM and Apple Core Audio standards
  • 2-channel audio recording
  • metal body
  • Phantom power for microphone
  • No digital interfaces
  • Only one microphone input
  • Only 1 year warranty

Roland RUBIX24

Roland RUBIX24

This is one of the most expensive mid-budget USB cards, but its price is fully justified by the filling and sound quality. The model offers quiet preamps and 4 balanced TRS outputs, allowing you to configure routing and use it both in broadcasts and in DJ sets. At home, the card will also show its best side thanks to the built-in compressor and limiter, and the built-in Loopback will allow you to manipulate the signal routing from a computer / laptop, which will be very useful for streamers. IPad support, hardware grounding, phantom microphone power — all this additionally justifies the presence of this external sound card in our top.

Pros and cons

  • 2 input and 4 output channels
  • There is an instrumental input
  • 2 microphone inputs
  • Does not support EAX technologies
  • One headphone output

Creative Sound BlasterX G6

Creative Sound BlasterX G6

Inexpensive external sound card with 7.1-channel surround sound options, in-game voice level adjustment and other «chips» that gamers will need. There is no instrumental input here, so the model is not suitable for recording music, although there is one microphone input, but it is more intended for gaming conversations than for recording vocals. On the other hand, there is a 32-bit DAC and support for frequencies up to 384 kHz, and the signal-to-noise ratio is at the level of entry-level studio cards.

As for the reviews, in them users praise the model for its high sound quality, but at the same time point out possible heating and compatibility issues with consoles.

Pros and cons

  • 7.1 channel surround playback
  • Xamp Discrete Headphone Amplifier
  • Dolby Digital decoding
  • 32-bit DAC
  • No input for musical instruments
  • No support for phantom power for microphones
  • Average recording quality

Behringer U-Phoria UMC22

Behringer U-Phoria UMC22

One of the most budget external sound cards on the market. This is a two-channel model with an aluminum housing and a connection to a PC via USB 2.0. The presence of built-in monitoring allows you to enjoy clear sound without delays and skips through the software on your computer. Supports up to 48 kHz sample rates. There are microphone and instrument inputs, a headphone output, you can arrange for yourself direct monitoring. As amenities, a Midas amplifier is installed here. Any condenser microphone or guitar works great with it, but the gain level is only enough for amateur recording. Despite the low price of the device, users in the reviews note quite clear sound when listening to music at home.

Pros and cons

  • Affordable price
  • Two recording channels
  • Phantom microphone power
  • Simple control
  • Microphone preamp MIDAS
  • Poor recording quality
  • Only one microphone input
  • Driver Issues
  • Inconvenient software

Creative Sound BlasterX G5

Creative Sound BlasterX G5

Key features of this budget sound card: 8-channel audio, support for headphones up to 600 ohms, built-in sound processor, 2 converters and a headphone amplifier. The model is executed in the effective case and differs in high compactness. Compatible with laptops, consoles and phones. The controls and ports for connection are placed on the sides of the device. The scroll wheel is on the front.

According to the main technical characteristics, everything is also not bad here: full-fledged 24-bit DAC-ADCs, the maximum noise level is 120 dB. There is a mode for high-impedance microphones. Experts in their reviews note that the device is perfect primarily for gamers.

Pros and cons

  • Multichannel 7.1
  • Own processor
  • Integrated headphone amplifier
  • Support for Scout Mode and CrystalVoice
  • Only one channel for audio recording
  • Microphone phantom power missing
  • No instrument jack
  • No support for EAX/ASIO technologies
  • Full functionality only on Windows
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