10 Best External Sound Cards of 2020

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Why bother with an external sound card audio/adapter when your devices have them built-in? The answer is enhanced quality, and to enjoy a more immersive audio experience. Also, an external card has next to no noticeable interference, unlike the built-in options. Moreover, it’s portable and easily plugs into your other devices. That includes laptops, netbooks, PCs, and game consoles, etc.

Moreover, many of the USB sound cards don’t need buggy drivers to function. Internal sound cards have come a long way in recent years, but they’re still not as versatile as the external options.

Budget
best-budget-external-sound-card
TechRise USB External Stereo Sound Card
4.6/5.0
Weight: 1.6 oz.
Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 0.3”
Stereo sound effect, TRS mic jack, mute button, versatile, extension cord.
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Best Value
best-value-external-sound-card
PHOINIKAS Sound Card
4.5/5.0
Weight: 4.8 oz.
Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.2 x 4.7”
Surround sound, volume control, mic/speaker mute, 6 ports, long cable.
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Top Pick
top-value-external-sound-card
Creative Sound Blaster Omni
4.7/5.0
Weight: 0.16 oz.
Dimensions: 9.1 x 3 x 6.1”
Easy to use, clear audio, excellent build, intuitive CP, headphone amp, 2 mics.
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How to Choose the Ideal External Sound Card

Think carefully about what you need the sound card for. Enhanced audio is obvious, but there are other benefits too. USB cards give you extra audio inputs and outputs. Even the cheaper ones can offer 2 inputs, 2 outputs, and a multipurpose port. A costlier product has even more options. It may have 8 audio Inputs/Outputs, a few USB hub outputs, Midi IN/OUT sockets, and much more.

So, think about the connections and other features that may benefit you as well as the audio quality. Are you a gamer, an audiophile, or a musician? The options are vast, and there’s something for everyone. Prices start at under 20 dollars and go up to several hundred. Read real user feedback for a product where there is any. That will give you a realistic feel for the card and its practical uses.

Multiple Benefits of a USB External Sound Card

The numerous benefits of USB soundcards give them an edge over built-in ones.

  • Plug-n-play simplicity
  • Instant replacement for built-in cards that stop working or underperform
  • Most are small, lightweight, and easy to carry around
  • Adds surround sound to regular laptops

Practical Uses for an External Sound Card

Here are 3 of the more practical uses for a USB soundcard:

  1. Connects up to 7.1 (8-channels) surround audio system
  2. Enhances a home theater sound system
  3. Multiple ports make them ideal recording and playback devices

About My ‘External Sound Card’ Guide

My guide focuses on the smaller USB type external sound cards for practical everyday applications. That includes enhanced audio, surround sound for computers, home theatre systems, and gaming. There are 10 easy-to-read product reviews below for versatile USB sound cards. The shortlist here is the result of extensive research, personal experience, and feedback from real users.

External Sound Cards Comparison Table

1. TechRise USB Stereo Sound Card | Best Budget

TechRise USB Stereo Sound CardView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The Best Budget Pick goes to an affordable USB external stereo sound card by TechRise. It’s a perfect, versatile replacement for a damaged internal soundcard for only a few dollars.

  • Best feature 1: USB plug-n-play soundcard simplicity
  • Best feature 2: Adjustable volume control
  • Plus points: Stereo sound effect, TRS mic jack, mute button, versatile, extension cord
  • Minus points: Cheaply made, fragile

OS Support: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Windows 10, Chrome OS, MAC, and Linux.

TechRise External Sound Card Highlights

The great thing about sound cards like this is the plug-n-play simplicity. You don’t have to open the computer or laptop to replace a damaged or broken soundcard. All you do is plug it into a USB port, and it’s good to go. It comes with an extension lead, fully adjustable Volume Control, and a handy Mute Button. The product works with speakers, mics, headphones, and double-plug headsets.

This soundcard is cheap, yet it offers a lot for the price. Where it lacks, though, is with the build. It feels more fragile than it looks, so it’s unlikely to stand up to moderate knocks and drops.

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Tech Specs
Brand: TechRise
Connection: USB
Number of Inputs: 2
Number of Outputs: 1
Headphone Jack: Yes
Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 0.3”
Product Weight: 1.6 oz.
The Pros
USB plug-n-play simplicity
Affordable and versatile
Outstanding sound quality
Smooth volume control
Stereo sound effect
Works w/ headphones & double-plug headsets
Mute button for audio & mic
TRS mic jack compatible
Extension cord included
The Cons
Cheaply build, fragile

2. PHOINIKAS External USB Sound Card | Best Value

PHOINIKAS External USB Sound CardView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The Editor’s Best Value pick is for the versatile PHOINIKAS external USB sound card. It’s an affordable, multi-port device that offers excellent value for a product in its class.

  • Best feature 1: Versatile and powerful soundcard
  • Best feature 2: Personalized sound effects
  • Plus points: Surround sound, volume control, mic/speaker mute, 6 ports, long cable
  • Minus points: Cheap build quality

OS Support: Windows XP, WIN 7, 8, 8.1, 10, MAC IOS, PS4, and all other common systems.

PHOINIKAS USB Sound Card Highlights

This external USB 360° surround sound card by PHOINIKAS offers six ports. They include three USB 2.0 and three 3.5mm jacks. You can use multiple ports simultaneously without the need for extra adapters. It’s a versatile product for use with external speakers, headphones, mics, and USB devices. Users can personalize sound effects with ease via the product’s EQ.

The onboard controls include a smooth volume dial and mute for mics and speakers. The extended 4ft cable lets you easily place the soundcard to a convenient location. Consider the PHOINIKAS if you need a second, enhanced source for speakers and headphones. Its pro-level sound quality is perfect for use with services like Skype, Team Speak, and Google Hangouts, etc.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better USB sound card in this price category. The only significant criticism is that the build quality is cheap and makes the product feel a little delicate.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: PHOINIKAS
Connection: Xxx
Number of USB Hubs: 3
Number of 3.5mm Ports: 3
Headphone Jack: Yes
Stereo Surround Sound: 360°
Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.2 x 4.7”
Product Weight: 4.8 oz.
The Pros
Versatile and powerful for its class
Intuitive design, easy-to-use
3 x USB 2.0 ports
3 x 3.5mm ports
Personalized sound effects
360° surround sound
Smooth volume control
Pro-level sound quality
Mic and speaker mute
Long 4ft extension cord
Excellent value
The Cons
Cheap, plasticky build

3. Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1 | Top Pick

Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1View on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

Sound Blaster (SB) Omni Surround 5.1 by Creative takes the Best Value slot. This versatile USB external sound card has a lot to offer. It costs more than the two above, but is it worth the extra?

  • Best feature 1: High-performance headphone amp
  • Best feature 2: Integrated beam-forming mic
  • Plus points: Easy to use, clear audio, excellent build, intuitive CP, headphone amp, 2 mics
  • Minus points: Quite big

OS Support: Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows 7, 8, Mac OS V. 10.6 and above.

Sound Blaster Omni Sound Card Highlights

The SB Omni Surround 5.1 is a significant upgrade to the built-in PC and Mac soundcards. This puppy has a bunch of handy features that make it simple to use. On top of the device is a large, fully-adjustable volume wheel. On the side is a Line In port for MP3s and iPods, a Mic Jack, and a Headphone Jack. On the back of the Sound Blaster Omni are the 5.1 system connections.

The two beam-forming microphones are also worth mention. The Sound Blaster Omni uses powerful CrystalVoice technologies with advanced noise reduction. The result is crystal-clear, studio-quality recording. A 3.5mm to Male RCA adapter (included) makes it possible to connect the device to any system. The only drawback is that some find the sound card big and awkward compared to others.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Creative
Connection: Micro USB port
Number of Inputs: 2
Number of Outputs: 6
Headphone Jack: 3.5 mm (1/8”)
Dimensions: 9.1 x 3 x 6.1”
Product Weight: 0.16 oz.
The Pros
Superb build quality
Crystal-clear audio
Easy to use
Intuitive Control Panel (CP)
Large adjustable volume dial
Advanced noise reduction
2 beam-forming mics
High-performing headphone amp
The Cons
Big and bulky for its class

4. Optimal Shop 6CH USB 2.0 External Sound Card

Optimal Shop 6CH USB 2.0 External Sound CardView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.2/5

Meet the Optimal Shop USB 2.0 external sound card. It’s a 6-channel product for Windows OS, including Win 10. Use this affordable device to record and playback analog and digital audio.

  • Best feature 1: Simple yet effective external USB sound card
  • Best feature 2: Works with most versions of Windows
  • Plus points: Affordable, compact and light, easy to use, multiple ports, includes software
  • Minus points: Average build quality, no detailed instructions

OS Support: Windows 98 / XP / 2000 / Vista / Win7/8, Windows 10, and MAC OS.

Optimal Shop USB Sound Card Highlights

This is not the best-looking palm-sized USB sound card out there, but it’s cheap, reliable, and effective. It’s perfect if you have a defective audio jack, or need more of them to connect a 5.1 surround sound system. On the front of the soundcard are a Mic In port and SPDIF IN/OUT ports. To the right of those are the Line-In, Front Out, Rear Out, and Cen/Bass Out ports.

The box includes a software CD and a USB cable. You must install the included drivers with pre-Win 10 OS, but it’s a straightforward process. The build quality is not impressive, but it should be fine with careful handling. This is a no-thrills product that does exactly as advertised.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Optimal Shop
Connection: USB
Number of Inputs: 3
Number of Outputs: 4
Headphone Jack: Yes
Dimensions: 4.1 x 3.8 x 1.2”
Product Weight: 4 oz.
The Pros
Affordable USB soundcard
Compact and lightweight
Easy to configure/use
Multiple ports
Windows/Mac compatible
Includes install software
Value for money
The Cons
Average build quality
No detailed instructions

5. Tendak USB Hub w/ External Sound Card

Tendak USB Hub w/ External Sound CardView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The Tendak USB Hub and External Sound Card is a budget-priced device with some attractive features. It’s another plug-n-play product that comes with an extended 120cm (3.9ft) cable.

  • Best feature 1: Plug-n-play simplicity
  • Best feature 2: Three USB ports
  • Plus points: Wide applications, volume control, personalized sound effects, audio/mic port
  • Minus points: Decent sound, not exceptional

OS Support: All PCs, laptops, and desktop computers running Windows XP, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and MAC iOS.

Tendak USB Hub, USB Sound Card Highlights

This product can replace a broken sound card or audio port in an instant. Tendak’s USB sound card is also an ideal solution for anyone who wants to expand their USB ports. That means one port becomes three with the extra convenience of a multifunctional product. Think flash drives, USB keyboards, and mouse, etc. The device also offers 3.5mm ports for headsets, headphones, mics, and speakers.

Users can enhance their audio experience still further with personalized sounds. The EQ button presents special effects for music, movies, and gaming applications. A silky-smooth volume control uses Blue bright LED indicators. The LEDs also help you to remember the audio levels for various functions. Sound quality is decent for the price, though not exceptional.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Tendak
Connection: USB
Number of Inputs: 3
Number of Outputs: 3
Headphone Jack: Yes
Dimensions: 4.9 x 4.4 x 1.3”
Product Weight: 4.8 oz.
The Pros
Excellent value soundcard
Plug-n-play simplicity
3 USB ports
Wide application use
Volume control w/ LEDs
Personalized sound effects Audio/mic port
The Cons
Decent sound, not exceptional

6. StarTech External Sound Card for Laptop or PC

StarTech External Sound Card for Laptop or PCView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

StarTech’s External Sound Card Audio Adapter is for Laptops and PCs. Its USB connection lets you add 3.5mm audio/mic connections and a SPDIF digital audio output to your system.

  • Best feature 1: Home-theatre quality sound
  • Best feature 2: Affordable and versatile
  • Plus points: Small and compact, external volume/EQ controls, long warranty, lifetime support
  • Minus points: 5.1 surround sound not supported outside of Windows

OS Support: Windows® and Mac OS

StarTech USB Computer Sound Card Highlights

StarTech’s handy USB sound card enables you to bypass the one built into your computer. It’s a small compact product with easy-to-adjust external volume and EQ controls. This is a multi-purpose device that’s ideal for a range of applications. That includes surround sound support for the home-theater. The only downside is that its 5.1 surround sound is a Windows-only feature.

All sound recording and playback features work as promoted. The company backs its sound card with a 2-year warranty and lifetime tech support.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: StarTech
Connection: USB
Number of Inputs: 1
Number of Outputs: 3
Headphone Jack: Yes
Dimensions: 6.9 x 5.6 x 1.2”
Product Weight: 4.2 oz.
The Pros
Home-theatre quality sound
Affordable, multi-purpose device
Small and compact
External volume/EQ controls
Extended warranty
Lifetime tech support
The Cons
5.1 surround sound not supported outside of Windows

7. Creative Sound BlasterX G1 7.1 USB Sound Card

Creative Sound BlasterX G1 7.1 USB Sound CardView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5

Creative’s Sound BlasterX G1 7.1 is a USB Sound Card that enhances any headset or speaker system.

  • Best feature 1: Small form factor, portable
  • Best feature 2: Works with most studio-grade and gaming headsets
  • Plus points: Truly immersive experience, crystal-clear audio, X-Plus Configurator, Scout Mode
  • Minus points: Scout Mode too loud for some users

OS Support: Windows 10, Win 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, MAC OS X v10.8, and PS4.

Creative Sound BlasterX G1 7.1 Sound Card Highlights

You can use the Creative Sound BlasterX G1 with any headset to create a virtual 7.1 experience. That means realistic virtual surround sound. The headphone amplifier drives the most popular studio-grade and gaming headphones. It’s not only about headsets, either. This powerful little device also upgrades the speaker experience when plugged into any PC, PS4, or MAC computer.

Consider the Sound BlasterX G1 7.1 if you want a truly immersive experience. The default audio quality is crystal clear, but it gets even better with the X-Plus Configurator. It’s the tool used to program the G1 with a unique sound signature. Scout Mode helps to recognize cues better and increases volume levels above what rivals can hear. Some complain that it’s too loud, though.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Creative
Connectivity (Main): 4-pole
Platform: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0
Max Channel Output: Stereo
Audio Fidelity: Up to 24-bit/96kHz
Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 0.4”
Product Weight: 0.64 oz.
The Pros
Small form factor
Plug-n-play simplicity
Affordable USB sound card
Truly immersive experience
Instantly upgrades speakers & headsets
BlasterX Acoustic Engine
The Cons
Scout Mode too loud for some

8. V.TOP 7.1 USB External Sound Card Audio Adapter

V.TOP 7.1 USB External Sound Card Audio AdapterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

At #8 we have the V.TOP 7.1. It’s another quality USB external sound card audio adapter. The device uses a high-speed USB 2.0 host interface with 480 Mbps transfer rates.

  • Best feature 1: 7.1CH home-theater sound system
  • Best feature 2: Versatile, multi-purpose soundcard
  • Plus points: Superb audio quality, cost-effective, volume control, dual mic input, mute button
  • Minus points: None

OS Support: Windows 10 / 8 / and WIN 7, and MAC OS

V.TOP 7.1 USB Sound Card Adapter Highlights

It’s a versatile, smart external USB sound card. Use it to turn any Windows desktop computer or laptop into a 7.1CH home theater sound system. The connection is via a single USB 2.0 port on the host device, and then it’s good to go. Plug-n-play simplicity means it’s quick and easy to swap between systems. And the analog and digital audio support make this a truly cost-saving upgrade.

Here’s a breakdown of the impressive on-body features:

Volume Button
Vol Mute Button
Mic Mute Button
Work Indicator Light
USB IN
S/PDIF IN
Line IN
Mic In (L)
Mic In (R)
S/PDIF OUT
Headphones OUT
Front OUT
Back OUT
Surround OUT
Center/Bass OUT

This USB sound card is simple yet professional. It works as a pre-amp for condenser-type mics, 7.1 audio support for laptops, and to connect computers to a home theater audio receiver.

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Tech Specs
Brand: V.TOP
Connection: USB
Number of Inputs: 5
Number of Outputs: 6
Headphone Jack: Yes
Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.8”
Product Weight: 5.3 oz.
The Pros
Versatile, multi-purpose card
7.1CH home-theater system
Superb audio quality
Cost-effective upgrade
Volume control
Dual external mic inputs
Mute button
The Cons
None considering cost

9. Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi USB Sound Card

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi USB Sound CardView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5

The penultimate review goes to the Sound Blaster X-Fi USB Sound Card. It’s super-easy to install and turns any notebook or PC into an instant 5.1 entertainment system.

  • Best feature 1: Quick to install with plug-n-play simplicity
  • Best feature 2: Sleek, compact design
  • Plus points: Volume control, mute, remote control, Mic/Headphone jacks, SBX Pro Studio
  • Minus points: Not compatible with MAC OS

OS Support: Windows (most versions), including Windows 10. New buyers with older versions should check with the seller for compatibility before buying.

Sound Blaster X-Fi Sound Card Highlights

Add the Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro to your shortlist if you need a compelling upgrade. It has a sleek, compact design that functions seamlessly without a separate power adapter. This Creative device guarantees to replace low-quality built-in audio with superior sound. Essential features such as the Volume Control, Mute, Headphone, and Mic inputs are at your fingertips using the IR remote.

SBX Pro Studio brings a full suite of audio enrichment technologies. It delivers enhanced audio experiences for lovers of movies, music, and gamers. The bad news—for some—is that this product is not compatible with MAC OS, at least not at the time of writing.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Creative
Connection: Mini USB
Number of Inputs: 2
Number of Outputs: 6
Headphone Jack: Yes
Dimensions: 8.9 x 2.4 x 6.3”
Product Weight: 7 oz.
The Pros
Quick to install
Plug-n-play simplicity
Sleek, compact design
Smooth volume control
Mute feature
IR remote control
Mic/Headphone jacks
SBX Pro Studio
The Cons
Not compatible with MAC OS

10. Sound BlasterX G6 130dB External Sound Card

Sound BlasterX G6 130dB External Sound CardView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

My last mini-review is for another product sold by Creative Labs, Inc. This one is the Sound BlasterX G6 130dB. It’s the most expensive external USB sound card on the page, but is it worth the extra?

  • Best feature 1: Exceptional audio performance
  • Best feature 2: Custom-designed headphone amplifier
  • Plus points: Fingertip access to controls, 7.1 audio realism, full audio customization
  • Minus points: No battery, so not fully portable

OS Support: Windows V. 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Mac OS (10.9 or higher), PS4, Xbox, and Switch.

Sound BlasterX G6 USB Sound Card Highlights

Those who buy the Sound BlasterX G6 7.1 care about quality. It’s an HD gaming DAC and an external USB sound card. You can use this beauty with PC, PS4, Xbox, and SWITCH. The audio performance is likely the best in its class. One of its standout features is the discrete, custom-designed Xamp headphone amplifier. Xamp can drive a wide variety of dedicated gaming headphones.

The Sound BlasterX G6 gives fingertip access to profile buttons and Sidetone volume control. It promises 7.1 audio realism and full audio customization. There’s a lot to explore with this sound card. Despite that, it’s intuitive, and it doesn’t take long to become familiar with its full potential. The most common gripe is that a card in this class should come with a battery.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Creative
Connection: USB
Number of Inputs: 4
Number of Outputs: 3
Headphone Jack: Yes
Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.9 x 2.8”
Product Weight: 7 oz.
The Pros
Easy to use, feature-packed
Exceptional audio performance
7.1 audio realism
Multiple connections
Custom-designed headphone amp
Fingertip access to controls
Large volume control knob
Impressive software suite
3 different modes
Audio customization
The Cons
No battery makes it less portable
0/50 ratings