The best sound cards for enhanced laptop and computer audio quality

Distorted sounds or unclear audio might get in the way of a productive meeting. A sound card smooths out rough audio to produce clear sounds whether it’s from your built-in speakers, bookshelf monitors, or headphones. To help you decide on the right sound card, we’ve revealed our best finds here.

Installing a sound card in computers is a popular practice among gaming professionals, but anybody working on a laptop or computer should invest in one. These chips are incorporated into your computer board, but there are external adapters that are easier to take on and off. Before purchasing a sound card, double check with its operating system compatibility. Common systems used include Windows and Mac devices. Let’s take a look at our picks.

Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe Gaming Sound Card

Best Overall

Creative’s sound card is a high-performance card built for professional gaming, making it more than capable for online calls. It offers 3D surround sound for headphones or desktop speakers through professional-grade capacitors and a gold-plated IO connectivity. This card supports Windows operating systems 7, 8, and 10.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Play! 3 External USB Sound Adapter

Best USB Connection

The Creative Labs external sound card is compatible with both Windows and Mac devices. This plug-and-play design provides two outputs for headphones and recording devices at a 24-bit, 48 kHZ quality, making this ideal for recording and sound-mixing podcasts. Download the brand’s Control Panel software and take advantage of the advanced profiles for certain headphone brands.

Sabrent USB External Stereo Sound Adapter

Best Value

Sabrent’s USB plug-in external adapter offers a stereo output and a microphone jack. With no external power necessary, experience clearer sound quality instantly with no hassle. Note that this specific model works with Windows OS 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, 7, 8, Linux systems, and Mac OSX. This compact adapter is a portable solution best used with laptops.

A sound card makes a huge difference in audio quality, whether it’s for professional online games or workplace video calls. An internal sound card for a PC is ideal for larger machines, while external adapters are best for laptops and professionals who travel frequently. Try a sound card on our list and discover how the humble sound card can transform your work experience.