In this article, we will share the best external sound cards that are suitable for organizing a home studio as well as for deploying a surround sound system. All owners of musical instruments, as well as fans of laptops, sooner or later have a desire to expand the capabilities of their devices. In the case of laptops, everything is clear – the standard sound subsystem is not enough to implement high-quality and surround sound.
Internal and External Sound Cards
Sound cards are divided into internal and external. External cards are standalone devices that connect to a computer via USB or FireWire. Internal cards will connect to the motherboard expansion slots inside the computer. Internal cards with comparable quality are usually cheaper due to the lack of an external cause. The disadvantage of internal cards is usually a high risk of being exposed to low-quality computer power and numerous interferences. External sound card is often easier to control due to separate external controls and on-hand I/O. In addition, the external card can work with both stationary computers and laptops.
Among themselves, sound cards are divided into home and professional. Professional cards use connector types typical of music equipment such as 6.3mm Jack and balanced XLR, while consumer cards use RCA or 3.5mm jacks. Most users get by with conventional integrated solutions. And they lose a lot on this. Of course, there are now decent built-in codecs, and their quality only grows over time, but discrete solutions do not stand still either.
Another indisputable advantage of an external card is the fact that audio data processing occurs at the hardware level of the device itself. Thus, if you listen to music in lossless or even DVD Audio, you can seriously unload the central processor, because, in the case of using an integrated solution, it is he who does all this work.
How to Make a Correct Decision in Choosing Your External Sound Card?
To determine the right choice, you need to conduct a detailed analysis of a number of parameters. Among them there are critical ones, and there are also minor ones. Let’s start with the most basic ones in our opinion:
- Form Factor.
Yes, they are not only built-in, but also external, although the latter is quite rare, and they cost a lot. True, in some cases they are simply irreplaceable. For example, in the case of a laptop. So, imagine a situation: your laptop has a prehistoric age card, although in terms of other parameters it seems to suit you. In this case, a model that connects via USB will do just fine. If you just need a sound card for a stationary computer, then the ideal option, both in terms of price, quality, and capabilities, is the built-in sound card.
- Power Supply.
For external sound cards – an external power supply or USB bus power is used. When using an external power supply, the sound card can work better, because it does not depend on a noisy computer power supply. In contrast, USB-powered cards are more mobile. do not require an additional outlet and can be operated while connected to a laptop on the go.
It makes sense to take an external (non-integrated) sound card only when you are the happy owner of a speaker system, otherwise, you simply won’t hear the difference between the sound of an integrated codec and an expensive sound card due to the limited capabilities of the acoustics.