Over the last few months, we’ve tested a few USB sound cards designed specifically for PC gaming. As well as adding extra ports and improving sound quality, these cards include features that aim to increase immersion or provide a competitive edge. While external sound cards remain a relatively niche purchase, as gaming headphones have improved over time we’ve found that pairing them with a good USB sound card has become increasingly important. After all, if your computer’s on-board audio is sub-par, you won’t be getting the most out of your shiny new headset. In this article, we’ll break down the best external USB sound card for gaming we’ve tested so far.
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Top 10 best external USB sound card in UK 2021
1. Creative Sound Blaster X3 External Sound Card
This high-resolution USB DAC is the perfect solution for elevating your audio experience at your desk. It’s the only external USB DAC that features Super X-Fi tech, which recreates the experience of a high-end multispeaker sound system in your headphones. This is one of the few options that has a USB-C port, making it compatible with modern-day setups.
It also helps you find that sweet spot between two audio sources. This comes in handy when you need to control the volume mix between video game audio, and the audio of your teammates so you can hear them better. This audio solution is compatible with PCs, Macs, the PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
2. StarTech.com 7.1 USB External Sound Card
If you want the highest quality possible, you won’t think twice before considering the StarTech.com 7.1 USB External Sound Card a great choice.
Powering up your 7.1-channel audio system will be a piece of cake with this reliable and quality-oriented adapter. Just hook it up to your PC, and it will start playing everything with clear audio. Whether it is music or movies, this adapter plays it all on your 7.1-channel system.
For sure, it comes with all the jacks you could need for powering up your audio devices. It offers the back, line-in, surround, front, and even center/bass for extra capacity. And if you’re using headphones, then that won’t be an issue either, as there’s a single output just for that.
The best of all is that nothing is keeping you from enjoying exceptional audio with straightforward audio control, S/PDIF out and S/PDIF in. You will have enough to pair it up with any audio-playing component to enjoy fantastic results.
Apart from all that, this device still manages to be one of the most affordable in the market. Using USB 1.7, you can connect it directly to your PC and enjoy instant audio. That’s how fantastic it is.
If you want something simple but still highly capable, then this model works for you. It will save you time, effort, and money at the same time.
3. Epos Sennheiser GSX 300
Epos, the company formerly known as Sennheiser’s gaming division, has turned out something of a treat on its first attempt. The GSX 300 sound card is compact and relatively inexpensive at around £70, but it produces a great expanded sound stage and offers an immersive simulation of 7.1 surround sound on stereo headsets. High resolution sound is supported, up to 24-bit 96kHz, and the GSX 300 can drive headphones up to 75 ohms. That meant my 50-ohm Sennheiser HD 598 SE worked fine, but the 300-ohm HD 600 is off the table.
The small physical design means that there’s no room for additional ports – you just have Micro USB and two 3.5mm inputs for your headphones and mic – but it does mean that the GSX 300 is something you can easily put in your bag to use with a laptop on the go. A single to dual 3.5mm adapter is required if your headset uses a single TRRS jack instead of separate TRS connections for headphones and mic, but this isn’t a big issue as these adapters normally come standard with any headset that require them (not that they’re expensive anyway).
There’s a volume dial on the front, which offers tactile steps, as well as a second button that can be set to switch between sound modes or different EQ profiles. The software works well, with convenient EQ settings and comprehensive mic controls, but it did sometimes stop working and require a restart. This should have been fixed in a recent software update, and hasn’t occurred since in my testing.
If you want a compact USB sound card at a reasonable price, the GSX 300 is worth considering.
4. Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res 130dB
Beginning at no 5 in my pick of the best USB sound card is “Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res 130dB”.
This USB sound card has a lot of exciting features. The first feature that caught my attention is its discrete headphones amplifier. This improves the sound output of your headphone – giving out perfect sound.
It also has virtual sound and Dolby audio digital technology. This is made for perfect sound experience when watching movies or playing video games.
Finally, “Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res 130dB” works with PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The product is a top-quality sound card for gamers.
If you are a geek like me, you probably want some tech specifications for this product. Here they are: 7.1 surround virtualization, 130dB DNR, and 32-bit/384kHz DAC
5. ASTRO Gaming MixAmp Pro
When it comes to audio, Xbox gamers often get the short end of the stick. Wireless headsets for the console are few and far between, and the original Xbox One console didn’t even have a 3.5-millimeter jack for plugging in your gaming headset. ASTRO clearly doesn’t want to leave Xbox owners hanging yet again!
This nifty audio solution is perfect for gamers looking to improve sound quality and voice communication within their favorite games. It features Dolby Digital Surround Sound processing and lets you quickly adjust game and voice balance so your friends’ voices don’t get drowned out by your intense game soundtrack.
The accessory has plenty of customizable EQ modes and lets you adjust volume on the fly with just a turn of a dial. ASTRO also sells a MixAmp that’s compatible with the PlayStation 4, too.
6. StarTech.com USB External Sound Card
It looks simple and not so much of a performer – but this sound card is actually the opposite. It is one of the most effective and performance-oriented options you will find.
The device is perfect for surround sounds. You can make it work with any home theater or living room system without losing a single bit of audio. Just connect it to any SPDIF output, and it will work wonders with your Dolby Digital AC3 or DTS pass-through.
You can pair this up with the dual output for both microphone and headphones. It offers the chance to enjoy high-quality audio directly from your computer without having to make much of an effort.
However, the real advantage of this sound card is the superb volume and EQ system. You can easily tweak the sound you get from this device in seconds.
Whether you want to improve the Bass, the Treble, or the Direct, you can do it effortlessly. And that’s something you won’t get with other devices.
Whatever kind of sound you want, you can make it happen with this system. It is easy to tweak directly from the device, which adds convenience to its operation.
The whole device is super reliable still and comes with one of the most affordable price tags in the market. You’ll have the chance to enjoy super personalized audio from a USB sound card without breaking your wallet.
7. Creative Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1 USB Sound Card
As soon as you take a look at the Creative Sound Blaster Omni – you’ll know this is the best USB audio adapter in the market. Just pair it up with your computer, and you’ll receive fantastic sound quality.
Yes, this device is not only ideal for making your computer sound, it actually makes it sound better. Everything it offers, from its hardware to the software, it’s specially made to improve how well your audio sounds.
It all starts with the 600-ohm amplifier, capable of making your media much more exciting. And with the capacity to work with 5.1-channel audio systems, then you’ll enjoy a fantastic experience without problems.
The device even comes with a Scout Mode, ideal for gamers and other audio-demanding users. It will let you hear even the smallest of sounds so you can enjoy a superb experience at all times.
And to make it even better, you’ll receive the SBX Pro Studio and the Crystal Voice Technologies software. They make it easy to tweak the audio according to your needs while making sure you always get quality sound.
There’s no limit to what you can tweak with this model, which adds to its outstanding performance. And with the volume wheel on the physical device, then you’ll get even better results.
If you’re a demanding user who wants nothing less than the best out there – this is the model to go for.
8. Sabrent USB External Stereo Sound Adapter
The Sabrent external sound card has a plug-and-play design and a low price tag. It features a duo of 3.5-millimeter audio jacks: one for the microphone and one for your headphones.
This is a perfect and cheap solution in case your computer’s built-in sound card goes bust, as long as you don’t expect mind-blowing audio performance.
9. Vantec NBA-200U USB External 7.1 Channel Audio Adapter
Coming back to the affordable yet still reliable models, we know meet the Vantec NBA-200U. This is a well-made option for users who want quality without spending a fortune.
Despite its affordability, this device matches audio systems with 7.1 channels easily. You won’t have any problem hooking it up with your home theater. And it’s all thanks to the S/PDIF optical input and output, so you can connect high-quality sound systems without problems.
The device comes with two microphone inputs so you can use the device as a karaoke system. You can also get the most out of this card as a recording aid for music or videos if needed. This will improve the quality of the sound, delivering True Stereo Recordings.
An exciting part of the system is the 48/44.1 kHz sampling rate capacity. This is enough to meet high-quality audio in your system without having to tweak anything. Simply hook up the device to your computer, and it will produce an exceptional sound.
Another exciting part of this device is the USB 2.0 compatibility, which can go back to USB 1.1 if needed. You can achieve exceptional sound even in the oldest PCs out there.
In short, it makes quality sound possible without costing too much. Whether you have a home theater or a simple set of speakers – this system will not let you down.
10. AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB Sound Card
This dongle is a sure way to upgrade the sound quality of your favorite pair of headphones. It may be more expensive than most other options, but if you want to improve the detail and richness of your music and games, it’s one of the best options available.
It’s a portable pick with plenty of power, and it’s backed by a 1-year warranty. This pick is held in high regard by What Hi-Fi?, and forum members on Head-Fi. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
How to choose the best external USB sound card in UK 2021
Picking the best external USB soud card won’t be easy unless you know what to go for. Here, we explain different factors to consider when choosing an external audio adapter.
Probably the most crucial part: the sound quality lets you know how well the device will make your computer sound.
This is difficult to pick because all devices have different ways to deliver quality. But overall, going for a DAC system like Sound Blaster devices offer, as well as an amplifier feature will be enough to get perfect sound quality out of a USB audio device.
The number of output coming out of the device will make a huge difference in whether you can pair it up with your sound system or not.
Here, we recommend getting devices with as many ports as possible. We recommend at least 2.1 channels for Microphone and Headset/Speakers. But if you can go for models with 5.1 or 7.1 channels, that would be ideal.
This means going for devices with Rear, Front, Bass/Sub, Left, Right, Line-In, Line-Out, and S/PDIF outputs.
Want to tweak the audio coming out of the device to the max? Then choose something with as many controls as possible.
Usually, external sound cards come with their own volume wheel or knob. This is ideal for changing the volume handily from the device. But others offer the chance even to tweak the EQ system completely.
That will help you get the perfect audio delivery according to your demands. You won’t have any problem focusing the system on either bass, treble, direct, etc.
Finally, make sure the device is portable enough so you can carry it everywhere without problems. We recommend small sound cards that you can take everywhere without problems. But we also love those that have a long wire so you can place them far away from the PC for extra handiness.
Your whole focus should be on something that delivers practicality over everything else. As long as it fits your needs, then it won’t be a problem to enjoy what it offers.
Making your computer sound amazing is not hard when you have one of these devices. But still, you’ll have to pick the right one if you want the best possible experience.
But remember that the best external USB soud card is the one that matches your needs and desires; and nothing else. As long as the device you’re using goes well with what you need – then it will be an ideal option. Choose one now.