USB sound cards are the most used in various areas because they exploit a widely used type of connection. For this reason, these are very versatile devices that allow you to connect microphones and musical instruments (such as guitars or electric basses) to your computer but also make high-quality recordings.
Also, their price is usually lower than other models that do not rely on USB-type connections. In any case, choosing the right sound card is not always easy because there are various brands and types on the market: consequently, it is very important to have a clear understanding of the use it will make.
Here we had listed out the best USB sound cards that are present below.
Buying Guide to Select the Best USB Sound Cards
What Exactly Are USB Sound Cards?
USB sound cards are electronic devices that must be connected to the computer through a USB port; they perform the same functions as standard sound cards integrated into machines but offering better performance and higher overall performance, especially in terms of recording.
After all, integrated sound cards are not optimized for recording music, so you need to rely on better quality equipment. In this sense, external sound cards are the intermediary between the musical instrument (s) and the computer, allowing you also to connect a condenser microphone and use it as a “musical instrument.”
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of USB Sound Cards?
Today, USB ports are extremely popular, so opting for a USB sound card would mean investing in broad compatibility with a multitude of devices. In addition, these are devices that are usually very compact, which can be transported easily and at a much lower price than the competition.
Below, you can find the advantages and disadvantages of USB sound cards.
- Today, practically every device has at least one USB port
- The price usually is lower than other alternatives
- They allow you to record sounds and voices in a really high quality
- They allow you to record all the instruments in a sequencer
- Usually, they are more compact and more comfortable to carry
- Professional equipment can have a reasonably high price.
How Can USB Sound Cards Be Used?
Depending on the type of sound card you own or buy, you can use it for professional applications, or you will have to settle for not so excellent performance.
In any case, these devices allow you to connect various musical instruments, microphones to a computer condenser, mixer, MIDI keyboards, and amplifiers. In this way, sound cards can also be used to make both audio and video recordings of the highest quality by connecting earphones, speakers, and monitors.
It is an indispensable element if you want to create your own small music studio at home; moreover, you can take your sound card with you to make live recordings.
What Types of Inputs and Outputs Are Most Common in USB Sound Cards?
Obviously, there are various types of USB sound cards: each of them has multiple digital and analog inputs and outputs. For this reason, it is essential to know the most common types and which devices can be connected. You will find the most important ones in the list below:
- Microphone input: This is an analog audio connection to which you can join the microphone via an XLR cannon cable or jack.
- Instrument input: It must be connected directly to bass or an electric or acoustic guitar through a simple jack cable.
- Line input (also known as input ): Allows you to connect any device with line output such as electric pianos, synthesizers, and MP3 players through a jack cable.
- S / PDIF input / output: Connection of S / PDIF digital audio through an RCA cable.
- MIDI In / Out: Allows you to connect equipment that uses the MIDI protocol, such as MIDI synthesizers and keyboards and controllers. Obviously, the connection is possible via MIDI cable.
- Headphone output: As the name also says, it is an output that allows you to connect headphones via a jack cable.
- Monitor output: By connecting a jack cable to this type of production, monitors can be connected.
- USB: Connection to computer via USB port.
What Is the Sound Resolution of USB Sound Cards?
Just as with image resolution, the sound resolution also affects the quality of sound recording: it can be defined as the number of values within which it is possible to encode the sound in numerical data. This is expressed in bits and can fluctuate between 16 and 24 bits.
Logically, the higher the number, the more accurately the sound will be reproduced: a value of 16 bits can already be considered acceptable, but the resolution most frequently used by high-resolution audio formats is 24 bits.
If you need to buy a USB sound card, it is essential to consider a number of purchase criteria: to lighten your work and at the same time help you make the most of your purchase, we have prepared the most critical factors in our opinion.
In this way, you will be able to find the perfect item for your needs without having to spend a fortune.
- Use for which the purchase is intended
- Number and type of revenue
- Number and variety of outputs
- Power source
Use for Which the Purchase Is Intended
As you can imagine, you will not need the same type of sound card to make professional recordings and to do it at an amateur level: obviously, in the first case, you will have to have a bigger budget at your disposal.
In addition, a sound card to be used at home or in the studio will not be the same if you need a model to transport, which, therefore, must be very resistant to impact. Another very important aspect is the number of instruments to be recorded and the frequency with which you need to do it.
If you play alone every now and then with your beloved electric guitar, you cannot use the same USB sound card that would use a band consisting of various components that play multiple instruments: in fact, they will need a model with multiple inputs.
Number and Type of Revenue
Depending on the type and number of instruments to be registered, you may need a kind of revenue rather than another; moreover, it is of fundamental importance to know also if you will have to record instruments that play at the same time or separately.
For example, to record live, you need a sound card that has as many inputs as there are components or instruments that make up the band. In the same way, various tools are required depending on the task to be performed.
If you need to record your voice using the microphone, you need an XLR input; for a synthesizer, an amplifier or an electronic drum kit, line-level information is required; to record the sound of an electric bass or guitar, you need an instrument-level jack; Finally, for a MIDI keyboard, you need an input that uses the same protocol.
Number and Type of Outputs
If you want to use the sound card in a recording studio, a single speaker output may not be enough; if you’re going to use the device at home, it may be useful to have an earphone output at your disposal. In this way, you can play at any time without annoying the neighbors.
If you want to use the sound card “in live,” you may also need an extra stereo output to connect the monitors; similarly, if you’re going to record in multiple sessions live, it would be useful to have an output for monitors. Finally, MIDI output is helpful if you are working using equipment that uses this type of protocol.
Another critical aspect: some cards are compatible only with Windows or macOS operating systems, while others, more “open,” are with both; then, there are sound cards that work correctly even with Linux-based systems. Consequently, it is also necessary to make sure which music editing software the card purchased is compatible with.
Some sound cards don’t need an external power source to work. The only thing you need to do is connect them to your computer and start using them.
This type of card is useful if you travel very frequently and need to always have them with you; other models also have the optional power supply option, known as a phantom, used for condenser microphones.