Our Picks

Here are the sound adapters we recommend:

General-purpose sound

Buy a motherboard with embedded audio. Many recent motherboards include embedded audio standard or as an option. These audio chipsets, usually from Analog Devices, Creative, Crystal Audio, or Yamaha, may not include the cutting-edge features of standalone sound cards, but are more than good enough for standard business audio, listening to music, and casual gaming. The tight integration of embedded audio also makes compatibility problems and resource conflicts much less likely. In particular, we are impressed by the Analog Devices AD1885 chipset used in many recent Intel motherboards. In conjunction with the latest SoundMax drivers, the AD1885 provides all the audio functionality most people need.

PCI sound card (budget)

SIIG SoundWave Pro PCI. Basic PCI sound cards are becoming hard to find, as embedded audio eliminates their market. Although basic Creative PCI sound cards remain available, we think the SIIG SoundWave Pro PCI is about the best PCI sound card you can find for around $25. It supports basic 3D sound, is compatible with DS, DS3D, and the SoundBlaster 16/Pro, and is PC98 compliant. The sound quality, while it certainly is not up to the standard set by the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz, is at least adequate for listening to MP3 and casual gaming. Like most SIIG products, the SoundWave Pro PCI is readily available from Best Buy, CompUSA, and similar retail stores, as well as from many online vendors. ...

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