The Best Sound Cards For Recording Music - The Top Cards
Why You Need A Good Sound Card
If you do any kind of audio recording whatsoever, you'll benefit from having a dedicated sound card. The cards that you'll find onboard your motherboard are ok for audio playback, but that's about it. A dedicated card will help reduce latency by providing native ASIO drivers and they will usually have multiple input jacks (usually a line in and a mic in).
Sound cards provide entertainment benefits as well. Most cards these days can produce high quality 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound, so if you're a gamer or movie aficionado, these cards might be for you.
M-Audio Audiophile MIDI Digital Recording Interface
M-Audio is one of the leading manufacturers of MIDI controllers and their sound card is excellent as well. The built in MIDI inputs is a huge plus that you won't find on many other cards for the price, and it will save you money from not having to buy a USB-MIDI adapter.
The card advertises zero-latency monitoring, which is really helpful if you want to avoid delays in your recording and it even comes with Ableton Live Lite edition, a popular MIDI sequencer.
Asus Xonar D2X Sound Card
Asus, the maker of the original netbooks, is now starting to get into the sound card market and their Xonar card is now one of the best available. It's pretty expensive and targeted more towards entertainment purposes, but it still comes with multiple line ins, MIDI, and some trial versions of popular audio software.
Customer satisfaction with the Xonar has been excellent, especially among audiophiles so it's definitely a card to consider.
Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional Series
While marketed mainly towards gamers, the Titanium Fatal1ty Series is a good card for sound recording as well. It features it's own ASIO drivers so you won't have to worry about getting ASIO4ALL to work, and it even has dedicated X-Ram to boost performance in your other applications (good if you have an older computer that may be lacking in the RAM department).
Cheap Sound Cards For Recording Music
If you don't want to blow over a hundred bucks on a sound card, say you're just starting out or something, well there are some alternatives for the musician on a budget. These cards won't have as many professional features as the ones above, but they'll definitely be better than the one on your motherboard.
Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
This card doesn't have quite as many features as the Fatal1ty edition, but it definitely does the job. I've used it on one of my Windows 7 PCs which I occasionally use for recording, and I've gotten some pretty low latency with it. It's definitely a quality card.
ASUS Xonar DX 7.1
The Asus Xonar DX is the lower priced sibling to the acclaimed DX2 that's mentioned above. Though it's about half the price, this card is no slouch. Some have even said that it is better than any of Creative Labs offerings. However if you have a 64 bit operating system you may want to hold off on this one as the drivers are not completely tweaked for optimum performance.