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Playing a video game is an immersive experience that's about more than just jaw-dropping graphics. As pretty as a game is, it's nothing without a sweeping soundtrack, dramatic vocal performances and crisp sound effects. Decent headphones or a powerful sound system are a must, but if you're still using your on-board sound card, you don't know what you're missing. You can turn dull, lifeless audio into a sweet symphony with a sound card for your PC that's meant for gamers. We looked at four sound cards that can improve your gaming experience here (in no particular order):

1. ASUS STRIX: If racing cars was your hobby, you wouldn't skimp on boosts to help you with speed or performance, right? So, why would gaming be any different? If you're a competitive gamer, you know how important sound is – whether you're playing a first-person shooter and in a head-to-head face-off with a single opponent or working with a team to secure a point. You need to hear footfalls behind you or the whine of a scope so you don't get sniped. You also need to hear your teammates' voices clearly over the audio of the game, and that's where this sound card comes in as one of your best allies. The software lets you adjust sound – even in-game communication – so you can hear what you need to, when you need to.

2. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy: This is one of the most affordable lines of sound cards available. Creative has been making some of the best sound cards on the market, and the Audigy line is an excellent upgrade from your motherboard's chipset. It's going to cost you less than the price of a brand new video game, but it'll make even your older game titles sound better than ever. The 7.1-multichannel surround sound support reproduces the original recording and delivers the sounds you need to hear behind you and in front of you – and if an enemy tries flanking you, you'll know. The signal-to-noise ratio is higher than on-board audio, which means you're going to hear less of your PC's inner workings and more details from your game. The resulting audio of changing up your sound card is richer, fuller sound overall, so you can completely lose yourself in your gaming world.

3. ASUS Essence: One of the best features of a premium sound card is high signal-to-noise ratio, and this line of sound cards provides 124-decibel SNR, one of the highest available. This reduces the hisses and pops and whirs you normally hear when you're using an on-board sound card so you can hear the pure, unfiltered audio of your video game. It offers high-precision digital signal processing, thanks to its temperature-compensated crystal oscillator (TCXO) clock, so there are fewer noticeable irregularities in the audio you hear. The only downsides to this sound card are its price and that you must install the card in your PC, unlike with an external sound card.

4. HT Omega Halo Claro: If you're gaming on your PC, then you're likely using headphones for audio. The problem with this is that you might be missing some sounds with an on-board sound card. If you upgrade to this high-end sound card, you get full surround sound and a built-in headphone amplifier that lets you set the impedance up to 600 ohms. This means you're going to hear deeper bass and higher highs. All the audio comes through cleanly, so your games will sound more thunderous, rather than dull or flat. You can adjust the sound to your liking through the included software, and it works on both Windows and Linux operating systems. It's an expensive purchase, but if high-definition, high-quality audio is important to you, it may be worth saving up for.

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