One frequently asked question we often get is do I need a Sound Card with my custom PC build? The short answer is, in most cases, no. Virtually all consumer grade motherboards have excellent integrated onboard audio with support for 5.1 and even 7.1 surround that’s more than adequate for most gaming and workstation applications. Adding a discrete sound card to your build simply will not improve audio output enough to justify the additional spend. At least in most cases.
There are a few notable exceptions though:
Server and Workstation motherboards – some server and commercial workstation motherboards, like the SuperMicro H11DSi-NT that we use in our dual Epyc HD360A Workstation do not have onboard audio. For most customers using that type of system for highly threaded workloads, that lack of audio is inconsequential. But if audio output is a part of your workflow in any way, you’ll need at least a basic discrete sound to output audio from that type of build.
Extreme Audio or Surround set ups – Though onboard audio may be sufficient for the vast majority of users, there are still a strong contingent of audiophiles that may need discrete audio to connect to extreme or specialized systems. Most onboard audio codecs won’t support surround sound higher than 7.1 or have specialized outputs like Toslink, RCA, or XLR so you’d need a discrete solution if any of those are requirements of yours.
Professional Audio Production – If you use your PC as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), you may want the highest resolution audio output possible, which is something only a Pro grade sound card can provide.
So, what did we miss?