It's difficult to make specific card recommendations given that soundcard manufacturers update hardware and drivers on a regular basis. This FAQ therefore considers the main issues to ponder in your search for a sound-card.
Note about sound quality: The only time your sound card will affect the sound quality of your final rendered tracks is if you have used recordings or samples made with it in your track. Otherwise, your soundcard is just playing back digital audio data that has been processed by FL Studio and this has nothing to do with the soundcard.
Get ASIO! Of almost equal importance to your CPU speed is that your soundcard / audio interface supports ASIO drivers. ASIO is a software device driver standard that allows FL Studio direct access to the soundcard rather than communicating via the Windows operating system (as with the standard Windows driver). This will mean a significant performance advantage when running FL Studio. Look for a sound card for which the manufacturer has written custom ASIO drivers (check the specifications for mention of ASIO or ASIO2 support). NOTE: ASIO is all about software to hardware communication efficiency and performance here has little to do with the capabilities of the underlying hardware.
The quick answer for people NOT recording audio:
Where possible, avoid internal/on-mother-board sound-chips as we can't guarantee that the ASIO4ALL generic driver will work with these (although it usually does). If you don't have the specific need to record external instruments / vocals (where you should buy a dedicated music production oriented audio interface), we suggest the Creative X-Fi Titanium street price is around $90 USD (don't go below this model, you are looking for a card with the EMU20K1, EMU20K2 or CA20K2 chip ). You may be surprised we are recommending a consumer soundcard, however the ASIO drivers are excellent, it has very wide compatibility with Windows XP through to Windows 7 64 bit, plays nicely with the widest variety of Windows software and the A/D & D/A converters in it are excellent.
Longer answer for people making recordings:
If you are recording quick one-shot samples, in a mix - the quality of a basic 'built-in' soundcard recording will probably be more than sufficient. If you are recording live instruments and vocals and have decent quality mics and outboard gear then you should look carefully at a soundcard with good specifications or an external 'audio interface'(USB or FireWire ) for connecting all your sources. Expect to pay between USD $200 to $400 for something 'good' depending on how many 'inputs' (mic, line) you need.
Do you need to simultaneously record and play from the same soundcard?
Yes: Then you need to make sure that your soundcard is Full duplex. Most modern soundcards are full duplex, and it should be considered essential if you want to record anything from an external source whilst FL Studio (or any other App) is playing. Be aware that if you use ASIO some soundcards won't operate in full duplex mode while using ASIO mode. Check carefully with previous owners of the card if this is important to you.
Does anything other than FL Studio need to access your soundcard at the same time?
Yes: Then make sure your card is 'Multi-client' capable. This is the ability of a soundcard to playback audio streams from multiple separate client applications, like, say, FL Studio and Windows Media Player at the same time. All modern soundcards should be capable of this, however ASIO again may cause some problems here, if ASIO and Multi-client support are important don't forget to check the card of your dreams can do it in ASIO mode.
Reduce room noise!
In terms of PC noise, Google 'quiet pc' and you will be on the path to serenity.
What monitor speakers or headphones should I buy?
Your ability to hear the music and so mix correctly will be affected by your monitoring solution including: speakers, headphones, placement and the room you are in. For more info here see the Knowledge Base article on Monitor Speakers
The FL Studio Support Team