What are Computer
Sound Cards?

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Computer sound cards (also called audio cards and audio adapters) are expansion cards that output audio to your speaker system and also record audio to your hard drive. They play back audio and have input and output ports for connecting microphones, stereo speakers and line input. Click here to view PCI Express and USB sound cards.

Computerized audio goes through three stages:

  1. Conversion of the input sound from analog to digital performed by the Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC).

  2. Storing of the digital audio in a compressed file on the hard drive.

  3. Reproduction of the audio which is achieved by re-converting the digital audio to analog audio done by the Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC).

Computer audio adapters/sound cards exist in the following forms:

  • An audio adapter on a PCI expansion card that you install in the PCI slot on your motherboard.
  • A sound chip on the motherboard produced by companies such as Crystal, Analog Devices, Sigmatel and ESS, etc.
  • Integrated into the motherboard's main chipset such as from Intel, SiS and VIA Technologies.
  • External USB types.

The most important component of audio cards are the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) which converts the audio into digital data for storage on the hard drive.

These two components (ADC) Analog-to-Digital Converter and the (DAC) Digital-to-Analog Converter together, produce the sound in your system.

Most sound cards are accompanied with a device driver and software needed, such as applications software, to play audio CDs. After they are physically installed, the device driver must be installed for it to function properly.

Creative Labs SB0880 PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Sound Card

PC Gamers and audio enthusiasts looking for faster performance and more realistic gaming sound as well as the richest, most dynamic audio experience for music and movies.

  • Watch your DVDs in cinematic surround sound with PowerDVD software featuring DTS and Dolby Digital-EX decoding

  • PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium has fantastic inputs and low-latency ASIO drivers for great music recording

  • Hear 3D positional audio so precise, you can locate enemies by sound.

In older systems, an audio cable was connected from the CD/DVD ROM drive to the sound card; otherwise, there will be no audio. This practice is discontinued in today's PCs.

There are 3 main ways of producing audio. First is integrated or onboard audio which means the audio card is built into the motherboard. Next, PCI sound cards which are installed in the PCI slots on the motherboard and finally, external USB.

Almost all audio adapters provide dedicated jacks/connectors for analog joysticks and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) hardware. This feature, however, was only used in very specialized recording operations but, today, it has become a common feature for PCs.

UGREEN USB 3.0 Hub 3 Ports USB Sound Card 2 in 1 External Stereo Audio Adapter 3.5mm with Headphone and Microphone 5Gbps High Speed for Mac OS, Windows, Linux iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini, PCs, Tablets

Designed especially for PCs, laptops, tablets and ultrabooks and expands one USB 3.0 high-speed port into 3 easily. With the external power source, it can get more drives to work together!

USB 3.0 Hub 3 Ports help protect the USB port on your PC or computer by adding two additional USB ports. If done frequently plugging and unplugging the USB port of PC, it is easy to damage. With this little hub, you can connect three USB devices at the same time without worry.

Support super faster data transfer up to 5Gbps-10X faster than USB 2.0, transfer HD movies or files in just seconds.

Enables USB connectivity with your existing 3.5 mm audio headphones, headset, speakers or microphone. Perfect to bypass a faulty sound card, audio port, or as a replacement for a broken USB audio adapter.

In the late '80s, several manufacturers such as AdLiB, Roland and Creative Labs designed computer sound cards but they were used mostly for gaming.

The Creative Labs' dominance in the sound card industry no longer exists because of high competition from other manufacturers such as ASUS, M-Audio, Sabrent, Turtle Beach, etc.

Most present day computers come with onboard/integrated audio so unless you're an 'audio buff' or a serious gamer, there's no real need to upgrade to a discrete sound card.

Final Thoughts

Computer sound cards are absolutely necessary for your PC system. Without them, you certainly would not be able to enjoy your favorite DVD movies, audi CDs and any other audio requirements.

You should ensure that the card has at least 5.1 support since this makes the audio sound great if accompanied by a good speaker system.

Click here to get some great prices on computer sound cards. icon

Click here to learn how to install sound cards

Click here to learn to build your own cheap computer
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