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Pc Sound Cards - How to Choose PC Sound Cards

audio quality devices inputs

For anyone who loves music, high fidelity movie viewing, or playing computer games, high quality PC sound cards are a must. With the right sound card, audio can be heard with amazing clarity and every nuance can be heard. However, most PCs do not come packaged with high quality sound cards that are capable of reproducing high quality audio, so a new PC sound card must be installed.

Why the standard PC sound card just doesn’t cut it:
Most PCs, and especially budget PCs, include sound cards that do not offer high sampling rates for their audio outputs and inputs. This means that you cannot achieve high fidelity playback or recording. These sound cards also have a tendency to dampen bass frequencies, which further degrades the quality of the sound.

For people who need to create surround sound systems, such as gamers, and people who need to record and mix music, most pre-installed sound cards simply do not have enough audio outputs or inputs to handle all of the required audio streams. The typical pre-installed sound card will include a stereo output and a single line-in via a mini-jack connection. The inputs and outputs on these sound cards also utilize cheaper audio sockets, which can introduce unwanted noise into the final sound signal that is recorded or heard.

Types of PC sound cards:
There are more sound cards to choose from than ever before. For modern computers, the choices will be between Expresscard, USB, and FireWire interfaces. Older computers may be compatible with PC Cards, USB, and FireWire devices.

Although there are a number of Expresscard and PC Card sound cards that are marketed for professional audio recording and mixing purposes, they are typically not favored by audio engineers or musicians. Audio professionals tend to choose USB and FireWire devices due to the increased options, higher sampling rates, and the high number of inputs and outputs available on such devices. For surround sound purposes, however, Expresscards and PC Cards are good contenders.

Figuring out your needs:
To ensure that you purchase a sound card that meets your needs, you’ll need to think about what you plan to use the sound card for. For example, if you need a full 3D experience for gaming or watching movies, you should focus on surround sound cards. You will also need to think about how many channels of audio you need. Typical configurations include 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, where the number before the decimal point denotes the number of speakers in the system, and the number after it informs you that a subwoofer is included.

For audio engineers and producers, sounds cards that are commonly referred to as audio interfaces will be required. For the average home studio, an audio interface that is capable of recording two channels of sound and outputting two to four channels will usually suffice. However, anyone who plans on recording bands or doing professional recording will typically require at least four inputs, including at least one XLR input, and at least four audio outputs. You may also need the ability to link to additional audio interfaces, and this feature is commonly found on FireWire devices, rather than USB devices.

Choosing a compatible card:
You may be tempted to purchase the best sound card you can find. However, your sound card will not be able to perform properly if it is not fully compatible with your computer. Before purchasing a sound card, you need to understand the hardware and software configuration of your computer. Important specifications to be aware of include the operating system, type of processor, processor speed, and how much RAM you have. You will then need to compare these details to the minimum requirements for any PC sound card you are considering purchasing. If your computer doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for the sound card, you will either need to choose another sound card or upgrade your PC.

Getting the best audio quality:
Some people find that upgrading their PC’s sound card does not provide them with the high quality audio that they had been hoping for. If this is the case, several other components in the system may need to be upgraded. For the best sound, high quality speakers and cables will be required. Cables should be shielded against outside interference from mobile devices and other electronics in order to reduce noise in the audio signal.

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