Sound Card_1You’ve decided to build your next PC and now you need to choose your sound card. Or maybe you bought your PC a few years ago and you want better audio for your music and games. Before you buy those 6-speaker surround sound audio speakers, take a look at our how to choose your sound card guide. We’ll help you choose the right sound card to power your speakers so that you’ll have amazing audio.

Why Upgrade Your Sound Card?
For most people, the integrated audio on their computer will suffice. It provides adequate audio processing to listen to music, online audio, video and movies. However, there is a growing population that would like to create the ultimate computer experience. When creating the ultimate computer experience, you may have a 19-inch or larger monitor, high-capacity hard drive, and multi-core processor. What many people forget is to complete the multimedia experience. This includes your audio or sound card. The reason why we upgrade the sound card is to create an enhanced audio experience. Many newer speaker systems are compatible with Dolby Digital, SRS or other sound enhancing technology. Integrated sound cards usually do not provide the required processing power and technology to operate better quality speakers at the best possible performance. This is the reason why we upgrade the sound card – to obtain the best possible sound performance and quality. To achieve power, clarity and a robust audio experience.

Which Sound Card is For You?
What is a sound card? A sound card is a plug-in optional circuit card for an IBM compatible PC that can input and output sound under the control of computer programs.

Now that we know what a sound card is, lets understand the differences between sound cards.

Low-End Sound Cards
There are many variations of sound cards on the market today and they all have one thing in common – they input and output audio. The differences in most sound cards are the number of ports they have and how they process audio.
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This particular sound card would be considered a low-end sound card. It has an input port for audio from external devices, a front and rear speaker port, a MIC port and a game/MIDI port. This type of card is descent for basic/beginner computer systems. It gives you the necessary audio input and output ports for basic computer audio functions such as listening to music, VoIP and games.

Mid-Level Sound Cards
If you want a sound card that gives you better movie, music, gaming audio and additional features, look for a card with high-definition audio playback. These types of cards would have features such as…

  • 64 audio channel playback with independent sample rates
  • 24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion during playback
  • 24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion during recording
  • Supports Sony/Philips Digital Interface (SPDIF)

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A mid-level sound card would have Line level output for Front / Side / Rear / Center speakers in addition to Line In and MIC In. Many mid-level sound cards also come with additional software for audio playback, recording and manipulation.

High-End Sound Cards
If you want the ultimate in sound cards and would like the ability to connect multiple types of audio devices, then you need to choose a sound card package with an I/O module. This type of sound cards allows you to connect audio devices from speakers to keyboards to electric guitars.

With High-end sound cards, you have the ability to create a home music studio. You can have inputs such as RCA, DIN, MIDI SPDIF and Optical. You can also have multiple line volume controls. Many high-end sound cards also include specialty software for audio recording, manipulation, playback and a remote control.

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There are multiple sound cards on the market and depending on which one you choose, you will have options on the types of audio devices you can connect to it. Sound cards are not only for connecting speakers anymore. With specialty software, you can connect devices such as keyboards and score the music you are playing. Connect an external audio source such as a CD player and record it onto your hard drive for playback or manipulation. Connect a microphone and use dictating software – allow the software to type while you speak.

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Technology Innovations in Sound Cards

Creative Labs:
We’ve all heard of Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster. Creative has been hard at work over the past few years innovating new audio technology to give you an audio experience unlike you’ve never heard before.

One of Creative Labs’ new technology innovations if X-Fi. Creative’s X-fi introduces you to a world of stunning audio brilliance that will enrich every sound application you experience. MP3s will fill your mind with music that’s breathtakingly clear. CDs will magically come alive with more depth and vibrancy than you thought was possible. Movies and games? Pure magic under the spell of X-Fi’s Extreme Fidelity sound. Just imagine THX theatre sound from your PC.

How X-Fi Works:
The X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity audio processor packs in over 51 million transistors that churn out over 10k MIPS of power! Dedicated to delivering the best audio experience ever!

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Experience a wondrous new world of true surround sound. Listening with headphones is an enthralling personal experience.

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Enjoy incomparable realism and texture. Your multi-channel speakers invite you to a magical place where you and crystalline audio become one.

Turtle Beach – Another sound card technology innovator and leader is Turtle Beach. Turtle Beach has perfected the experience of the home theatre multi-channel sound on your PC with its Montego DDL sound card line. Montego DDL combines cutting-edge technology, audiophile sonic-quality and an unprecedented array of features to deliver PC audio performance normally reserved for the finest home audio equipment. The Montego DDL produces and exciting and realistic experience by reproducing audio cues and sound effects that follow the on-screen action. Turtle Beach has also integrated a virtual surround processor that converts stereo to multi-channel format so you can listen to 2-channel digital music or movies with simulated surround sound.

SRS WOW – SRS WOW improves the dynamic audio performance of compressed audio, expands the size of the audio image and improves the perception of low frequency sound. These improvements provide the listener with an engaging and powerful representation of the audio performance. SRS WOW accomplishes this by providing a panoramic three-dimensional audio image that extends the sound field in both the horizontal and vertical planes, and lowers the perceived bass response well beyond the low frequency limitations of the drivers. As a result, manufacturers of televisions, mobile phones and digital audio players can dramatically improve the product’s audio performance when played over speakers or headphones.

These are just a couple of examples of the newest technology that has been incorporated into today’s sound cards. Sound cards are combining technology such as Dolby Digital Live, Dolby Pro-Logic, DTX, SRS WOW and a host of manufacture specific technologies that will have your ears begging for more.

Games, music and movies can now have an extremely impressive audio quality that will rival most home theatres. With the right sound card in your PC, the audio world will become your oyster – waiting to be opened.