Sound Cards

How to Choose the Best Sound Card for Your Computer

So you have this killer multimedia computer that blows the CPU off of any that you've owned before. It has a ton of memory, plenty of storage space, and you even got that Blu-ray player installed so that you can watch movies in high definition. It's a shame to not to have a good sound card installed. Without one, you're limiting your experience on that computer. You've committed this far, so why stop short?

Why do I need a sound card?

Most motherboards already come equipped with a native sound card on board and these provide adequate sound. It's important to keep in mind that these sound cards are very basic. Albeit, on-board cards are doing their best to provide for better sound but most are simple and designed to handle the most basic of needs. These also utilize the on-board memory of your computer which can cause your computer to slow down or in some cases, conflict with operation altogether with certain programs that require more.

So how do I choose?

There are so many choices that it's tough to choose which one is best for you. Remember that this is about providing the best multimedia experience that you can have. So you have to ask yourself what do you want to use this computer for? In most cases, the need for a professional sound card is to accommodate polyphonic sounds. For those that don't know, polyphonic sounds are often used in games and soundtracks to video productions. It requires digitally layered sounds to be created as a single noise or sound. Some common applications include 5.1/7.1 surround sound where a special sound card is needed.

What is the benefit of using professional sound cards?

Aside from the ability to process polyphony sounds, which is required if you are into multimedia or audio production, you also have the benefit of connecting other audio interfaces to your computer. Your higher-end sound cards will have a multiple audio interfaces for every function needed such as multichannel output that with the right drivers, will allow you to direct sound in any direction. This also allows you to utilize multiple inputs, for example, a microphone and DVD player that is connected to your monitor.

What kinds of sound cards are out there?

You can go with a wide range of audio interfaces from the basic low-end that plugs into your USB 2.0 port for under $10 to the high-end internal professional soundcards that are several hundred dollars. There's also a fine selection of mid-range USB external interfaces that can be used directly connect live music instruments to either your laptop or personal computer. The important factor is the quality of sound you want to deliver and what kind of budget you are on. Internal cards are the most common with the higher end types that offer more. With these, it's best to check not only the frequency processing range but the amount of load that this device puts on your computer. If the sound card is taking up too many resources on your computer, this will result in latency or lag in your sound coming to or from the computer.

No matter which card you choose, do the research and choose the one that is best for your use and budget. There is such a thing as overkill. Choose too much and you'll be wasting your money. Choose too little and you'll be wasting valuable resources. In the end, it's all about the experience you receive.