Choosing your sound card

October 2016

Getting started

The sound card is a component of your computer that deals with input or output all the sound elements: voice, music, sound system.

Types of sound cards

  • A chip (chipset) integrated into the motherboard;
  • An internal adapter;
  • An external adapter.

Each of these models corresponds to certain needs.

On basic computers, integrated sound chip on the motherboard are very common. Their power and their capabilities are limited but still large enough to feed PC speakers as part of a basic use of computers.

If you wishes to take advantage of sound technologies (5.1, etc..), Or connect your computer to a hi-fi is better to opt for an internal card. It offers a choice of connectors more complete and better sound quality.

Finally, if your computer must be used to compose music, your preference will probably be an external sound card designed for this purpose. In this case, according to your needs, consider how well your sound card is connected to the computer. USB is universal practice, but much slower than fire wire, essential if you have plans to open heavy files.

Key features

Before making your choice, you must consider all uses that may be required from your sound card. You're watching mostly movies, but you plan to digitize your vinyl collection? All this is to be considered.


The key lies in choosing the connectivity options available. To take advantage of 5.1 sound, your card must support it and it has the appropriate connectors.

The line outputs

They allow you to connect jacks to transfer the sound to your speakers or your headphones.

SPDIF output

The output SPDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface) enables the output to a digital amplifier through a coaxial cable (RCA).

MIDI Interface

MIDI is the standard communication interface that allows multiple electronic musical instruments to work together. This serves to drive the sound of synthesizer software on your computer with an external keyboard. These connections are mainly present on external sound cards used by musicians

The microphone input

It allows you to connect a microphone to your computer. Particularly useful for VoIP.

Internal Connectivity

If you want to install an internal sound card directly to your motherboard, make sure to check the internal compatibility: CD/DVD connector to connect the card to your CD player or auxiliary input for connection to a TV tuner card .

The resolution

This regulates the quality of sound. Resolutions are expressed in bits. Sound cards currently offer a resolution of 16-bit or 24 most of the time. The higher the resolution, the better the sound will be.


This is the frequency defined in hertz or kilohertz sampling, a good example is the number of sample produce every second. The higher is the frequency, the higher the quality.

Compatibility standards

Some sound cards allow you to take advantage of its specific technologies. These are usually clearly stated by the manufacturer. Some cards can be THX, such as high quality and compatible with Dolby technology, allowing you to use it as a home-cinema.

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