Sound Card Buyers Guide

By: Julien David

Do You Need a Sound Card?

If you want to buy a sound card, you should ask yourself whether you really need one. The motherboards of today come equipped with great on-board sound. Some motherboards even have support for 5.1 surround sound and come with a range of audio optical ports. So if you plan on using your computer to listen to music, play games, or any other basic things to do with sound, you should definitely consider staying with on-board sound.

On the other hand, there are two good reasons why you would want to buy a sound card:

Producing: If you're producing music you'll need a high quality sound card for the very best sound quality. Your sound card will probably need some extra ports/connections that on-board sound doesn't provide.

Gaming: If you want the very best gaming experience possible, that means having the very best sound. So you'll want a sound card to do this. You can probably pick up a decent sound card for gaming at 100 bucks or less.

Surround Sound

An important factor in choosing your sound card is the sound standards that it supports. Most high-end sound cards support what is called EAX and 5.1 surround sound. This means you can hook up to 5 speakers to your sound card for a great 3D sound experience. Some cards even support the newer 7.1 surround sound.

Special Features

If you need some particular type of feature on your sound card, make sure you take this into account. Music producers will have the most needs, such as multi-channel support, MIDI support, good signal to noise ratio, and plenty of connectivity options if needed. Gamers won't need to be so picky with their sound card, surround sound is probably their largest concern.

Finally, if you're buying a high-end sound card, make sure your computer will be able to take advantage of it. There's no point having a great sound card if your CPU can't handle it. This is an important point to consider before going out and buying your sound card.

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