Sound Cards Guide
Sound Cards, Why Do I Want One?
These cards can be a great purchase for sound enthusiasts and hardcore gamers. They help eliminate interference and similar problems that degrade sound quality, as well as help create a more realistic 3D audio environment. The potential sound output is also much greater, with a wider and richer range that can be relayed.
What Should I Look for in Sound Cards?
There isn't a whole lot to sound cards as far as key aspects to look for. There are a few things in the mix though those do make a difference. For the sake of comparison, so that you can find one that works for you and fits your budget, we've broken them down into the five categories. Under each category there is at least one thing that you really want to pay attention to.
The most important thing to look for is overall performance of the card. The most common measurements of performance are typically:
1-SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) which means how much a signal has been corrupted by noise (higher is better)
3-THD (total harmonic distortion).
These three things are used to measure the quality of audio. Although they are not perfectly accurate, they do give you an idea of the potential performance of any audio device.
II-Sample Rate and Resolution
Sample rates refer to the speed that the card can reduce a continuous signal to a discrete signal. The latest trend is 192 kHz, the higher sampling rates do help with ADCs (analog-to-digital conversions) and DACs (digital-to-analog conversions).
Resolution is important because the larger bit depths decrease total harmonic distortion (background noise) and increase dynamic range, which gives you a better signal-to-noise ratio.
-Some input and output ports aren't as capable as others. The ports with the highest quality sound will typically be S/PDIF.
Both coaxial and optical can produce some of the highest signal-to-noise ratios and resolutions, while keeping low distortion. They also can allow you to hook your computer to your home theatre system.
-3.5mm is what most non-audiophiles are used to seeing on their computer and transfer good sound as well but not to the same degree.
This section looks at a few hardware aspects like if it connects through PCI or PCIe (very handy with multi GPUs system because of nowadays huge GPU coolers that covers the PCI slots between the GPUs)
Also considers the processor that the card has. The rest is more software/application attributes that are included to enhance and simplify your audio adjusting. These additions are to achieve the most potential from the hardware that the card is made of as well as connections to A/V receivers and audio player software on your computer.
V-API Compliant Standards
APIs, or (application programming interfaces), are implemented and allow the card to interact with other software, working alongside the intermediary programs under the Features. Some, like EAX and OpenAL, are meant to unlock greater 3D sound for gaming, giving you an edge over your opponents. The more API support, the more compatible the card is with various programs, software and hardware.
No one card has everything,
but the differences can work perfectly for various people. Who those people are depends on what a person is looking for and what they plan on using it for exactly. If you're a sound enthusiast and want to enhance your computer's sound capabilities, then you're on the right track
All suggestions are welcomed
Edited by Crag - 7/17/11 at 6:04pm