Sound cards have enormously improved today compared to those used in the earlier days. These advances offer a lot of features such as the ability to produce high quality sound with a variety of choices for gaming or entertainment.
Sound card is an electronic device used in computers. It is a computer expansion card that is capable of inputting and outputting audio signals to a computer or from a computer. It can be centrally controlled by means of using specific software.
Sound cards are mainly used for:
* Audio editing or mixing
* Video editing
* Inter-active multimedia
* PowerPoint presentations
* Playing DVDs
* Computer games
Sound cards come with a digital to analog converter. This converts recorded audio to analog format. A TSR or RCA jack is used to output the audio to a headphone or amplifier or external sound system. It also has a line in connector which is exploited to get input signals from other sound devices like mini disc player, mp3 player, and cassette tape recorders. The connectors of a sound card are color coded. Plus, they include symbols so as to help users identify proper positioning of each jack. The audio coming from these devices is digitized, can be stored in the computer’s hard drive and can be edited using audio editing software. A microphone connecter utilized to input voice recording or for voice chats is also common among many sound cards.
The installation of more than one sound chip in sound cards today can present higher data rates with various functionalities. They are able to generate optimized music and sound effects in real time employing the least data and CPU resources. Modern sound cards are capable of converting from Analog to Digital and Digital to Analog or AD/DA. They also feature more accessible connectors and have more than two channels available. These types of sound cards are mostly used for professional digital audio recording which requires a higher standard audio output.
On the other hand, ordinary sound cards only offer features for playback and casual use as compared to the professional sound cards. These are commonly used for homes, offices, and entertainment. These types of sound cards are limited with large sampling latency. That is, it takes a lot of time for its Analog to Digital Converter to process the conversion prior to transferring to a computer for storage. As a result, companies like Steinberg designed sound cards that are capable of managing multiple audios. However, consumer grade sound cards lack the features and qualities that professional audio requires.
During the early years, computers comprised of integrated sound synthesis chip which is built-in on motherboards. The chip is capable of producing wave tones with different amplitude. One of the computers which adapted this technology is the IBM PCjr which was released in the early 1980s. Later on, a clone of the IBM PCjr, the Tandy 1000 copied the features and improved it by adding capabilities like sound recording and playback. As early as 1990, plug in sound cards have been abolished by computer manufacturers. They then introduced a codec chip capable of AD/DA conversion which is included with PC motherboards. Most of these motherboards use the Intel AC97 specification.
With the development of technology in computer production, a wide variety of sound cards with more features have been introduced. One of these is the USB sound cards which can be plugged directly to a computer through an empty USB port. Cards which are USB 2.0 compliant are more adequate in data transfer and are adept in producing high quality sound. The PCMCIA card bus sound cards are one of the most recent advancements frequently used for laptops and notebook. This device offers great portability which is very ideal for mobile DJs.
The latest sound card technology available in the market today is the Xtreme Fidelity which was developed by Creative, the manufacturer of SoundBlaster series. The technology features comprise:
* Capability of producing a variety of sounds options through its Active Modal Architecture.
* Digital Signal Processor (DSP)
* Multiple processing engines
* 24-bit Crystallizer which prevents sound quality loss which due to 16-bit CD recording
Just like any computer part, a sound card needs a device driver in order to communicate with other devices of the computer and function properly with the operating system. Most manufacturers include the driver bundled with some audio applications and compiled in a CD.
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