Sound card for computer

Звуковая карта для компьютера

A sound card is an integral attribute of a multimedia computer. Earlier, when PCs were ancient and terribly slow, the sound card for the computer had to be bought separately, to select the type of connector required, to install, and then - to tune in the desired program. Who remembers what a DOS-application is, that will understand me :)

Now - everything is much easier! Sound cards for computers are divided into several categories:

  • made in the form of a separate printed circuit board, installed inside the system unit (discrete)
  • integrated (on board), which are an integral part of the motherboard
  • external (for example - USB) solutions

I propose, as always, to "walk through" all these categories and review the advantages and disadvantages of these designs visually.

Let's start with built-in (onboard) sound cards of the computer. The photo below is a typical example of such a solution:

Integrated sound card in the motherboard Integrated sound card in the motherboard

This is a chip that is soldered on the motherboard itself. Very often it's budget sound chips from Realtek (RTL AC97). There are solutions and more impressive (more expensive), with a six-channel sound, hardware support for a variety of codecs, etc. The general rule here is: the more expensive the motherboard, the more high-quality sound chip is soldered to it.

The standard set of connectors on the computer's sound card on the back of the system unit is as follows:

In general, their purpose is as follows:

  1. pink color input - for connecting a microphone (mic)
  2. green out (line out) - for connecting a passive or active (with its power supply) acoustics. Simply put - the speakers.
  3. blue input (line in) - for recording audio from an external source (music center, home theater, etc.)

Sometimes the colors of the built-in sound cards may differ. There is no standard in this sense.

One of the problems with built-in sound cards is that they can show very good results on their own (on the test stand of the manufacturer), but after a lot of damage to the motherboard, the situation can radically change. The fact is that during operation the computer's system unit "issues" electrical "noises" (interference), which very much even affect the final result of the discretization, issued by the built-in sound card.

The encoding of the signal here is made by the forces of the central processor , which additionally loads it (not so much, but still). If the CPU is heavily loaded, the sound may begin to "stutter" :) Also for such solutions, the problem may be the reproduction of the bass musical component, since the built-in sound cards of the computer can not (in most cases) adequately reproduce low frequencies and we have a "bubbling" or "Choking" sound on the "bottoms".

Although, for the needs of an ordinary user this is still quite enough, but if you want to hear really high-quality and "clean" sound, then you will need something else.

For example - a discrete sound card, which is inserted into the PCI slot in the form of a separate expansion board (as, for example, - the network adapter ). I remember, I had this (sold, and sorry!) - "Creative-Sound-Blaster-Audigy 5.1".

External Sound Card External Sound Card

Such cards have their own specialized sound processor and I really, immediately felt the difference. The sound is clean (24 bits), no audible noise (double echo, etc.) when recording from the microphone is not observed, you can connect the 5.1 home theater sound system with a subwoofer (low-frequency amplifier), all as it should.

Historically, the company "Creative" is considered an undoubted authority in the market of acoustic systems and sound cards for the computer. This is not advertising, but at least keep this fact in mind when going to the store :)

At once I will tell that to such external sound cards it is necessary to buy good columns (it is desirable - in the case from a tree) or qualitative ear-phones. The last at my home from the firm "Koss", model "Koss Ur / 29".

Headphones for PC Headphones for PC

In them, even low frequencies are easily discernible, which are simply "cut off" when listening to music through non-quality products. This is not a new model, but I paid for them at the time of $ 40.

Separately, I want to note that the headphones fit very comfortably on the head. It's not as unimportant as it might seem at first glance! Earlier I was fond of listening to audiobooks and I had usual computer headphones dollars for 10 (in appearance - very good, by the way). And after a few hours spent with them on their heads, their ears simply "fell off", and my current Koss-s are not felt at all, as something extraneous and pressing!

Once again, I emphasize that with a poor (cheap) playback device, even with the highest quality computer sound card, you will not be happy with the result.

If you touch purely gaming (gaming) solutions, then on sale you can find headphones with a promising "3D" inscription. To achieve this effect, apparently, should with the help of three small speakers located in each "ear" of the device. Depending on the game situation, the sound is selectively transferred to the desired speaker. The idea may be good, but those headphones that I personally tested did not make an indelible impression on me :)

I also want to note separately that the bundled discrete sound card includes proprietary software. It is a driver and a player with the ability to connect to it digital "presets" (effects, blanks or filters) that are superimposed on the musical composition, bringing a completely new sound to it. Sometimes the effect is so fascinating that one and the same melody (song) can be listened to many times in a row, simply including or mixing various "presets".

As you can see, in the photo above, my card had a PCI connection. Now it is gradually dying off and another standard for PCI Express 1x expansion boards is being actively promoted:

PCI Express 1x Sound Card PCI Express 1x Sound Card

Such devices support the so-called 3D sound technology, which is quite developed in the computer games industry. These include the programming interface for sound sources in space from Microsoft, called Direct Sound 3D. This is part of the DirectX application programming technology, which is responsible for the exact location of the sound source in the 3D scene.

Together with the above, another solution developed by Creative is used. It is called "EAX" (Environmental Audio Extensions). This is an organic complement to the previous technology, which fills the three-dimensional scene with a sound "depth", filling it with effects such as the imposition of several sounds, reverberation (its reflections with gradual fading), echo, etc.

The technology is constantly evolving and there are already several generations (versions) and the larger the serial number of the version of "EAX" supports the computer sound card, there you can hear more realistic sound environment in your speakers / headphones.

It turns out that "Direct Sound 3D" controls the location in the space of sounds and the listener itself, and "EAX" creates a virtual audio world around the sound sources, filling this world with various effects and "immersing" the player into it.

Now it remains for us to disassemble the last class of sound cards for a computer, remember which one? :) Correctly - external sound cards.

Nuance here is that these products are divided into two categories - cheap "pishchalki" and professional solutions for working with sound.

The first category can be attributed USB cards, similar to the one shown in the photo below:

What can I say? The same cheap sound chip, but soldered to the USB interface. The inscription "3D Sound", apparently, can be seen as an advertisement for another (not having anything to do with this) product :) At one forum, a man sold such at $ 2.5 a apiece!

And here it is - a professional USB sound card for the computer "Creative Professional E-Mu Tracker Pro":

As you can see, this is a whole mini Jedi console ... - DJ! :)

There is such a "toy" about 200 dollars. The device is good because it is an external sound card. Its advantage (even in comparison with the discrete one) is that it is moved out of the computer, which means that all parasitic electrical noises and "tips" that take place inside the case do not apply to it.

Here are just some of the advantages of this solution:

  1. autonomous power supply for 5 volts
  2. signal / noise indicator
  3. completely independent left and right channels
  4. possibility of connecting a professional microphone
  5. connect and adjust headphones
  6. background suppression switch
  7. sampling rate up to 192 kHz (kilohertz) with 24 bits at all frequencies

Note: Cards of this class do not support various technologies of 3D sound (game), since they are intended for professional work with sound, and not for games. My friend, for example, uses a similar sample to connect his electric guitar to it, recording to the computer the purest sound without interference and distortion.

Let's (for the sake of completeness of the issue), we will analyze with you one more model of a sound card for the computer. This is the younger version of the sample considered above. It is called "Creative Professional E-Mu 0404":

Let's walk through the connectors. What we see here:

  • Two analog inputs and outputs of 1/4 "
  • Optical S / PDIF input / output 24-bit / 96kHz
  • Coaxial S / PDIF input / output 24-bit / 96kHz
  • MIDI In / Out

Let us dwell on some points in more detail. What is S / PDIF? It stands for "Sony Philips Digital Interface" - a digital interface developed by Sony and Philips. This is a format for transferring audio data from one device to another in a digital form (without conversion to an analog signal), thus avoiding a drop in sound quality.

This connector can be made in two different form factors. For connecting coaxial and optical cables. The optics connection interface is called "TosLink". Here they are - in the photo below (optical - right).

Since we touched on the digital interface, we can not say a word about analog audio transmission. For analog transmission we have a special "RCA" connector, which can still be seen on many devices.

The abbreviation "RCA" stands for "Radio Corporation of America". This is one of the most common connectors used in consumer audio products. The endings (RCA jack) can be called differently: "phono connector", or CINCH / AV connector, in common parlance they are often called "tulip" or - "bell".

This type of connector is widely used for video signal transmission and stereo audio. Through the yellow connector, video is output, white is for mono or left channel of stereo two-channel audio, red is for the right channel of a stereo two-channel audio signal.

That's all I wanted to tell you about sound cards: what they are and what they can be used for. I hope that this article will help you when choosing a sound card for your computer.

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