How to build your own personal computer - Kitchen Table Computers - Tablet Version
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Sound Cards for your Homebuilt Computer


A computer's sound card converts digital data into sounds that humans can hear.

The first PC's had no sound card. They did have little tiny speakers, through which users could hear the occasional beeps and alarms that the computers generated, but that was the extent of the sound system.

Nowadays, computer sound cards range from cheap devices that are satisfactory for reproducing operating system and program sounds (opening and closing windows, etc.) and the spoken human voice, to high-end cards that are capable of producing true audiophile-quality surround sound.

There also are specialized sound cards for musicians that are specifically designed to be used with professional audio studio and sound editing equipment that costs tens of thousands of dollars. If you're in that line of work, then you probably already know about all the latest goodies for people who make music for a living; so I'm not going to go into detail about professional sound processing equipment for computers.


Choosing a Sound Card

When selecting a sound card for your homebuilt computer, the first question to ask yourself is whether you should bother with one at all. Even inexpensive motherboards usually have integrated (built-in) sound cards that are good enough for the majority of users. You may want to just go with the integrated card, at least until you have a chance to hear it and decide if it's good enough for your needs.

If you're really into music, however, or if you're a gamer and you want to experience the full experience of your games, then you should think about the following factors:


Integrated Audio

As mentioned previously, almost all motherboards come with integrated (built-in) sound. Depending on the quality and price range of the motherboard itself, on-board audio processors can range from just okay to quite excellent.

Even if the motherboard you're thinking about has decent sound, however, I suggest you also make sure that it has expansion slots. This is because in the event that the on-board audio fails, or in case you later decide to disable the on-board audio and upgrade to an higher-quality sound card, you'll need a slot to accommodate it.

Finally, as I stated before, bear in mind that most on-board audio cards are designed with Windows in mind. If you plan on installing a different operating system either as a sole OS or as part of a dual-boot or multi-boot system, make sure that the on-board sound will work with that OS before you spend any money on the board.



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