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Lesson 5: PCI computer sound card comparison

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In lesson 5 we'll cover computer sound cards from low to high-end, what PCI sound card comparisons to look for when shopping, and how much you can expect to pay.


The sound card is responsible for creating all that you hear from your computer speakers. The sound card can also be used to bring sound into your computer from a microphone, TV or any other audio device.

Most motherboards have sound built into them so a separate sound card isn't needed. If you're going to use your computer for playing games or as a music or video recording workstation you should considering getting a separate sound card. You can find a sound card that will give you higher quality sound with all the inputs and outputs you need. The sound card will go into an open PCI or PCI Express expansion slot on the motherboard. See the motherboard component lesson and Installation lesson 8 for more information.

The quality of a sound card is based on the clarity of playback and recording of sound. The minimum specs to look for in a sound card are 16bit, 48.1KHz sampling and a SNR of 100db. This will give you CD quality playback and recording of sound.

Higher end sound cards offer 24bit and 96KHz sampling, which produces greater than CD quality and is considered professional quality sound.


To bring sound into your computer and output the sound to speakers or a recording device, there are several connections available.

All sound cards have three basic connections.

A Line out- which gives you stereo right and left to connect your speakers- called a 2.0 or 2.1 configuration- more on this later.

A Line in- for bringing in sound from a TV or another audio device

A microphone inputThis is where the sample video ends and the free written instruction ends as well.

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