Author:- Stephen Harrison, BSc, MSc, MBCS, CITP, InstM
Sharing over 20 years of IT experience with you 
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Sound Card Definition

A Sound Card Definition can vary depending on which web site you visit. Audio Cards enable your device to create and play sound! However, there is much more to these cards than you may realise.

This is part 1 of a 4 part tutorial series on audio cards. Here we answer the question:- What is the definition of a sound card? We also discuss what the modern sound card can be used for.

Part 2 explains how to install a sound card. Here we walk you through the steps of installing a physical sound card into your PC. This really is a simple process.

How to install creative labs sound card drivers is the focus of Part 3. If you want your new card to work correctly, you need to install the drivers.

Is your sound card not working? The final part of the tutorial series looks at what you can do if you are having problems.


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What is a Sound Card ?

To determine a sound card definition, we really need to answer the simple question:- What is a sound card ?

A sound card is also know by various other names, for example, Audio Adapter, Audio Card and Sound Board.

It is a card that slots inside of your computer, into a PCI slot on your motherboard. It enables you to playback music and record things such as your own voice into a microphone.

Sound cards are standard on all modern computers. All laptops and lots of PC's have an internal speaker for audio output.

However, in my experience, internal speakers are low quality. The output can be distorted and difficult to listen to.

All audio cards have the option to plug in external speakers. This can improve the output quality.

External Computer SpeakersSound Card Definition Tutorial
External Computer Speakers

You can also adjust the volume on external speakers in addition to the operating system volume.

Volume ControlVolume Control

Do you agree with me that internal speakers are of poor quality? Argue the case for and against by completing the form at the bottom of this page.

Read about what other visitors think at the bottom of this page.

A cheap sound card, or an expensive one, come with extra features these days. In addition to a port for a microphone and another for speakers, most sound cards come with a port for a joystick for gaming.

They also come with an auxiliary port for connecting devices such as a hi-fi system or amplifier. Headphones can also be connected.

Typical Sound Card PortsSound Card Definition Tutorial
Typical Sound Card Ports


Today sound cards have evolved to improve both sound quality and choice. For example:

Convenient External Sound cards you simply plug in to your USB port. For as little as £5 they include 3D Sound and speaker/headphone jacks.

Advanced integrated sound cards such as the Cantalis Overture now include things like 'dual Burr Brown PCM 1794A DAC's' (I'm sure music enthusiasts will like this!).

All this means is the quality of the chips on the cards are so advanced they provide industry quality sound. At around £500 they are aimed at professionals.

USB 2.0 External Sound CardDynamode USB 2.0 External Sound Card

Cantalis Overture Sound CardCantalis Overture Sound Card

There are a lot of products on the market that plug into sound cards. For example, products that enable you to convert old vinyl records or tape to MP3.

Modern PC's are colour coordinated to make things easier. Each port will have a colour that closely matches the cable that plugs into it.

Inside of your machine, there is an audio cable that connects your CD/DVD drive to your sound card. This is usually the only way your machine can produce the sound from your music CD or movie DVD.

A lot of today's computers do not have a PCI sound card plugged into the motherboard. Instead, the audio technology is part of the motherboard. This is known as an integrated sound card. This is also the case for laptops and tablet computers.

The very expensive cards have other technologies built in to edit and produce professional quality sound by eliminating noise and improving sound tones.

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Sound Card Definition:-
Final Thoughts

It is remarkable to think that before sound cards existed, computers could only make a beep noise!

An integrated card is more than adequate for every day home users. However if you need more advanced features you will have to buy a card and fit it into your computer.

The integrated card will also need to be disabled on the motherboard. This is done in the computer BIOS.

I hope the sound card definition is clearer to you. Now, it is time for you to take a look at the sound card installation tutorial.

The computer hope site has a good web page on a sound card definition (Opens New Window) that is worth a read.

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Internal Speaker Quality: Good Or Bad?

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Internal Speaker Conundrum 
When I bought my computer I didn't pay any attention to the type of integrated sound card it came with. The machine had sound and that is all I was interested …

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