This article will help you choose the best sound card for your own needs, and help you decide whether you actually need to get a dedicated sound card in the first place. With a quality sound card you are able to experience the very best sound quality in your games.
Do You Need a Sound Card?
The first thing to do is ask yourself whether you even need a sound card. Most motherboards include decent built-in sound. If you’re just a simple computer user or gamer on a budget who doesn’t require the very best quality sound, going with on-board sound is a good choice for you.
On the other hand, if you are producing music or want very good quality sound from your games, on-board sound is not enough. You will need to buy a separate sound card, which fits into an empty PCI or PCI-Express port on your motherboard.
Music producers will need to get one of the better sound cards available. Look for a card with good signal to noise ratio, plenty of connectivity for your needs, and a large wavetable if you need it. You might also need a multi-channel sound card. If you’re interested in MIDI then you’ll want a sound card with good MIDI support, too.
Gamers looking for great audio will also need a sound card, but one with a smaller feature set will do fine. You can find a decent sound card for around 30-100 dollars that will surely satisfy your gaming audio needs.
If you care about surround sound, then you’ll obviously want a sound card that supports it. Most of the best sound cards support EAX and 5.1 surround sound, and these days some even have 7.1 surround sound support.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether your computer can handle your sound card. If you’re installing a high-end sound card into an older PC with a slow processor, your computer might not be able to take advantage of all the features in your sound card.
Depending on your needs, a sound card may be critical to your computer. Hardcore gamers will require a decent sound card, while music producers will need an even better sound card. But if you’re just a basic computer user or a casual gamer, you'll do fine with your motherboard’s built-in sound.