Are Sound Cards Worth It?

by Arslan Ashraf

Are Sound Cards Worth It?

Starting with the basics, a sound card, an internal expansion card, is used in a computer to transfer audio input/output signals with the help of a driver or computer program. On the other hand, we can use the same term, sound card, to stipulate the external audio interfaces used by expert audio software. You can also find additional features like professional audio jack support and multiple input channels on these professional sound cards. Several built-in sound systems integrated into today’s computers also allow you to ask questions. 

But are sound cards worth it? Or are they good to be chosen in the current tech evolution? Well, the answer is simply yes. The top-tier sound cards benefit those who are related to gaming or music production and want to get the most out of the sound enthusiasm. You can listen to sharper and better sounds, getting every beat, bass, highs, and mids embedded in an audio file. Therefore, we have deeply researched why we need a sound card, and we will feature it to our users through this article.

What is the Purpose of Sound Cards?

A sound card is an optional but necessary computer component that sends sound information to various audio devices such as headphones, speakers, or your computer. If we look at its operation, it translates analog signals to digital ones and digital signals to analog ones. This extension, a sound card, can be helpful for various purposes, including listening to music, playing games and audio videos, reading text, and more. For your information, these components are specially made to parse signals to quality sounds. 

Advantages of sound cards

There are a lot of sound card benefits. Sound cards are helpful for several purposes, especially if your computer’s sound is worse than other devices like your phone. It’s also beneficial if your desktop computer makes a crackling sound or your computer doesn’t support the desired music standard. Why get a sound card? Here are some reasons we have listed for you:

Give you more ports.

Many cheap computers, even some top-tier, come with limited substandard audio outputs, and some have no output at all. Suppose you’re facing the same issue as several other users. In such a case, having a sound card can solve the limited input issue. There are a bunch of audio ports that you can use to connect microphones, headphones, and other peripherals to enhance your PC’s utility. Many high-end cards also feature optical out, surround sound out, and more, which is necessary for music producers.

What ports do we get with audio cards? Several types of audio and other outputs come with audio cards. These can vary from card to card and brand to brand. Anyhow, we will take a look at most of such outputs in the table given below. Moreover, I’ll guide you through different types of colors and share. Let’s uncover these outputs!

PortsShapeColor
Headphone/line outCircularGreen
Digital outCircularYellow/White
Subwoofer outCircularOrange
Microphone inCircularPink
Line inCircularBlue
OpticalSquareBlack
Rear surround soundCircularBlack
Center channelCircularGray
MIDICircular trapezoidGold
FirewireRectangle with Circular sideNo color/metal

Why are these ports in different colors and shapes? The most obvious reason is to make it easy for the users to identify different ports on the card and easily use them for various purposes. Moreover, several ports are on the back of the audio card, and an ordinary user may get confused while looking at them. Moreover, most of the audio cards have ports with certain signs also. These signs better help the users to identify each port’s utility by just looking at symbols/signs if you don’t know about the color and shape coding. 

Solve FLAC issue.

Most audio enthusiasts would know that FLAC, Free Lossless Audio Codec, is an audio coding method to compress the digital audio signal. If you are a collector or work with lossless or FLAC audio files, then your best bet is to buy a sound card. Such a phenomenon is because some motherboard chips, including high-end motherboards, may not support the bit-width of the file or provide playback at the file’s native sampling rate. A sound card can effectively solve this problem while enjoying the quality provided by the audio files.

Minimize Computer Bad Sound.

Low-quality PC audio is mainly caused by the lack of proper shielding around the motherboard. This way, noise from other components can affect the sound output of your PC. Adding a sound card to your computer can improve sound quality by removing components from the noisy parts of your PC and protecting the motherboard. However, it’s important to note that the sound card is not a solution for poor or substandard speakers. Ensure to know your audio issues well before purchasing an audio card. 

Internal VS External Sound Cards: What is the difference?

There are basically two types of sound cards: built-in sound cards and dedicated sound cards.

Internal VS External Sound Cards
Internal VS External Sound Cards

Internal sound cards, or integrated sound cards, come built-in with your computer and use system processing power for their operations. The computer’s built-in speaker and headphone jacks are the outputs of this card. The onboard sound card is easy to use. Some sound decent and are usually good enough for general listening or gaming. In contrast, External Sound Cards, or dedicated sound cards, don’t come built-in with the system. Plus, they have their own processing unit, so it doesn’t operate based on the PC’s processor. 

Types of External Sound Cards

External sound cards can be divided into three categories: gaming cards, external USB cards, audiophile cards, and recording cards. Let’s check these out without any due!

Gaming Audio Cards

As I mentioned earlier, the dedicated card plays sound through its built-in processor, freeing the PC’s central processing unit from work. In this way, the CPU’s entire processing power could be used only for gaming. Moreover, sound cards have numerous inputs and output ports that give you effective shielding and fade out the notice. Such benefits are hardly possible via built-in input/output PC ports. 

External USB sound card

These sound cards come in various specifications, connections, and features. Some are complex and resemble audiophile sound cards, while others have direct-connect lines like headphone jacks. Connected via USB and cannot be installed on the PC’s motherboard. USB cards are helpful if you have a laptop because the heat and compact construction often produce noise that can degrade the sound your device receives.

Audiophile and Recording Sound Card

Such a sound card is well worth it if your goal is to get only the best sound possible. It is designed with analog circuitry and heavily shielded outputs to provide accurate sound reproduction and significant noise reduction. You can also find additional features like professional audio jack support and multiple input channels on these professional sound cards.

Conclusion

Sound cards have several benefits for those who want to enjoy true audio enthusiasm while playing games or setting up some music beats. Other than that, these are necessary for those users who are somehow related to music or video production. Despite so many advantages like better connectivity, noise reduction, and high-quality audio, many users are still confused about are sound cards worth it. Well, the short answer is yes. But each user has to decide whether they need a card or whether it’s beneficial for them. If yes, it is worth it. 

But before that, you have to know about a lot of factors, specifications, and different types of audio cards. First, there are two types of audio cards, integrated and dedicated sound cards. Further, the dedicated sound cards are further divided into different types, including gaming cards, external USB sound cards, audiophiles, and recording cards. You can read the above section for more information about all of these. Anyhow, the sound cards are pretty excellent in terms of their better-audio performance and can give you many benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a sound card connected to a PC?

The sound card connects to the computer motherboard through a PCIe or PCI slot.
This connection allows more power to be transferred from the computer to the headphones and speakers. It also simplifies wiring, as you don’t have to mess with the wiring when installing the sound card. Simply insert the card into the PCIe slot and snap the back panel into place.

How is a sound card different from an audio interface?

In simplest words, sound cards are more likely basic devices to convert and play audio files. On the other hand, the audio interfaces also come with several other features, including recording, audio mixing, and production. Suppose you want to do more than just listen or enjoy music. In such a case, an audio interface would be a better option.

How to improve laptop audio quality?

If you have a laptop, a PCIe or PCI sound card may not be your best choice. You want to choose an external sound card or DAC and amplifier. You can connect these devices to your laptop via a USB port. The DAC and amplifier act like sound cards. The only difference is that it is outside the computer and not on the motherboard. Still, ensure that your DAC has a volume button or knob and adequate audio outputs.

Arslan Ashraf

Arslan Ashraf is a tech enthusiast and an experienced technical writer at GamingDairy. He has been writing all types of guides, tutorials, and tips for gamers, developers, and other people who use computers. His way of writing is quite unique: he starts with testing every single piece of Hardware and does a long list of experiments before writing the actual masterpiece. Well, if you have any queries, ensure to connect with him!