How to install a computer sound card Updated: Computer sound card buying tips. Before getting started Write down important information from the top or bottom of the card such as the model number, serial number, and specifications. Ensure you are familiar with ESD and its potential dangers. When physically installing the sound card, ensure the computer is off. Set jumpers While today, most sound cards are configured through plug and play or through software configuration, if your sound card has jumpers , verify that the jumpers are properly set. We would recommend these settings be set to IRQ:
Learn how to install a PC audio adapter or sound card. How to Install a Sound Card into your Computer (PCI). Guide to help you install a Sound Card into your PC. Most motherboards do include onboard or built-in. Working on a computer without a sound can be a bit frustrating. That is why the installation of a sound card is necessary. Even though some computers use.
Note the manual volume adjustment knob. ISA-8 bus. The resulting sound was generally described as "beeps and boops" which resulted in the common nickname "beeper". Several companies, most notably Access Software , developed techniques for digital sound reproduction over the PC speaker like RealSound.
The resulting audio, while functional, suffered from heavily distorted output and low volume, and usually required all other processing to be stopped while sounds were played. The AdLib had two modes: A 9-voice mode where each voice could be fully programmed, and a less frequently used "percussion" mode with 3 regular voices producing 5 independent percussion-only voices for a total of The percussion mode was considered inflexible by most developers; it was used mostly by AdLib's own composition software.
Creative Labs also marketed a sound card about the same time called the Creative Music System. It sounded much like twelve simultaneous PC speakers would have except for each channel having amplitude control, and failed to sell well, even after Creative renamed it the Game Blaster a year later, and marketed it through RadioShack in the US.
It was incorrectly called a "DSP" to suggest it was a digital signal processor , a game port for adding a joystick , and capability to interface to MIDI equipment using the game port and a special cable. With more features at nearly the same price, and compatibility as well, most buyers chose the Sound Blaster.
It eventually outsold the AdLib and dominated the market. The cards were often poor at sound effects such as laughs, but for music were by far the best sound cards available until the mid nineties. Some Roland cards, such as the SCC, and later versions of the MT were made to be less expensive, but their quality was usually drastically poorer than the other Roland cards.
It would have been unfair to have recommended anything else". The widespread decision to support the Sound Blaster design in multimedia and entertainment titles meant that future sound cards such as Media Vision 's Pro Audio Spectrum and the Gravis Ultrasound had to be Sound Blaster compatible if they were to sell well. Until the early s by which the AC'97 audio standard became more widespread and eventually usurped the SoundBlaster as a standard due to its low cost and integration into many motherboards , Sound Blaster compatibility is a standard that many other sound cards still support to maintain compatibility with many games and applications released.
The MT had superior output quality, due in part to its method of sound synthesis as well as built-in reverb. Since it was the most sophisticated synthesizer they supported, Sierra chose to use most of the MT's custom features and unconventional instrument patches, producing background sound effects e.
Many game companies also supported the MT, but supported the Adlib card as an alternative because of the latter's higher market base.
Feature evolution[ edit ] Early ISA bus sound cards were half-duplex , meaning they couldn't record and play digitized sound simultaneously, mostly due to inferior card hardware e. Later, ISA cards like the SoundBlaster AWE series and Plug-and-play Soundblaster clones eventually became full-duplex and supported simultaneous recording and playback, but at the expense of using up two IRQ and DMA channels instead of one, making them no different from having two half-duplex sound cards in terms of configuration.
Many Conventional PCI bus cards do not have these limitations and are mostly full-duplex. Along the way, some cards started offering ' wavetable ' sample-based synthesis , which provides superior MIDI synthesis quality relative to the earlier OPL -based solutions, which uses FM-synthesis. For years, sound cards had only one or two channels of digital sound most notably the Sound Blaster series and their compatibles with the exception of the E-MU card family, the Gravis GF-1 and AMD Interwave, which had hardware support for up to 32 independent channels of digital audio.
Early games and MOD -players needing more channels than a card could support had to resort to mixing multiple channels in software. Even today, the tendency is still to mix multiple sound streams in software, except in products specifically intended for gamers or professional musicians, with a sensible difference in price from "software based" products.
Also, in the early era of ' wavetable ' sample-based synthesis , sound card companies would also sometimes boast about the card's polyphony capabilities in terms of MIDI synthesis. In this case polyphony solely refers to the count of MIDI notes the card is capable of synthesizing simultaneously at one given time and not the count of digital audio streams the card is capable of handling.
In regards to physical sound output, the number of physical sound channels has also increased. The first sound card solutions were mono. Stereo sound was introduced in the early s, and quadraphonic sound came in This was shortly followed by 5. The latest sound cards support up to 8 physical audio channels in the 7. Lenovo and other manufacturers fail to implement the chipset feature in hardware, while other manufacturers disable the driver from supporting it.
In some cases loopback can be reinstated with driver updates as in the case of some Dell computers  ; alternatively software Total Recorder or Virtual Audio Cable can be purchased to enable the functionality. According to Microsoft, the functionality was hidden by default in Windows Vista to reduce user confusion , but is still available, as long as the underlying sound card drivers and hardware support it.
Professional sound cards audio interfaces [ edit ] An M-Audio professional sound card with its fanout cables Professional sound cards are special sound cards optimized for low-latency multichannel sound recording and playback, including studio-grade fidelity. Their drivers usually follow the Audio Stream Input Output protocol for use with professional sound engineering and music software, although ASIO drivers are also available for a range of consumer-grade sound cards.
Professional sound cards are usually described as "audio interfaces", and sometimes have the form of external rack-mountable units using USB , FireWire , or an optical interface, to offer sufficient data rates.
The emphasis in these products is, in general, on multiple input and output connectors, direct hardware support for multiple input and output sound channels, as well as higher sampling rates and fidelity as compared to the usual consumer sound card. In that respect, their role and intended purpose is more similar to a specialized multi-channel data recorder and real-time audio mixer and processor, roles which are possible only to a limited degree with typical consumer sound cards.
On the other hand, certain features of consumer sound cards such as support for environmental audio extensions EAX , optimization for hardware acceleration in video games , or real-time ambience effects are secondary, nonexistent or even undesirable in professional sound cards, and as such audio interfaces are not recommended for the typical home user. The typical "consumer-grade" sound card is intended for generic home, office, and entertainment purposes with an emphasis on playback and casual use, rather than catering to the needs of audio professionals.
In response to this, Steinberg the creators of audio recording and sequencing software, Cubase and Nuendo developed a protocol that specified the handling of multiple audio inputs and outputs. In general, consumer grade sound cards impose several restrictions and inconveniences that would be unacceptable to an audio professional. However, in professional applications, there is usually a need for enhanced recording analog to digital conversion capabilities.
One of the limitations of consumer sound cards is their comparatively large sampling latency; this is the time it takes for the AD Converter to complete conversion of a sound sample and transfer it to the computer's main memory. Consumer sound cards are also limited in the effective sampling rates and bit depths they can actually manage compare analog versus digital sound and have lower numbers of less flexible input channels: Sound devices other than expansion cards[ edit ] Integrated sound hardware on PC motherboards[ edit ] A spinoff of the classic IBM SN by Squareinator In , the first IBM PCjr had a rudimentary 3-voice sound synthesis chip the SN which was capable of generating three square-wave tones with variable amplitude , and a pseudo- white noise channel that could generate primitive percussion sounds.
Many of these used Intel 's AC'97 specification. Others used inexpensive ACR slot accessory cards. From around many motherboards incorporated integrated "real" non-codec sound cards, usually in the form of a custom chipset providing something akin to full Sound Blaster compatibility, providing relatively high-quality sound.
However, these features were dropped when AC'97 was superseded by Intel's HD Audio standard, which was released in , again specified the use of a codec chip, and slowly gained acceptance. As of , most motherboards have returned to using a codec chip, albeit an HD Audio compatible one, and the requirement for Sound Blaster compatibility relegated to history. Some of these platforms have also had sound cards designed for their bus architectures that cannot be used in a standard PC. It was invented in Certain early arcade machines made use of sound cards to achieve playback of complex audio waveforms and digital music, despite being already equipped with onboard audio.
An example of a sound card used in arcade machines is the Digital Compression System card, used in games from Midway. MSX computers, while equipped with built-in sound capabilities, also relied on sound cards to produce better quality audio. The Apple II series of computers, which did not have sound capabilities beyond a beep until the IIGS , could use plug-in sound cards from a variety of manufacturers.
The first, in , was ALF's Apple Music Synthesizer , with 3 voices; two or three cards could be used to create 6 or 9 voices in stereo. The most widely supported card, however, was the Mockingboard. Sweet Micro Systems sold the Mockingboard in various models. Early Mockingboard models ranged from 3 voices in mono, while some later designs had 6 voices in stereo. Some software supported use of two Mockingboard cards, which allowed voice music and sound. A voice, single card clone of the Mockingboard called the Phasor was made by Applied Engineering.
In late a company called ReactiveMicro. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum that initially only had a beeper had some sound cards made for it. One example is the TurboSound. Also, many types of professional sound cards audio interfaces have the form of an external FireWire or USB unit, usually for convenience and improved fidelity. Cardbus audio may still be used if onboard sound quality is poor.
When Cardbus interfaces were superseded by Expresscard on computers since about , manufacturers followed. Most of these units are designed for mobile DJs , providing separate outputs to allow both playback and monitoring from one system, however some also target mobile gamers, providing high-end sound to gaming laptops who are usually well-equipped when it comes to graphics and processing power, but tend to have audio codecs that are no better than the ones found on regular laptops.
They are often used in studios and on stage by electronic musicians including live PA performers and DJs. DJ sound cards sometimes have inputs with phono preamplifiers to allow turntables to be connected to the computer to control the software's playback of music files with timecode vinyl.
The USB specification defines a standard interface, the USB audio device class, allowing a single driver to work with the various USB sound devices and interfaces on the market. However, many USB sound cards do not conform to the standard and require proprietary drivers from the manufacturer. Even cards meeting the older, slow, USB 1. A USB audio interface may also describe a device allowing a computer which has a sound-card, yet lacks a standard audio socket, to be connected to an external device which requires such a socket, via its USB socket.
Uses[ edit ] The main function of a sound card is to play audio, usually music, with varying formats monophonic, stereophonic, various multiple speaker setups and degrees of control.
The source may be a CD or DVD, a file, streamed audio, or any external source connected to a sound card input. Audio may be recorded. Sometimes sound card hardware and drivers do not support recording a source that is being played. A card can also be used, in conjunction with software, to generate arbitrary waveforms, acting as an audio-frequency function generator. Free and commercial software is available for this purpose;  there are also online services that generate audio files for any desired waveforms, playable through a sound card.
A card can be used, again in conjunction with free or commercial software, to analyse input waveforms.
For example, a very-low-distortion sinewave oscillator can be used as input to equipment under test; the output is sent to a sound card's line input and run through Fourier transform software to find the amplitude of each harmonic of the added distortion. There are programs which allow a sound card to be used as an audio-frequency oscilloscope.
For all measurement purposes a sound card must be chosen with good audio properties. It must itself contribute as little distortion and noise as possible, and attention must be paid to bandwidth and sampling. Driver architecture[ edit ] To use a sound card, the operating system OS typically requires a specific device driver , a low-level program that handles the data connections between the physical hardware and the operating system.
Some operating systems include the drivers for many cards; for cards not so supported, drivers are supplied with the card, or available for download.
Some card manufacturers provided sometimes inefficient middleware TSR -based drivers for their products. Microsoft Windows uses drivers generally written by the sound card manufacturers. Many device manufacturers supply the drivers on their own discs or to Microsoft for inclusion on Windows installation disc. Sometimes drivers are also supplied by the individual vendors for download and installation.
Bug fixes and other improvements are likely to be available faster via downloading, since CDs cannot be updated as frequently as a web or FTP site.