While the average PC user can honestly say that they’ve heard of the term “Sound Card” before, it is estimated that about 76% of these people do not know the true function of the sound card. Yes, sound cards do aid in sound signal processing and output, but unless you know the internal functions of the sound card and what it can achieve, you’ll never be able to answer the question, “What is a Sound Card used for?“
So what exactly is a Sound Card used for?
Sound cards are computer components that plug into your computer’s motherboard and help facilitate the input and output of audio signals. This can be helpful for a wide array of activities, such as processing sound effects in a video game or enabling surround sound support for movies that you play on your computer.
|This is what an average sound card looks like
In a nutshell, a sound card is used for mixing sound channels and outputting them to multiple output jacks to enable surround sound support. Take a look at the image above, for instance. Notice the multiple audio jacks on the left side of the card? There is a blue jack, a red jack, a green jack, and a black jack. One of these jacks is likely an input, allowing a microphone to be attached and used to record audio. On the other hand, the three other jacks all output separate audio channels. For instance, the green audio jack is often used for a common 2-speaker sound output, while the red and blue jacks may output sound to a subwoofer and rear speakers.
The primary job of a sound card is not only to send and receive audio signals. The cards are often built to enhance sound quality, remove the slight electric buzz that can be heard when dealing with 3.5mm audio jacks, and mix sound channels for rich, explosive sound.
We’re telling you about the sound enhancement features of sound cards, but simply stating that they make everything sound better doesn’t really do the cards justice…and you probably still have no idea what we’re talking about. Luckily, we found a video that can display the difference a sound card makes in terms of virtual surround and positional audio functionality.
You are going to want to pay close attention to the small details in the audio when watching this video, as well as throw on a pair of headphones. The sound cards displayed in this video all process sound into rich formats that capture the experience of the movie or game you are enjoying.
So, to recap: What is a Sound Card used for? It is used to enable surround sound, process sound into rich directional audio, and make the sound effects present in most games and movies stand out, resulting a truly immersive experience.
How Much is a Sound Card?
How much is a sound card you ask? Well, it all depends on the brand and model you decide to go with. Lower-end sound cards that provide minimal functionality can be as cheap as around $35. On the other hand, higher-end models that perform all sorts of neat sound processing functions can be up to $200!
For the average gamer or movie enthusiast, we recommend going with a middle-man; a card that isn’t top of the line but can clearly surpass a wimpy $35 sound card. Below are a handful of sound cards that we hand-picked ourselves. Take a look at their respective product pages and read their features and reviews to decide if the sound card is right for you.