On most computers, the sound card is built-in to your PC’s motherboard. It controls the way your PC interprets music files like .mp3s, and helps your video games handle complex noises coming from multiple directions.
But just because your motherboard has a built-in sound card doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy an external sound card. In fact, installing an external sound card on your PC can noticeably increase its performance when running all sorts of different applications.
How does a sound card do this? Well, like a video card, a sound card provides your computer with a dedicated source of memory that can be used to focus on a specific task. Video cards focus on processing video information, while sound cards focus on processing audio information.
This means that your computer has more resources to work with. Instead of having to dedicate a portion of its processing power and memory to handling sound files, your motherboard can simply direct this task to your sound card and focus on other, more important tasks in order to speed up your PC.
This increase in speed won’t necessarily be noticeable in all of your programs, but it will be noticeable in any applications that handle a large amount of audio data. Video games receive the biggest performance boost, and sound card manufacturers like Creative often advertise benchmarks that show a noticeable increase in PC game frames per second after installing one of their products.
While sound cards speed up the performance of video games, that doesn’t mean that other PC users can’t take advantage of them as well. If your computer seems to slow down when running iTunes and other media applications, then a sound card may be able to smooth out performance and increase the frame rate.
Other advantages of sound cards
Of course, speeding up your PC is only one – minor – advantages of using a sound card. The main reason people install a sound card is to make their computer’s audio sound as good as possible. A high-quality sound card creates crystal-clear audio on your PC, and even people who aren’t audiophiles will be able to notice the difference when listening to music or playing video games.
Sound cards may also feature capabilities that extend beyond that of an on-board sound card. For example, they could offer 7.1 surround sound instead of just 5.1 or 2.1. If you’re dedicated to creating a home theatre experience on your PC, then a sound card is a great place to start.
For all of these reasons, sound cards are popular with people who already have high-quality headphones or speaker systems, but are not using them to their full potential due to the restrictions of an on-board sound card.
Ultimately, sound cards are an inexpensive way to speed up your PC’s performance. They benefit your computer in a number of important ways and are surprisingly easy to install. Sound cards can be purchased at any computer parts retailer both in-store and online.