External Sound Card

An external sound card is used to add audio support to a computer or to bypass the inferior audio hardware it already has. Using an external card avoids the problem of opening the case and installing an internal card. This can save a lot of money if the card has to be installed by a technician. An external card also makes it easier to connect the plugs from the speakers, since the sockets are at the front of the computer rather than at the back. Many external cards also have a volume control knob, which is handy if the speakers do not have one.

An external card is essentially an internal card surrounded by a plastic case and joined to a connector. Many new computers do not require a sound card because they already have audio hardware on their mainboard. However, it is usually pretty average and does not produce the best quality sound. The clicks and hisses that can be heard through the speakers are often caused by this factory installed audio hardware. By using an external sound card, the computer can bypass it and deliver better quality sound to the speakers.

Different types of external sound card are available for desktop and notebook computers. The large box type is often used with desktops, while the smaller USB and PCMCIA types are mostly used with notebooks. The cost of an external sound card ranges from under ten dollars to well over one hundred dollars for the best brands. Apart from the PCMCIA type, most cards plug into a USB port on the computer, either directly or with a cable. The universal support of USB means that one of these cards can be used with almost any computer.

The smallest and least expensive type is the USB external sound card. It looks like a regular USB flash drive but is slightly thicker and heavier. There is a USB plug at one end and two audio sockets at the other end, one for the speakers and one for a microphone. Some models also have a volume control dial on the top surface. A USB external sound card is ideal for replacing a broken socket on a notebook computer. Most of these cards can be purchased for less than ten dollars. As you would expect, their sound quality is less than impressive.

The PCMCIA external sound card is slightly larger and more expensive than the USB type and fits into a special slot on a notebook. However, most notebooks only have one PCMCIA slot which can be a problem, since it is usually occupied by a wireless adapter or fax card. On one end of the card is a housing containing the audio sockets. One benefit of this type of card is that is does not stick out as much as the USB type and it does not have to be removed when the notebook is placed in a carry bag.

The box type is about the size of a broadband modem and has a front panel with various sockets and control knobs on it. Generally, this type of external sound card provides superior sound quality to the other types. It can be placed next to the computer or mounted in one of the drive spaces, if it has the necessary bracket. The connection to the computer is made using a USB cable and the card can be installed or removed without having to shut down the computer. A popular example of this type of card is the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Extigy.

Another feature to look for when choosing an external sound card is the software bundle that is included with it. Some cheap cards have no software other than their drivers, but many cards come with a number of useful and expensive applications. These might include media players, music editors, or DVD burning and authoring software. The expensive cards sometimes include one or two of the latest video games, which can end up saving more money than the card cost to buy in the first place.

This External Sound Card Review is Written/Updated on Feb 21st, 2010 and filed under Computer Hardware. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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