A USB sound card, which is often referred to as an audio card, can best be described as a computer expansion card. This will help to facilitate the input and output of sound/audio signals from your computer. There are many uses of USB soundcards however they are typically used for multimedia applications. Should you wish to compose music, edit audio or video, complete presentations, education or games. You will find that that some computers have the specific sound capabilities already built-in, whereas others will require a sound card to produce audio.
USB sound cards will typically feature a digital to analogue converter (DAC). This will help to convert any generated or specifically recorded digital data straight into an analogue format. Your output signal should be connected to a set of headphones, amplifier or external device that can do the same job. They are also many more advanced USB soundcards which will automatically include more than one chip that can simultaneously use more than one function. One of these functions is the ability to produce digital sound and synthesised sound at the same time.
Many manufacturers have taken the approach to simplify both the design and cost of USB sound cards. This includes being able to produce multichannel digital sound playback amongst others. The majority of USB sound cards will have what is known as a line in connector which will allow you to produce a signal from a cassette recorder or a similar sound device. The sound card will also allow you to digitise the signal and will then store it somewhere on the computer’s hard disc. This helps you to store, edit and process.
USB sound cards produce polyphonic sound. This is when there is more than one distinct sound however these can be played independently from each other and also simultaneously. With many of the older sound chips you could actually accommodate up to 3 different sounds at the same time, but you only ever had one audio channel. This would cause all these sounds to mix together. However with the invention of USB sound cards this would no longer be a problem.
Up until 1988 sound cards were not compatible with most PCs. This would mean that the only way a PC could produce sound and music would be through their sole internal speaker. This in turn would limit the speaker and its internal hardware to producing what are known as square waves or a more apt name would be their nickname of “beeper”. The sound that resulted from using an old style PC was often described as “beeps and boops”. This led to numerous companies developing technology and techniques for a higher quality of digital sound reproduction from a PC speaker. However the results initially proved far from successful. This technology from the 1980s often produced a distorted output or extremely low volume of audio signal.
Technology has come a long way since and we now have the use of what are known as audio interfaces. This can best be described as professional sound cards that can be use in USB, FireWire and even an optical interface. These soundcards are far more advanced than the ones most consumers use and will provide support for multiple input and output sound channels, far higher sampling rates and they would in fact act as a specialised multichannel data recorder. In addition to this, professional sound cards can also be used as a real-time audio mixer and processor.
A USB sound card can best be described as an external box that you can plug into your computer via the USB. They are far more accurate than regular sound cards. This will produce a standard interface which in turn will allow a single driver to work with numerous USB sound devices. As long as the circuit design permits, a USB sound card has the capacity to support an extremely high quality sound operation.
There are various makes and models of USB sound cards in the marketplace. They vary in price from as little as $20, to well in excess of $200. The type that you choose will very much depend on your specific usage requirements. The first, and still amongst the most popular, manufacturers of USB sound cards were IBM, Yamaha and Creative Labs. Although you have many other well-known and even renowned manufacturers who produce USB sound cards, these three companies have dominated the market ever since the inception of sound cards.