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Internal Sound Cards

Sound quality of both games and movies is constantly increasing, so investing in sound equipment is a must. Computer generated audio largely depends on the internal sound card, so if you wish to turn your computer in a home theatre or a gaming station, consider upgrading to a better card. Depending on how much you are willing to spend on a card, you can upgrade small for amateur use or big for a very specific professional use.

Slot Compatibility

When choosing a card, always start with the slots available in your computer. A PCI internal sound card is not compatible with all motherboards. You can find desktop internal sound cards designed for PCI Express, PCI Express x8 and even the old ISA slot. If you have an upgradable laptop, you can even find sound cards that fit Mini PCI and Mini PCI Express. Note that each of these slots can support the data transfer of a high-quality sound stream, so the slot does not affect sound quality.

Channels

Sound cards range from a simple 2-channel model to a sophisticated 7.1 internal sound card. The number of channels you need will depend on your primary use. If you just want to turn your computer in a Hi-Fi system, a 2-channel or 2.1 card will do just fine. However, if you wish to have decent surround sound, you'll need at least a 5.1 internal sound card.

Features

Pay close attention to the specs of each card, as they provide the greatest insight in a card's quality. High-quality cards have a dynamic range of 109dB or better and a frequency range covering everything between 20Hz and 20kHz. A good signal is also dependent on good signal-to-noise ratio, so choose internal sound cards with S/N values of 105dB or higher. Electromagnetic distortion created by other components inside the computer case is also possible, so look for a shielded card or a card with an extremely low harmonic distortion.

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