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Do I need a Sound Card for PC? 2024

The majority of desktop PC motherboards have built-in speakers that can produce good audio quality. Most users find the built-in audio to be more than adequate, and some even support surround sound up to 7.1 (seven satellites and a subwoofer) and specialized ports like optical and S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface). However, discrete sound cards are still in demand. The reasons listed below help to support your decision to invest in a sound card for your PC build.

Who needs a discrete sound card?

The user who lacks the essential connectors for their PC’s built-in audio is the most obvious candidate for a discrete sound card. A discrete sound card is your only alternative if you require an optical connection but your PC does not support one.

Next, audiophiles who want the highest level of musical quality are consumers for whom a discrete sound card can be a wise investment. Maybe they have a good set of speakers and want the clearest, best sound they can get. As previously said, discrete sound cards are able to deliver precisely that.

And last, a dedicated sound card probably has certain benefits for gaming. The final stage before outsourcing the audio processing is for them to have presumably optimized every other component in their PC for the highest frame rates. Discrete sound cards can also deliver more powerful sound effects, creating a more realistic gaming environment.

Sound Card Performance

Built-in audio controllers in modern technology are more effective than ever. They no longer have a substantial influence where they earlier consumed a lot of CPU resources. A discrete sound card will outsource the audio processing and return that processor power if you are running a machine that requires every bit of CPU power you can muster.

Examples include those who use PCs for intricate photo and video processing by creative professionals and gamers who strive for the highest possible frame rates. A standalone audio card might be useful in those circumstances. This is especially true if an individual user’s workflow includes audio processing.

PC Audio Quality and Flexibility

The integrated audio controllers on current motherboards provide sound that is of a good enough caliber for the majority of users. But a dedicated sound card can help with a few potential problems.

First off, even if built-in audio controllers are sufficiently protected, the other electronic components on the motherboard can still cause interference. When the audio is turned up but no active sounds are playing, that can be audible as hiss. The hiss can happen when writing data to disks, when the CPU is under a lot of strain, and other occasions.

Since a discrete sound card is isolated from that interference, it shouldn’t hear any hissing noises of a similar nature. Even just that can affect the audio quality, especially when it gets very quiet.

Second, sound cards have access to better audio components than those found on motherboards, which are simply more expensive. Digital-to-analog converters (DACs), which provide higher bit rates and frequencies for higher fidelity music and better sound effects in games, can be one of these. For a clearer sound, the components can be designed with a greater signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). For instance, whereas discrete sound cards can produce 106 dB and even greater, the typical built-in audio only offers a 90 dB SNR (higher is preferable). To create varied effects without affecting the PC’s processing power, many manufacturers each have their own specialized chipsets.

Third, more connections may be offered by sound cards. These might include higher-power amplifiers to drive higher-impedance headphones and optical connections that built-in sound may not offer.