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Home > Computer Buyer's Guide > Sound Card & Speakers

Computer Speaker Systems

Sound CardSound cards allow your computer to communicate with your speakers to produce sound. All computer motherboards on Cheap Computers come with integrated sound chips, but these only provides a minimal level of quality. Consumers will typically buy an add-on sound card to produce higher levels of quality sound.

Recommendations: The family of SoundBlaster Live/Audigy cards.

What Level Of Sound Card Do You Need?

Sound cards can basically be categorized into three areas:

  • Basic Cards - Typically, this will be a 16-bit sound card, such as the SoundBlaster Live. This type of add-on card will be your first step above the onboard sound chips that came with your computer. It will usually support up to Dolby 5.1 Digital Sound.
  • Advanced Cards - The SoundBlaster Audigy series of sound cards is a very good example of this level. You pay more, but you'll get a much richer, fuller sound experience from your computer. This level of sound card is of particular interest for gamers and those who listen to music on their computer daily.
  • Advanced Cards w/ Professional Features - Finally, if you will be using your computer to mix sound, create music, or input lots of voice data for whatever reason, then this level is for you. These cards will also take up a CD-ROM slot in the front of your computer and will allow you to plug in all manner of devices, such as guitars, keyboards and professional level microphones.

The quality of the sound card is mostly reflected in number of bits; 16 bit, 32 bit, 64 bit or 128 bit sound cards. More bits equals higher quality.

Speakers will range from the pair of cheap $20 speakers that sound rather poor all the way up to Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound speakers with six speakers and a sub woofer. Most major computer stores will have an in-store display where you can listen to the quality of various speaker systems.

For both sound cards and speakers, it just depends on how much you want to spend for more quality sound. Its like paying more for a luxury car - you pay more, you get more, and how much more quality you want depends on your personal tastes. Consumers that buy Cheap Computers tend to find the onboard sound to be adequate for playing mp3s and watching videos or movies on their computer.

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