What does a sound card do exactly?

are they necessary to have any sound whatsoever come out of your computer or do they just improve quality? i plan on hooking my gpu to my monitor via hdmi. i know my gpu can carry sound, but do i need a sound card for this to work?
24 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about what sound card exactly
  1. i will be plugging gpu to 32" sony bravia t.v. i assume the sound should be good enough quality for me. i'm not picky about my sound at all.
  2. I'll recommend getting yourself a cheap home theater receiver and just hooking up a nice set of book shelf speakers and a little self-powered sub woofer to it. It's a little expensive up front, but the quality will far exceed what any computer speaker set can accomplish. It will last longer and allow you to upgrade or add more speakers down the road. Good choice using HDMI too, I'm willing to bet that HDMI will be a standard for A/V connections for a good long while, that's why I use it.
  3. A dedicated sound card is not required to have sound as long as your motherboard has an audio chipset (most of them do by default). You do need an audio processor though to have any kind of audio in your PC. Whether digital or analog, if you do not have an audio processor, you do not have any kind of audio.
    To clarify, your graphics card can carry, not produce sound. That means the audio from the sound processor is carried over the HDMI cable to the audio output (speaker, amplifier, etc).
    Modern embedded audio processors are quite good for general usage, music and games. If you are serious though you might want to consider a discrete sound card.
  4. Dadiggle, I disagree a LOT with you on digital sound, which is frankly flat and uninspiring. Sound is a natural wave, and it does not approximate well as a digital signal. I will NEVER use a digital transmission method for audio, as it simply degrades quality far too much.

    A good soundcard will enhance audio playback, giving a crisper, clearer audio stream then onboard can provide, due to both a cleaner output, and the way audio is internally processed by the card itself. You also have the ability to use the other built in upmixing/virtualization features that come with the card.
  5. gamerk316 said:
    Dadiggle, I disagree a LOT with you on digital sound, which is frankly flat and uninspiring. Sound is a natural wave, and it does not approximate well as a digital signal. I will NEVER use a digital transmission method for audio, as it simply degrades quality far too much.

    A good soundcard will enhance audio playback, giving a crisper, clearer audio stream then onboard can provide, due to both a cleaner output, and the way audio is internally processed by the card itself. You also have the ability to use the other built in upmixing/virtualization features that come with the card.

    100 percent agree
    there is no way that an onboard sound chip can compete
    with a dedicated sound card
    on my cheap Xonar DG there is roughly 3-4 C-Media chips for processing sound.
    not only that but if your like me and do instrument recording than the
    extra inputs/outputs are invaluable
    plus offloading CPU resources to the soundcard will improve performance
    when listening to music and multitasking
    at any given time I have internet radio streaming or WMP playing or Netflix streaming or TV capture card going
    plus doing MSOffice,Photoshop,ripping/encoding/burning DVDs etc
    so with many multiple apps running plus outputting sound the discrete sound card will help performance
  6. Quote:
    No. A sound card is useless once you use a digital connection.

    This is the second place I've seen you spread this misinformation. This is simply not true.

    Few if any motherboards can ENCODE multichannel audio. So if you want to have surround sound in a game and use a digital connection you MUST use a discrete sound card.
  7. one of our experts here should try to start a sticky on
    pros and cons of sound cards
    plus maybe a poll
    it seems to become a hot topic lately
    I just cant see any onboard sound being as good as having a discrete
  8. I declare Epic Thread
    Is this the end of soundcards as we know it?
    Stay tuned
    Same Bat Channel
    Same Bat Time

    @Dadiggle You usually have some good points to make but ending them with "LOL"
    is what usually provokes people into flame wars LOL
  9. You definitely make some good points
    I partially agree with you
    What do you think of performance factor of offloading cpu cycles
    to the sound card
    It is proven that framerates go up with sound card (generally a small amount
    but it does help)
    Personally I am happy with my analog older Creative T4400 4.1 system and good earbuds though before the Mother-in-Law (monster in law LOL) moved in
    I had my system hooked up to a older 5.1 Onkyo receiver which I still miss :(

    A joke followed by LOL is good
    When a technical point is made a LOL comes out as sarcastic
    BUT dont worry I am a Certified Condenscending Arrogant A**hole
    I have a certificate from my fiance to prove it too :) LMAO
  10. ^ sorry for the curse word Moderator
    It slipped
    Wont happen again
    Tried to edit out wouldnt work
  11. I actually have a HD 4650 but it has the same HDMI specs
    Funny I just saved that link as a favorite but havent gotten around ]
    to reading it yet.
    It is nice to have the option to switch to HDMI down the road
    when the HDMI receiver get real cheap and the mom in law
    is not living with us anymore (she never leaves the upstairs apartment
    so I cant crank up the sound)
    Still the old habits (owned a computer for 30 years) of having
    a sound card is hard to give up
    "Back in the Day" a sound card was mandatory
    Since I do recording of musical instruments it is still
    necessary for me
    but I kinda can see where it is optional now
    But you didnt answer my question
    what about offloading sound processing from cpu to soundcard IF
    you dont use GPU sound ( I still find getting sound from GPU very bizarre)
  12. Quote:
    why must you have a sound card when you use a digital connection. The sound on the pc is already digital. It will only get pass thru to the device connected to the other end. DO YOU KNOW THE SOUND IS ALREADY IN A DIGITAL FORMAT ON YOUR PC?

    Did you read my post Dadiggle?
    Let me explain. Motherboards with onboard digital outputs can PASS-THOUGH multichannel audio. If your source (for example a DVD) is multichannel you'll be fine.

    However, a game is not a multichannel source. The position of an audio source is calculated. Motherboards can output this generated multichannel audio over the analog connections, as it exists as an analog source after the calculations.
    If you want to output this generated, multichannel, analog audio over a digital connection, you have to re-encode this to a DIGITAL multichannel signal.
    Motherboards CANNOT do this. You need sound card than can encode multichannel audio to digital (eg Dolby Digital Live, or DTS connect).

    And I even explained without resorting to shouting.
  13. You open up a game, a first person shooter lets say. There ius a gun shot behind you. Your onboard sound card along with your CPU will calculate the sound of the gun shot for the number of channels you are using. This takes some CPU cycles away. If you have a dedicated soundcard, the sound card does this work freeing up your CPU. Your soundcard will do all the dirty work and then pass it through to a digital audio port on your motherboard or GPU, or if you want to use analog, then it will have to either convert the digital signal to audio for its own outputs, or send the digital signal to your onboard audio if you want to use the motherboard analog connectors.

    So long story short, a sound card will somewhat help even if you are using a digital connection such as HDMI of Optical. The effect won;t be as drastic though, it is simply freeing up some cuclys for your CPU, if you have 3 or more cores though, you probably won't notice much of a difference.
  14. Quote:
    No computer don't send analog signals.a. It works only on digital. So the data on your pc are already in a digital format.

    A DAC stands for DIGITAL TO ANALOG CONVERSION. ANALOG DIGITAL CONVERSION AKA ADC is when you you input audio from a analog source outside your pc like with a spdif in then it converts it to digital.

    how can a soundcard convert digital data to digital again? WTF lol

    Please go here

    Then go check how onboard audio works.


    OK, from your second link

    >>On any sound card – including those embedded on motherboards – you can find two types of connectors: analog and digital. Analog connectors (usually 3.5 mm mini jacks) allow you to connect your sound card directly to speakers (i.e., “analog speakers”). This is the cheapest and easiest way to connect speakers to your PC.

    You state
    >>No computer don't send analog signals.a. It works only on digital.

    So you're now posting links that contradict your own posting.

    Your link states:
    >>Since the codec is in charge of the digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital conversions, the quality of analog audio depends exclusively on the quality of the codec used on the motherboard.
    >>Digital-to-analog conversion is made when the computer is sending sounds to the speakers, while analog-to-digital conversion is made when you are feeding the computer with an external analog audio source (for example, when you connect a tape deck or a turntable to the PC to convert music into MP3 or CD).
    >>Physically speaking the audio codec is a very small chip measuring ¼ sq. in. (7 mm2) and usually located on the rear border of the motherboard

    You state
    >>No computer don't send analog signals.a. It works only on digital.

    So you're contradicting your own posting again.

    So which is it? Are your own links wrong, or are you, again?
  15. Best answer selected by rajohns08.
  16. Why so angry Dadiggle?

    You're stuck with this obsession with DACs and ADCs. I think we're all clear on those, and the fact that PCs are a binary system.

    So let’s move on the actual cause of my concern:

    You have stated:

    >>why must you have a sound card when you use a digital connection.
    >>But for a digital connection I see no use in it.
    >>But digital it doesn't matter on the quality of the device coz its not doing the conversion.
    >>not with a digital connection. Coz its get sent to the receiver to convert which is outside your pc.

    Now, I'm going to post a reply. Before you get all hot under the collar, and post one of your eloquent responses, take time to read what I'm saying.

    Then take a deep breath, and read it again. Let the idea float around you mind for a minute.

    Feel good?

    Ok, here goes:

    Onboard (motherboard) digital connections cannot provide multichannel audio from non-multichannel sources, eg a game.

    So, following this logic, the use of a discrete sound card is DD Live or DTS connect which encodes multichannel audio onto a digital connection. Without the discrete sound card you cannot pass multichannel audio from a game over a digital connection.
  17. Ahhahaha...

    please keep it civil guys.

  18. Epic thread in making LOL
  19. Best answer
    *smacks head on desk repeatedly*


    The following wall of text is assuming you know what’s in your machine. E.G. if you’re asking if you need a sound card because you don’t know whether your motherboard has an integrated chip you might want to buy a pre-made PC instead of components. They all come with integrated sound these days and if you’re going that route, it’s unlikely you’ll want a discreet sound solution as disabling the on-board card can be a pain in the ass at times. I realize that might sound condescending, but from this thread alone you should realize that the people that like discreet sound cards are a step apart from normal computer users, and even the normal power user. Discreet cards really only serve a good purpose for people who know why their buying it, and not so much for people who think maybe they should because it exists. If your still here then feel free to read on and maybe get some answers to some points that have been made in this thread.

    The most common reasons I know to buy a sound card these days are: 1) You want a better (S)ignal to (N)oise (R)atio. 2) The sound card has features you desire that the integrated unit does not and you’re willing to pay another $100-$300 for them. 3) The software included with the sound card means it’s just as cheap to get a nicer discreet product than purchase the software independently.

    So to me, a lot of what is being said is inane. Yes there is loss whenever you have an ADC process occurring. However, going from digital to analogue is generally lossless. In a stereo setup you want as few Analogue to Digital conversions as possible, with 0 being the best (obviously) and it's pretty easy to do. That said, you want your best converter (usually in your receiver) to do the DAC as that's pretty much the whole point of a midrange receiver. A high end receiver will usually come in parts and the DAC will be a separate unit from the AMPs, if you have a high-end receiver I doubt you need this thread. A low end receiver is largely worthless and should only be considered with a discreet sound processing unit if it will do analogue pass-through so you can use it as a switch.

    However, if you have a nice sound card like the new Asus or Sound Blaster HD series and don’t have an upper midrange receiver, there's a good chance the card is actually the better place to convert the signal. If you still want the receiver in the mix use it only if it will do analogue pass through. If it wants to convert back to digital (because you have an HDMI connection to your TV and your using the TV's speakers) then you might as well leave it digital the whole way through. Frankly though, if you’re using your TV’s speakers and you’re happy with that, then a discreet solution is likely a waste of money for you. Note: the same goes for monitor speakers. If you’re using the speakers on your monitor, then a discreet solution is the wrong solution.

    For those uninitiated in the Audiophile ways there is often ambient noise that can be heard when the computer is not processing sound. Usually as a high pitch whine or soft static coming from your speakers. If you hear it, and can't stand it, a discreet product or receiver using the computers digital output might help. However, this noise is generated by the proximity of other electrical devices. As most discreet sound cards are not EM shielded, it’s possible to get a discreet solution, put it too close to another add in card (I.E. the video card) and get a similar noise. As most add-in cards are now PCI-E and the 1x ports are right next to the video card, this is fairly common and accounts for most of the negative comments sound cards receive on Newegg. I.E. the person that bought it was stupid and didn’t know what they were doing.

    One other point of stupidity in the industry: HDMI prevents discreet card providers from separating signals which is why most Radeon products now have a sound processing unit. Both the Video and the Sound have to be converted on the same board in order for HDMI to deliver sound, so if you want sound through HDMI make sure your graphics card supports this. If you’re buying premade look for a (H)ome (T)heater PC as it will meet the qualifications to use HDMI cables to send sound. This is largely a DRM issue that once again punishes the paying customer as the standard creators didn’t want people to siphon off the sound and get master quality recordings of the media.

    Hopefully this will calm some of the bickering down and actually answer the question asked…

    If you don’t know why you want a discreet sound solution, don’t buy one and trust your Motherboard will have a sound option you can use instead. If you want sound to come from your HDMI, get a graphics card with a sound processing unit as a discreet solution won’t help you because the people that made the HDMI standard are worthless and hate paying consumers (yes there is bitterness there).

  20. ^+1
    well said
    your post shouldve been best answer
    i would copy and paste to Word so you can use it for another do i need a sound card post LOL
    i do musical intrument recording so i buy sound cards
    also i use analog surround computer speakers (creative T4400 oldie but goodie and was free) so i need the 1/8 inch surround outs
    the best point you made was if you are not sure if you need a sound card then probably you dont :)
  21. Best answer selected by mrface.
  22. ^thanks
  23. water, if you do a good writeup like this, i can push it up and see if we can make it a sticky. if you are willing to do that. :)

  24. pm me if you are interested and if you do it so I can send it to the community reporter team and mod team for review and can let you know. cool?
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