Choosing a Sound Card


Sound adapters fall into two broad categories. Consumer-grade sound adapters are made by companies like Turtle Beach and Creative Labs and are widely available in retail channels. The better ones, such as the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz, suffice for any purpose for which you are likely to use a sound adapter. Professional-grade sound adapters—made by companies such as Aardvark, Digital Audio Labs, Event, Lucid, and Lynx—cost hundreds of dollars, are intended for professional audio production, have poor retail distribution, and are beyond the scope of this book. For a technical comparison of many models of sound adapters, see

Use the following guidelines when choosing a sound card:

Choose embedded sound, if available, for general use

If you are building a new system or replacing the motherboard on an existing system, choose a motherboard that includes embedded sound, unless you need features like enhanced 3D or enhanced MIDI functions. Embedded sound is inexpensive (typically $10 more than the same motherboard without sound) and well integrated, which minimizes installation and configuration problems. Embedded PCI sound also typically provides better SoundBlaster emulation than an add-on PCI card, if that is an issue.


Embedded sound is often implemented as soft audio , e.g., the Analog Devices AD1885 chipset used in many Intel motherboards. Although soft audio solutions are inexpensive and may provide ...

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