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How to Choose a Sound Card for Your PC

If you want to add a sound card to your computer, or upgrade the sound card that it already has, you have several options. A number of specialized PC sound cards are available for the discriminating audio connoisseur:

  • An MP3 card: If you’re an MP3 wizard with a hard drive’s worth of MP3 digital audio files, you’ll appreciate one of these specialized audio cards. An MP3 card contains a hardware encoder/decoder, which speeds up your PC’s ripping (the process of creating MP3 digital audio files from existing audio CDs) and MP3-playing performance.

  • A 24-bit card: For the absolute best in audio reproduction, go for 24-bit audio (that’s 192 KHz, for you audioheads), which is far superior to the sound produced by virtually all audio CD players.

    These cards can also support DVD audio, feature front-panel controls that fit in an open drive bay, and carry a built-in FireWire port — which is just the whipped cream and cherry on the sundae.

  • A surround sound card: These cards are specifically designed for 3D environmental audio within games and for full Dolby surround sound support when you watch DVD movies on your PC. Naturally, you need more than two mundane speakers from a discount store to enjoy the full effect — which is why a premium set of speakers is usually included with these cards.

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