The Best Sound Card for NaturallySpeaking

Are some sound cards sounder than other sound cards for NaturallySpeaking? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Your microphone plugs into a chunk of your PC loosely called the “sound card” or the “audio card.” The sound card is responsible for converting what comes out of your microphone into computer bits.

How do you know whether your sound card is your problem? It’s hard to be certain. Because replacing a sound card is a pain, most people try to improve other aspects of their audio first, like speaking more clearly or adjusting the microphone position. If those efforts don’t work, they get a new sound card (or buy a USB microphone).

Finding out whether you have a Dragon-certified sound card is a good idea. If you have one, and audio input is poor anyway, you’ll know to look elsewhere for the cause.

The manufacturers of some of the sound cards that get good marks from Nuance include top-end cards from Creative Labs (SoundBlaster and SoundBlaster Audigy2) and Analog Devices (SoundMax), but many lower-cost cards also do just fine. SoundBlaster cards are the “classic” PC sound cards, and NaturallySpeaking works fine with most of them.

The best way to see what you have is to check your PC's or laptop's sound card. Here’s the easiest way if you are using Windows XP:

  1. On the Windows taskbar, choose Start→Control Panel.

  2. In the Control Panel, double-click the Sounds and Speech and Audio Devices icon.

    A dialog box pops up.

  3. Click the Sounds and Devices Panel icon.

    A dialog box pops up with tabs.

  4. Click the Audio tab at the top, and see which Default Device is listed for Sound Recording or Playback.

    The manufacturer’s name or telltale initials of the product line appear here.

If you are using Windows 7, do the following:

  1. On the Windows taskbar, choose Start→Control Panel.

  2. In the Control Panel, double-click the Hardware and Sound icon.

    A screen with several icons pops up.

  3. Click on the Sound icon.

    A screen pops up showing the volume mixer for your Speakers and System Sounds.

  4. Double-click the icon for System Sounds.

    You’ll see the following tabs at the top: Playback, Recording, and Sounds and Communications. See which Default Devices are listed for Recording and Playback. If the ones you want are not the default, click on them to make them the defaults.

If you are using Windows 8, do the following:

  1. On the Start Screen, use the keyboard shortcut Win+X to open the Start menu.

  2. From the list, choose Control Panel.

    A screen with several icons pops up.

  3. Click the Sound icon.

    A screen pops up showing the volume mixer for your Speakers and System Sounds.

  4. Double-click the icon for System Sounds.

    You’ll see the following tabs at the top: Playback, Recording, and Sounds and Communications. See which Default Devices are listed for Recording and Playback. If the ones you want are not the default, click on them to make them the defaults.

What about the rest of you who don’t have a Dragon-blessed sound card, or have no idea whether you do and aren’t about to spend the money to get one anyway? The best solution is to try to improve your speaking, run the Audio Setup Wizard’s volume adjustment regularly, do lots of training and vocabulary building, and make sure you work in a quiet environment.

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