sound card : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary

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sound card
A card to make sound. It has three parts.
  1. Midi synthesiser
  2. wav file player
  3. CD (Compact Disc) player
The cards differ mainly in the quality of the Midi synthesizer. Cheap ones have beep beep sounds. Good ones have orchestra samplers. Some cards allow a DVD (Digital Video Disc) input. Some are designed to be hooked up to a home stereo system. Higher quality cards have better noise isolation on the inputs and outputs. The main users of fancy sound cards are game players. They are impressed by 3D sound effects.

I used to have a Creative Labs Platinum sound card. It is an amazing toy that comes with eight CDs (Compact Discs) of software. It can produce 6 channels of sound: Left front, Right front, Left rear (surround), Right rear (surround), center and subwoofer for low frequencies. The catch is the sound card squirts all six channels out digitally via a single S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format) connection that looks exactly like a traditional RCA (Radio Corporation of America) analog phono jack. Your stereo amp may need 6 analog channels. You would need an extra converter box, or a set of digital speakers that can use the S/PDIF directly. Home stereo systems use a variety of ways of digitally encoding such as Dolby AC-3 and DTS (Digital Theater Systems). Even your stereo has six channels of digital sound it won’t necessarily handle the S/PDIF format.

Unfortunately the microphone input on my front panel did not work. Creative said this is a common problem and they don’t know the cause. When the sound card totally packed it in, they replaced it with a more advanced model and the front panel started to work. I suspect the ribbon cable was the culprit.

I was getting a lot of noise on the microphone even with the front panel. I discovered the culprit was my video monitor, not the computer itself.

Usually the speaker with the power and volume control goes on the right, on the theory most users will be right handed. You can check that you have your speakers wired correctly with the tests below.

Colour Coding

Sound card connectors are often colour coded something like this:
Sound Connector Colours
Colour Shade Purpose
grey   middle out
black   subwoofer middle out
orange   rear out L/R
pink   microphone in
green   line out, front speakers L/R
blue   line in, connect tape player etc. input.

Configuring

You must do some configuring of your sound card in the Control Panel. Use properties to find out which jacks go with which microphones. Select the one you want to use and set it as the default then click Configure to calibrate the sensitivity. Choose an icon for each jack that looks most like your microphone or speakers.

Channels

Here are some common configuration for sound cards:
Sound Card Configurations
Channels aka Supports
2 Basic line in, line out, mic, mono
6 5.1 Front L/R, Rear L/R, centre voice, center subwoofer (line in, line out, mic, stereo)
8 7.1 Front L/R, Rear L/R, centre voice, center subwoofer, centre side L/R (line in, line out, mic, stereo)
10 7.1+2 Front L/R, Rear L/R, centre voice, center subwoofer, centre side L/R, plus an additional L/R channel that merges with the Front L/R. (line in, line out, mic, stereo)

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