How to Choose a Good Sound Card

A good sound card is necessary for a computer to play quality music. With a wide range of sound cards in the market, it is really difficult to select one that is suitable for you. The guide here will teach you what to look out for when choosing a sound card.

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Things to look for when choosing a sound card

Before you buy a sound card, first ask yourself what do you do on your computer most of time. If you only use it for word processing, checking email, surfing internet etc? then it might not be worth it for you to get a sound card.

However, if you are an avid gamer or heavy multimedia user, then getting a good sound card is a must.

The following factors will help you differentiate between a normal sound card and a good sound card.

16 bits or 24 bits?

Sound card using 24 bits encoding and decoding will gives a better and clearer sound quality than using 16 bits. For basic user, a 16 bits sound card will be sufficient

Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR)

The Signal to Noise Ratio measures the ratio between the noise and the sound signal produced by the sound card.


In general, the higher the SNR, the better is the sound quality.

Sampling Rate

Sampling rate determines the distortion of the digital sound signal from the original analog signal. The higher the sampling rate, the less distorted the sound signal and hence the better sound quality. The highest available sampling rate now is 96kHz and this is equivalent to dvd-audio quality. The following table below shows a guideline of the sound quality you can expect from the different sampling rate.

  • 44.1 kHz – Audio CD quality. Also used in VCD, SVCD and MP3
  • 48 kHz – Digital sound used for digital TV, DVD, DAT, films and professional audio
  • 96 kHz – DVD-Audio, and HD-DVD (High-Definition DVD) audio tracks

Surround Sound

For gamer and heavy multimedia user, a sound card with surround sound will certainly adds to your enjoyment. Currently the sound card can support up to 7.1 channels surround sound. Before you make your purchase, make sure that it is certified by Dolby Digital, DTS, THX or EAX.


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