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Sound card

A computer expansion card that can input and output stereo sound under program control.

A typical sound card includes a digital-analog converter that converts recorded or generated digital waveforms of sound into an analog format. This signal is led to a (earphone-type) connector where a cable to an amplifier or similar sound destination can be plugged in.

Also, a sound card has a "line in" connector where the sound signal from a cassette tape recorder or similar sound source can be connected to. The sound card can digitize this signal and store it (controlled by the corresponding computer software) on the computer's hard disk.

The third external connector a typical sound card has, is used to connect a microphone directly. Its sound can be recorded to hard disk or otherwise processed (for example, by speech recognition software or for Voice over IP).

One of the first manufacturers of sound cards was AdLib. This set the standard until Creative Labs produced the Sound Blaster.

Early soundcards could not record and play simultaneously. Most soundcards are now full-duplex.

Driver architecture

To use a sound card, a certain operating system typically requires a specific device driver.

  • Microsoft Windows uses proprietary drivers supplied by sound card manufacturers and supplied to Microsoft for inclusion in the distributions. Sometimes drivers are also supplied by the individual vendors for download and installation.
  • The Linux kernel used in the Linux distributions have two different driver architectures, the Open Sound System and ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture). Both include drivers for most cards by default. Sound card manufacturers seldom produce stand-alone drivers for Linux.

See also


Originally based on a FOLDOC entry



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