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Sound card

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

A typical sound card includes a sound chip usually featuring a digital to 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 for the IBM PC was AdLib. This set the de facto-standard until Creative Labs produced the Sound Blaster card.

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

In the late 1990s, many computer manufacturers began to replace plug-in soundcards with a codec integrated into the motherboard. Many of these used Intel's AC97 specification.

Driver architecture

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

See also

Originally based on a FOLDOC entry