What is a soundcard and why do we use them?

Many of us take for granted that our favourite music is constantly and readily available. From records to CDs, the brief existence of the Minidisc, MP3s and the recent success of online streaming services, technology has driven change throughout the history of audio production and consumption, particularly in listening via computers.

Interesting facts about listeners

A recent Nielsen report, shows that fans who like to listen to music digitally are more likely to listen to music on YouTube than the radio (66% and 57%, respectively). We’re not suggesting that radio or other traditional methods of listening to music are on their way out, this does have a knock-on effect on the quality of music commonly available.

In much the same way that a computer uses an inbuilt video card to take care of processing the video it plays, it also uses its very own soundcard to process and reproduce the sound as accurately as possible.

 

So what is a soundcard?

A soundcard is one of the physical components of hardware that makes up your PC/Mac, turning digital code into sounds. Not just music of course, but also the exploding gunfire from the latest video games to the latest cat video on YouTube you’ve been sending to all your friends.

 

The problem listeners encounter

The problem as you can probably guess is that much of the cost of a new laptop or computer goes into the hardware, processors and screen. Few companies spend much time or investment in developing these soundcards, meaning that they’re incapable of reproducing sounds that do the original justice.

To make things worse, manufacturers rarely spend more than a few dollars on the audio output into which you plug your headphones or speakers as a means of cost-saving and time management. This means that on a computer that may have set you back $1000, only four or five dollars were actually spent on the audio output.

A knock-on effect is that regardless of the size of your music files, streaming quality of the service you use or cost of your headphones, music is often left sounding underwhelming. You might have the best gear an audiophile could ever dream of, but one little piece of your laptop could be letting you down.

 

The solution

This can be avoided by bypassing your soundcard altogether, a fact known by some but not all music fans, putting an end to tinny sound and disappointing audio. This gives a fuller body to the music you know and love.

Simply plug a digital to analogue converter into your set-up and you can bypass the sound card altogether, improving the sound tenfold. Ta dah!

These DACs come in all shapes and sizes. Some dedicated as stand alone units, some pocket sized for on the go listening and of course integrated into our range of products. For more information on DACs and why you need one, make sure you check out our video below:

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