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How do I Choose the Best USB Sound Card?

Article Details
  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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When choosing a Universal Serial Bus (USB) sound card to run sound through the USB plug on your computer, it is important to consider a few points that can help you get the best sound card for your situation. The power and memory in your computer can affect sound card performance. Knowing what features you want out of a USB sound card can also help you choose. A cheap sound card will be less likely to have advanced features like multiple audio outputs and inputs, stereo or surround sound speaker capabilities, or upgraded high-definition sound quality. It is also a good idea to make sure you can use your new USB sound card with the rest of the hardware in your current sound setup.

Before going to the store to check out the available options, know your computer's processing speed and random access memory (RAM) and inspect the hardware requirements of the sound card to determine whether your computer can run the sound card. If your computer does not have the minimum power and memory requirements, the sound card may run poorly. Usually, minimum hardware requirements are listed on the side of the box that the sound card comes in and are sometimes available on the manufacturer's website.

If you will be watching movies with your computer and you want your movies' surround sound to come through, look for a sound card with high-definition (HD) sound, plus the ability to handle multiple speakers. Sound cards which can handle surround sound usually identify themselves as surround sound, 5.1 or 7.1 audio capable. This will ensure that your new sound card can handle the multichannel sound built into most new movie releases.

Another point to consider when choosing a USB sound card is your existing hardware. The more compatible the new USB sound card is with the hardware you already use to run the original sound system, the less extra hardware you will have to buy. A USB sound card needs to be connected to speakers, so choosing a sound card designed to connect to the type of speakers you already have will save some speaker troubleshooting time.

When buying any computer hardware, doing extra research can help you make sure you get the hardware you want at the best price. Look both online and in retail stores to get information on hardware options. You can often get the same price on a USB sound card if you look for local electronics sales.

If you are an amateur recording artist looking for an external input for your audio inputs, there are several USB sound card devices, often manufactured by Digidesign® or M-Audio&reag;, which are designed to supply a basic recording input setup. The M-Audio Ozone® is a common starter sound card and recording console that connects through USB. This USB sound card is a good start for beginning recording artists but can be restrictive for advanced sound hobbyists.

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