Sound card

A Sound Blaster Live! Value card, a typical (circa 2000) PCI sound card.
Close-up of a sound card PCB, showing electrolytic capacitors, SMT capacitors and resistors, and a YAC512 two-channel 16-bit DAC
8-channel DAC Cirrus Logic CS4382 placed on Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty
The AdLib Music Synthesizer Card, was one of the first sound cards circa 1990. Note the manual volume adjustment knob. ISA-8 bus.
Sound card Mozart 16 for ISA-16 bus
A Turtle Beach sound card for PCI bus
Echo Digital Audio's Indigo IO – PCMCIA card -bit 96 kHz stereo in/out sound card
A VIA Technologies Envy sound card for PC, 5.1 channel for PCI slot
Three early ISA (16-bit) PC sound cards showing the progression toward integrated chipsets
A pair of professional rackmount audio interfaces
Professional audio interfaces often have industry-standard inputs in addition to analogue audio, in this case ADAT, TDIF, and S/PDIF
USB sound card

Internal expansion card that provides input and output of audio signals to and from a computer under control of computer programs.

- Sound card

285 related topics


Direct memory access

Feature of computer systems and allows certain hardware subsystems to access main system memory independently of the central processing unit (CPU).

Motherboard of a NeXTcube computer (1990). The two large integrated circuits below the middle of the image are the DMA controller (l.) and - unusual - an extra dedicated DMA controller (r.) for the magneto-optical disc used instead of a hard disk drive in the first series of this computer model.
Cache incoherence due to DMA

Many hardware systems use DMA, including disk drive controllers, graphics cards, network cards and sound cards.

Audio interface

Piece of computer hardware that allows the input and output of audio signals to and from a host computer or recording device.

Two early rackmount audio interfaces
Professional audio interfaces often have industry-standard inputs, such as XLR and 1/4" audio jacks, in this case ADAT, TDIF, and S/PDIF

Audio interfaces are closely related to computer sound cards, but whereas sound cards are optimised for audio playback an audio interface is primarily intended to provide low-latency analog-to-digital and digital format conversion for professional audio applications.

Digital-to-analog converter

System that converts a digital signal into an analog signal.

8-channel Cirrus Logic CS4382 digital-to-analog converter as used in a sound card.
Sampled signal.
A simplified functional diagram of an 8-bit DAC
Top-loading CD player and external digital-to-analog converter.

DACs are therefore found in CD players, digital music players, and PC sound cards.

Phone connector (audio)

Family of electrical connectors typically used for analog audio signals.

A 6.35 mm (1⁄4 inch) two-contact phone plug used for various signals including electric guitar, loudspeaker, microphone and line-level audio. The tip is insulated from its adjacent sleeve and body.
The three parts: tip, ring and sleeve
A pair of phone connectors: A plug (right) is inserted in a socket (jack, left). Note the flat open contact spring parallel to and inside the tip contact spring. When the plug is removed, those contacts close to connect a circuit; such a connection is said to be "normal". Inserting the plug connects its tip to one part of that circuit instead.
Phone connectors:
<li>2.5 mm (1⁄10 in) mono (TS)</li>
<li>3.5 mm (1⁄8 in) mono (TS)</li>
<li>3.5 mm (1⁄8 in) stereo (TRS)</li>
<li>6.35 mm (1⁄4 in) stereo (TRS)</li>
A dual 310 patch cable, two-pin phone plug
Aviation plug type U-174/U or Nexus TP120, commonly used on military aircraft and civil helicopters
Old-style male tip-sleeve connectors. The leftmost plug has three conductors; the others have two. At the top is a three-conductor panel jack.
Modern profile 2-conductor male 1⁄4 in TS connectors
A 3.5 mm phone connector
A 3.5 mm 4-conductor TRRS phone connector
A 3.5 mm 5-conductor TRRRS phone connector
3.5 mm jacks for microphone, audio out, and line-level audio in
A 3.5 mm plug for computer audio
A 3.5 mm headphone socket (TRS) on a computer
Different length 3.5 mm TRRS connectors
Stereo devices which use "plug-in power": the electret capsules are wired in this way.
All iPhone models from the first generation to the 6S and SE (first generation) use a four-conductor (TRRS) phone connector (center) for a wired headset.
Miniature phone plugs and jacks. All are 3.5 mm except the gold-plated plug, which is 2.5 mm. One of the 3.5 mm jacks is two-conductor and the others are three conductor. In this collection the tan-colored jacks have normally-closed switches.
Examples of jack configurations, oriented so the plug 'enters' from the right. The most common circuit configurations are the simple mono and stereo jacks (A and B); however there are a great number of variants manufactured. 
<ol type="A">
<li>A two-conductor TS phone connector. The connection to the sleeve is the rectangle towards the right, and the connection to the tip is the line with the notch. Wiring connections are illustrated as white circles.</li>
<li>A three-conductor TRS phone connector. The upper connector is the tip, as it is farther away from the sleeve. The sleeve is shown connected directly to the chassis, a very common configuration. This is the typical configuration for a balanced connection. Some jacks have metal mounting connections (which would make this connection) and some have plastic, to isolate the sleeve from the chassis, and provide a separate sleeve connection point, as in A.</li>
<li>This three-conductor jack has two isolated SPDT switches. They are activated by a plug going into the jack, which disconnects one throw and connects the other. The white arrowheads indicate a mechanical connection, while the black arrowheads indicate an electrical connection. This would be useful for a device that turns on when a plug is inserted, and off otherwise, with the power routed through the switches.</li>
<li>This three-conductor jack has two normally closed switches connected to the contacts themselves. This would be useful for a patch point, for instance, or for allowing another signal to feed the line until a plug is inserted. The switches open when a plug is inserted. A common use for this style of connector is a stereo headphone jack that shuts off the default output (speakers) when the connector is plugged in.</li>
<ol><li>Sleeve: usually ground</li><li>Ring: Right-hand channel for stereo signals, negative polarity for balanced mono signals, power supply for power-using mono signal sources</li>
<li>Tip: Left-hand channel for stereo signals, positive polarity for balanced mono signals, signal line for unbalanced mono signals</li><li>Insulating rings</li>
The Sony Walkman NW-ZX300 has a balanced 4.4 mm output alongside a 3.5 mm unbalanced

Personal computers, sometimes using a sound card plugged into the computer. Stereo 3.5 mm jacks are used for:

Surround sound

Technique for enriching the fidelity and depth of sound reproduction by using multiple audio channels from speakers that surround the listener .

16.2 channel surround sound

Some AV receivers, stereophonic systems, and computer sound cards contain integral digital signal processors or digital audio processors to simulate surround sound from a stereophonic source (see fake stereo).

Creative Technology

Singaporean multinational technology company headquartered in Jurong East, Singapore, with overseas offices in Shanghai, Tokyo, Dublin, and Silicon Valley .

Creative Music System sound card

The success of this audio interface led to the development of the standalone Sound Blaster sound card, introduced at the 1989 COMDEX show just as the multimedia PC market, fueled by Intel's 386 CPU and Microsoft Windows 3.0, took off.

Audio codec

Device or computer program capable of encoding or decoding a digital data stream that encodes or decodes audio.

Lovelace's description from Note G.

This is used in sound cards that support both audio in and out, for instance.

Audio mixing (recorded music)

Process of optimizing and combining multitrack recordings into a final mono, stereo or surround sound product.

Digital Mixing Console Sony DMX R-100 used in project studios
A simple mixing console

For example, a DVD player or sound card may downmix a surround sound program to stereo for playback through two speakers.

Sound Blaster

Creative Music System sound card
Sound Blaster 1.0 (CT1320B); C/MS chips in sockets (labeled U14, U15) are seen.
Sound Blaster 1.5 (CT1320C); C/MS chip sockets (labeled U14, U15) seem empty.
Sound Blaster 2.0 (CT1350B), without C/MS and FM chipset
The Sound Blaster MCV (CT5320B); note that the card has a greater width and thus lacks the typical MCA sled.
Sound Blaster Pro (CT1330A) rev.4
Sound Blaster Pro 2 (CT1600)
Sound Blaster 16 (CT2940)
Vibra based card with FM radio: SoundForte RadioPlus SF16-FMP2 by MediaForte
Sound Blaster AWE32 (CT3990)
Sound Blaster 32 ISA (CT3930)
Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold (CT4390)
Ensoniq AudioPCI
Sound Blaster Live! (CT4830)
Sound Blaster Audigy Player
Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro
Sound Blaster Recon3D
A Sound Blaster Z sound card
Sound Blaster X7

Sound Blaster is a family of sound cards designed by Singaporean technology company Creative Technology (known in the US as Creative Labs).


Main printed circuit board (PCB) in general-purpose computers and other expandable systems.

Dell Precision T3600 System Motherboard, used in professional CAD Workstations. Manufactured in 2012
Motherboard for a personal desktop computer; showing the typical components and interfaces which are found on a motherboard. This model follows the Baby AT (form factor), used in many desktop PCs.
Mainboard of a NeXTcube computer (1990) with microprocessor Motorola 68040 operated at 25 MHz and a digital signal processor Motorola 56001 at 25 MHz, which was directly accessible via a connector on the back of the casing.
The Octek Jaguar V motherboard from 1993. This board has few onboard peripherals, as evidenced by the 6 slots provided for ISA cards and the lack of other built-in external interface connectors. Note the large AT keyboard connector at the back right is its only peripheral interface.
The motherboard of a Samsung Galaxy SII; almost all functions of the device are integrated into a very small board
Block diagram of an early 2000s motherboard, which supports many on-board peripheral functions as well as several expansion slots
A motherboard of a Vaio E series laptop (right)
A microATX motherboard with some faulty capacitors

As the name suggests, this board is often referred to as the "mother" of all components attached to it, which often include peripherals, interface cards, and daughterboards: sound cards, video cards, network cards, host bus adapters, TV tuner cards, IEEE 1394 cards; and a variety of other custom components.