computers include a sound card, it may be integrated on the motherboard or a
sound card in an expansion slot, before their creation PCs could only make a
beep sound. The minimum that a sound card will have is four components which
are the analogue-to-digital converters (ADC), digital-to-analogue converters
(DAC), ISA or PCI interface to connect the sound to the motherboard, and input
and output connections for speakers and microphone. While some sound cards use
a coder/decoder chip known as CODEC that performs as an ADC and DAC in one.

When a user speaks or plays sound into a microphone, an ADC
works by translating the analogue waves into digital data by taking
measurements of the sounds waves at recurrent intervals. The speed and
frequency of these measurements are called the sampling rate which is measured
in kHz and the more kHz, the more accurate reconstructed sounds will be. The
DAC works the opposite way by reconstructing the original sound, with a high
sampling rate the playback can be almost identical to the original. To
transport sound waves through wires causes distortion, which reduces the sound
quality – this reduction is measured by two factors, the total harmonic
distortion (THD) as a percentage, and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measured in
decibels – the measurement of the magnitude of a sound on a scale. The smaller
the values of THD and SNR, the better the sound quality.

More advanced sound cards have more features and a few
similarities to GPUs as it is PCB expansion card that can also have its own
specialised microprocessor – digital signal processor (DSP), which performs
calculations for ADC instead of using the CPU to process the data. They may
also have their own memory to process data faster, the same way a Graphics card
does. Sound cards may also have additional connections that are housed within a
breakout box, including: speaker connections for 3D/surround sound,
Sony/Philips digital interface (S/PDIF) which is an FTP (file transfer
protocol) used to transfer audio data through an optical or coaxial connection
for input and output, musical instrument digital interface which is used to
connect synthesizers or electronic instruments to computers, and finally –
FireWire or USB which connects digital audio or video recorders to a sound

Video games (and movies) use surround sound and 3D sound to
reflect the dynamic sound of where the player is located in a game with
directional sounds that create an immersive, realistic audio experience with
the use of surround sound headsets or home theatre systems. Some computer’s
motherboards, especially in laptops, have an integrated a DPS which may support
3D sound or users can purchase external sound controllers which improve the
sound quality. There is usually an option within games, movie players, music
players, etcetera, that provides the option of mono or stereo. In mono
(monaural) sound, only one channel is used, this means the sound that comes out
from more than one speaker is all the same. Meanwhile, stereo uses two or more
channels so that the sound coming out of varying speakers is not the same, this
creates surround sound and makes sound directional. 


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