An external sound card is an incredibly useful piece of equipment for computers and offices. Its numerous functions and features allow it to turn any average computer into a full home-theater audio solution.
To the eye of the consumer, it is simple enough. An external sound card is a box that you connect to a computer to add audio ports. Easy, right? Very. A USB Sound Card is even simpler. It is a trade-off of 1 USB port for multiple audio ports, which can include:
- 3.5mm Output jack
- 3.5mm Input jacks
- Coaxial S/PDIF jack
- Optical S/PDIF jack
That is basically all one needs to know about an external sound card. However, there is so much more going on inside the box. It is truly fascinating. Unless you are an audiophile or an engineer, you may not know what it does.
The USB connection offers one channel of digital bits, the computer’s language of 1’s & 0’s, to be sent and received from the box. The sound card then has to decipher the data and decide what to do with it. The sound card translates everything for us.
The Need For a Sound Card
A computer uses bits to communicate. The bits could be imagined not as a wave, but as blocks in a line on wires. Bits are flying everywhere on wires inside our computers and digital devices. Imagine a song in the computer. It is zipping as a group of 1’s & 0’s through wires from one side of the computer to the other. Can you hear the song as it is doing that? I can’t. It is stuck in the wires. The song needs to be released into the air to hear it. In addition, our brain isn’t designed to understand 1’s & 0’s of a computer. We hear in an analog form, which resembles a wave. It is much more curvy and wobbly. The bits need to be changed to a wave and sent through the air.
Speakers and headphones are what make part of the magic happen. They are a basic system. Electricity and magnets react to each other. When an electric current runs by a magnet, the magnet moves. A speaker is made up of a wire with an electric current, magnets, and a cone attached to the magnet to make sound. A microphone does the reverse. It moves a magnet to produce an electric current in the wire.