What is an External Sound Card?

An external sound card is a device that can route sound from your computer to a listening system such as a speaker or headphones. Usually these cards are already installed internally in your computer but if you don't have one or the quality is poor, then you will need to invest in an external optical one. You can find models that connect to your PC or laptop via USB.

Why Would I Need One?

There are two main reasons why you would want a USB sound card.

  • To improve quality of sound: If you have a low-quality sound card installed in your computer, then an external one will drastically improve the quality. Because you can hook it up to speakers or a stereo, you can listen to music more clearly.
  • To record music: As well as improving your sound quality, you have the ability to record music. The optical sound card acts as an interface between your computer and instruments, and you can plug in a microphone to record your voice or connect your guitar or keyboard.

What Inputs Should I Find?

Depending on the size of the USB sound card, you can find a number of inputs. The two main types of inputs that you can find are:

  • Analog inputs: Analog inputs allow you to connect and record instruments or you sing on a microphone.
  • Digital inputs: The digital inputs enable you to work sound directly from digital data. They will not let you record sound sources like the analog inputs, but they do connect your sound card to your computer in order to record sound.

What are Some Models I Can Find?

  • Creative Sound Blaster Omni Surround: This sound card has a built-in microphone for clear voice communication and a 600-Ohm headphone amplifier.
  • Audiotrak Prodigy Cube: This sound card has dual headphone output and works with music broadcasting, internet phone, and voice chatting. There is a built-in mic amplifier and it is USB device that doesn't need a separate adapter.
  • Sound BlasterX G5: This audio adapter has 7.1 surround sound support and a headphone amplifier to deliver audio cues and gaming effects with ease.