When purchasing a sound card for your computer, the major concern is whether to buy the internal or the external model. The internal as well as the external type both have strengths and weaknesses, and by determining it, you will be able to decide on which sound card best suits your needs.
When it comes to features, internal and external sound devices are equipped with an assortment of features that depends on the target market for a specific device rather than whether the system has an internal or external slot provided. The features may vary, although the usual elements you can find in a sound card include digital outputs, RCS, recording quality settings of 24 bits and 192 Hz, MIDI keyboard ports, and for games it has environmental sound enhancements. It is recommended to choose a sound device based on your intended use, given that sound devices intended for the musicians and gamers have different features.
Be aware that when purchasing an external sound device, there is some latency associated with this kind of sound card, since a device on cable is actually further way from your computer processor than a device located just inside the computer itself. High latency can cause instrumental and vocal tracks to be improperly align during a music recording. You can minimize this latency by choosing an external device which makes use of FireWire interface or a high-speed USB 2.0.
The quality of a sound device is however dependent to its hardware rather than on the sound device. Based on tests conducted using spectrum analyzers, internal devices have higher noise floor than external sound card. This means that for devices with lower noise floor, you would actually need to raise the volume of the speaker before any hissing sounds can be heard. The main reason for this is true to all devices that all electrical components are subject to interference.
Compared to external models, internal sound cards have fewer connectivity options because of the limited space provided at the back the device. External devices for sound often have digital input/output jacks, MIDI keyboards and RCA. They provide easy access to making these connections, as it can be placed right on your desk.
Another thing to consider in choosing your sound device is the price range. Generally, internal models are less expensive than external ones, as internal sound cards do not require metal or plastic housing. In 2009, the price range for a device that produces high-quality sound with no other special features is expected at around $30 for an internal device, while $45 for the external model was the usual price. Although these sound devices can be purchased at the extremely low price of under $10, those cheap devices are often questionable when it comes to quality.
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