Your computer motherboard may already have adequate built-in sound (Audio
) but you could improve it by adding a good Sound Card. If you like listening to music on your computer or watching films on DVD or Blu-ray then it might be worth getting a good Sound Card and a set of decent speakers.
A Sound Card usually plugs into a PCI or PCIe x1 expansion slot on the motherboard. The ports on the back of the card vary depending on the Sound card that you buy.
Sound Card - PCI
A basic Sound Card would have a pink Line In Mic (Microphone), a lime-green Line Out Front (Speakers, and Headphones), a light-blue Line In (Mp3 player, Musical instruments), and possibly a Games Port. A more advanced Sound Card would also have a orange Line Out Centre (Subwoofer & Centre Speaker), a Black Line Out Rear (Rear Speakers), and sometimes a silver/grey Line Out (Side Speakers). You may also find an S/PDIF Out and S/PDIF In port on the Sound Card.
Colour Coded Ports:
The ports on most Sound Cards are colour coded as below:
5.1 & 7.1 Surround Sound
|Pink ||Line In Mic ||Microphone |
|Lime-green ||Line Out Front ||Main Front Speakers or Headphones |
|Light-blue ||Line In ||Input for MP3 player, Musical instruments etc |
|Orange ||Line Out Centre ||Subwoofer & Centre Speaker |
|Black ||Line Out Rear ||Rear Speakers |
|Silver/Grey ||Line Out Side ||Side Speakers (7.1) |
If you just want to connect two speakers to your computer then you would use the lime-green port. However, your Sound Card may support 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Sound letting you use more than just two speakers. Your Sound Card manual should provide you with this information.
5.1 Surround Sound will use 6 channels with two front speakers (lime-green), a centre speaker & subwoofer (orange), and two rear speakers (black). 7.1 Surround Sound will use 8 channels with the same layout as 5.1 except that it has an extra two side speakers (silver/grey).
The reason 5.1 Surround Sound gets its name is because there are 5 channels which produce a full range of audio frequencies and 1 channel which produces extreme low frequencies (bass
) called the subwoofer. 7.1 Surround Sound has 7 channels with the full range of frequencies and 1 subwoofer.
If you buy a 5.1 Speaker system for your computer then it usually comes with five speakers, a subwoofer box which includes all the connections for your Sound Card and to the Speakers along with AC mains connection, and connection to a controller.
The Sound Card connects to the box via 3.5mm jack plugs and you would connect Line Out Front (Lime-green), Line Out Centre (Orange), and Line Out Rear (Black). The speakers are usually connected to the box via RCA (Phono) connectors. There is also a connection on the box to plug it in the mains and sometimes a hand-held controller is connected to the box. Speaker system configurations vary so please consult the manual.
Each Line Out 3.5mm port on a Sound Card provides two channels of uncompressed analogue audio. You may also have an S/PDIF (Sony/Phillips Digital Interface Format
) output port on your Sound Card which can provide two channels of uncompressed digital audio, or 5.1/7.1 Surround Sound of compressed digital audio. S/PDIF uses either coaxial or optical connections to output from the Sound Card.
Once a new Sound Card has been fitted inside a computer then you will need to install a driver. The Sound Card should include a disk with the correct driver or you can install the very latest driver from the manufacturer's website.
Your Sound Card can be configured for 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Sound in Windows by going to the Control Panel and selecting 'Sound'. This will show you all the playback devices. Right-click on 'Speakers' and select 'configure speakers' which is where you can set up and test 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Sound by following the instructions. If you Right-click on 'Speakers' and select 'properties' then you can adjust various settings.
Front Panel Audio Ports
Your computer case may have audio ports on the front so that you can connect some headphones and a microphone. In order for these ports to work they need to be connected to your Sound Card.
There should be a cable leading from the Front Panel Audio Ports with a 'AC'97' and/or 'HD Audio' connector. This connector will plug into the header at the top of the Sound Card.