What is a PCI Sound Card?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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A PCI sound card is a type of computer device that allows audio applications to run properly and for devices such as speakers and microphones to be connected to the computer. The peripheral component interconnect (PCI) is simply a specific type of port on a computer motherboard that allows expansion cards, such as a sound card or video card, to be connected. Most sound cards will allow a number of different devices to be connected to the computer, both input and output devices, and the audio performance of a computer often depends a great deal on the sound card used. A PCI sound card is a common type of sound card, though other types include cards that connect to a universal serial bus (USB) port.

Many computer motherboards can include onboard sound, which usually includes a connection for speakers and microphone. This type of onboard sound can be sufficient for basic audio needs, but for greater performance or music creation a separate audio device, such as a PCI sound card, is often preferred. Most motherboards have several PCI connection slots on them, allowing a number of different devices that use this type of connection to be utilized. Sound cards and video cards commonly use a PCI connection, as well as internal modems, wireless adapters, and network cards. By using a PCI sound card, a number of other devices can then be connected to a computer.


Devices that can connect to a PCI sound card include speakers, including setups with multiple speakers for surround sound, microphones, and even musical instruments. While inexpensive sound cards often only feature a few ports to plug in a speaker or a microphone, more extensive cards can have more features. Some sound cards can even include manual volume control and additional plugs for multiple input devices. While musicians can use a computer with a PCI sound card, there are also some other options for audio input and output.

A USB sound card can be used rather than a PCI sound card and typically achieve similar results. This type of device is usually not a traditional sound card, but instead an external device that can be connected to a USB port on the computer. Other devices such as speakers and input hardware can then be connected to the USB audio device. When it comes to internal sound cards, however, the most common are typically either a PCI sound card or onboard sound that is built onto the motherboard itself.


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