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sound card

An expansion board that enables a computer to manipulate and output sounds. Sound cards are necessary for nearly all CD-ROMs and have become commonplace on modern personal computers. Sound cards enable the computer to output sound through speakers connected to the board, to record sound input from a microphone connected to the computer, and manipulate sound stored on a disk.

Nearly all sound cards support MIDI, a standard for representing music electronically. In addition, most sound cards are Sound Blaster-compatible, which means that they can process commands written for a Sound Blaster card, the de facto standard for PC sound.

Sound cards use two basic methods to translate digital data into analog sounds:

  • FM Synthesis mimics different musical instruments according to built-in formulas.
  • Wavetable Synthesis relies on recordings of actual instruments to produce sound. Wavetable synthesis produces more accurate sound, but is also more expensive.

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