Sound card

Updated: 09/12/2023 by Computer Hope

Alternatively called an audio output device, sound board, or audio card. A sound card is an expansion card or IC (integrated circuit) for producing sound on a computer that can be heard through speakers or headphones. Although the computer doesn't need a sound card, it's included on every machine as either in an expansion slot (shown below) or built into the motherboard (onboard).

Computer sound card

Sound card connections

Back of computer sound card

The picture shows the sound card audio ports or audio jacks on the back of your computer, associated colors, and the connector symbols. In this example, the five audio jacks are used with devices that use the 3.5 mm mini plug.

  • Digital Out (white or yellow; words: "Digital" or "Digital Out") - Used with surround sound or loudspeakers.
  • Sound in or line in (blue; Arrow pointing into waves) - Connection for external audio sources, (e.g., tape recorder, record player, or CD (compact disc) player.)
  • Microphone or Mic (pink) - The connection for a microphone or headphones.
  • Sound out or line out (green; Arrow pointing out of waves) - The primary sound connection for your speakers or headphones. This sound card also has a second (black) and third (orange) sound out connector.
  • FireWire (not pictured) - Used with some high-quality sound cards for digital video cameras and other devices.
  • MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) or joystick (15 pin yellow connector) - Used with earlier sound cards to connect MIDI keyboard or joystick.

Usually, the cables connecting to the devices are also color-coded, and will match or be close to the colors the cables connect to. For example, the end of the speakers cable may have a green line or be completely green.

Uses of a computer sound card

Below are all of the different areas of a computer a sound card can be used.

History of the sound card

The first sound card is considered to be the Gooch Synthetic Woodwind, used by PLATO terminals. It was invented by Sherwin Gooch in 1972, and was a synthesizer capable of 4-voice music synthesis.

The Apple II computer was capable of using plug-in sound cards. The Apple Music Synthesizer was the first plug-in sound card used by the Apple II, developed by ALF Products Inc. in 1978.

AdLib was one of the first companies to manufacture sound cards for the IBM PC. AdLib developed the Music Synthesizer Card in 1987, basing it on the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip.

Connection, External sound card, Hardware terms, Line in, Line out, MIDI, Output device, Peripheral, Sound, Sound terms, Speakers