An audio adapter gives a computer the capability to produce sound. While this used to be a novel concept, these days most people take audio adapters for granted, as these usually come built-in with any modern computer. Virtually all portable computers have built-in audio adapters. Most modern motherboards meant for desktop computers also have onboard audio adapters. This often negates the need to purchase an audio adapter separately.
However, gamers, audiophiles, and generally anyone who wants better fidelity and sound reproduction almost always want better audio adapters than one that comes default with a computer. This is much like upgrading your video card, or choosing a notebook computer that has discrete graphics versus one that has an onboard video card. Buying a separate audio adapter can do wonders for your computer’s sound system. However, before you buy any electronics items, it makes sense to read reviews first.
You can mostly find reviews on audio adapters at the following sites:
Cnet has extensive reviews of various audio adapters. These include on-board audio adapters, audio adapters that plug in to the motherboard, and external audio adapters that are meant to augment or replace your existing sound card. Cnet offers both editor reviews and user reviews. This way you can get opinions from both the people who review gadgets for a living and people who have actually bought the item.
ZDNet also features gadget reviews, which include audio adapters. Like Cnet, the ZDNet editorial team write their own reviews of the products. Users can also post their own opinion, as well as a rating of the products being reviewed.
When you read reviews on audio adapters, here are a few things you should look out for.
Output. Anyone interested in buying audio adapters would most likely want an improvement over their current setup. Before buying an audio adapter, ask yourself what kind of features are you looking for. Do you need digital output, or will analog output be enough? Will you be needing surround sound? If so, how extensive do you want this surround output to be?
Support and compatibility. It’s always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s site first if a product supports your system, particularly your operating system. While most audio adapters are compatible with major operating systems like Windows, you need to know if it will work well with your version. Remember that some audio adapters may not yet be fully compatible with newer versions, like the recently-launched Windows 7.
Interface. The interface is another consideration you need to look into, especially if your computer has particular needs. Older computers would probably be using a PCI interface, while much older computers would only support ISA. Fortunately, most new computers come with PCI express support, and you will probably be able to find audio adapters compatible with this. If you need an extra audio adapter for your laptop, or if you are unsure what kind of interface your computer will support, the safest bet would be USB, since this interface is today considered a universal system, which all modern computers should support.
Rating. Apart from the technical aspects of the review, you should be mindful of the rating that users or professional reviewers give the product. See if they give it a good score, or not. And consider their subjective comments, especially if they have good or bad experiences with the device they have reviewed.
As with any gadget or electronic device, it’s advisable for you to check out online reviews of audio adapters. Being able to read reviews would help you make good decision on which brand or kind of audio adapter to buy, and whether this device would meet your expectations.