Choosing the Sound Card

As we mentioned, the biggest vilain of the vinyl-to-CD process is noise. So we want to explain you how to correctly choose the components involved in the process in order to get the lowest noise level possible. We’ll start talking about the sound card, which you may already have in your PC, specially nowadays that almost all computers come with sound card embedded on the motherboard.

Just having a sound card isn’t enough. You’ll need to know how much noise it produces and maybe you’ll need to install a better sound card in your system to get better results.

For you to have a better idea of this matter, old ISA soundboards usually have a signal-to-noise ratio of 80 dB. The simplest PCI sound cards (including on-board sound cards) usually have a signal-to-noise ratio of 90 dB. SNR from professional sound cards start at 98 dB.

So we recommend you to use a sound card with at least 90 dB. If you have a PCI sound card, it will do. As for on-board audio, it will depend on the chip used, we’ll talk more about this below. If you have an old ISA sound card, you will need to replace it. But honestly, it is better if you could get a sound card with a SNR of at least 95 dB for better results. Sound Blaster Live!, for instance, has a SNR of 96 dB.

But where you can get this information? On the sound card specs page. It can be at its manual, at its manufacturer website or better still at the sound chip manufacturer website. If your sound card in embedded on your motherboard, you can check our tutorial called Understand On-Board Audio Features, there you will find an extensive table with the signal-to-noise ratio of the most common chips used on on-board audio solutions. As you can see on this table, there are some on-board audio chips that have a SNR as high as 100 dB, which is terrific! But pay attention because there are on-board audio chips with a SNR as low as 70 dB which is terrible and you will have a lot of white noise on your recordings. So, the on-board audio quality depends on the chip used.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.