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Internal vs External Sound Card for Music Production – Which is Better?

Internal vs External Sound Card for Music Production

Internal vs External Sound Card for Music Production: Getting the best sound of your producer setup can be a challenge for many producers. They may purchase different types of equipment when seeking the right sound-shaping capabilities. However, one of the most basic components that these setups require is a sound card.

Most modern computers come with built-in sound cards. However, plenty of audio component manufacturers also sells their own external sound cards. You may be wondering how these two sound card types fare against one another. So join us as we examine internal vs external sound card music production.

What are Internal and External Sound Cards?

The terms internal or external sound card would sound foreign to anyone that isn’t acquainted with digital music production. However, understanding the distinction between the two could save you a lot of trouble when you are creating your producer setup.

What is an Internal Sound Card?

A sound card is an electronic component that handles audio input and output signals for your computer. Any audio that is played back or recorded generally goes through the sound card.

All computers in the 21st century come with built-in sound cards. These are typically referred to as “internal” sound cards.

What is an External Sound Card?

An “external” sound card is one that does not come with your computer. These sound cards are typically sold separately on the market and are designed to provide superior performance compared to internal sound cards.

Most external sound cards aren’t generally referred to as “external” sound cards. Instead, they are called audio interfaces. These devices perform the same functions as a sound card but are packaged into a sturdy box-like housing with different controls.

Comparing Internal and External Sound Cards

So how do internal sound cards fare against external ones? We have compared the two in different areas below.

Internal vs External Sound Card for Music Production

Latency

Latency refers to the time delay between your hardware equipment and software reading a sound signal, processing it, and playing it back. Music producers may notice a large latency delay when using their stock internal sound card. This is because these devices generally weren’t designed to handle heavy-duty applications such as MIDI instruments.

External sound cards in audio interfaces generally have low latency, meaning they are likely to have a very short delay time in processing MIDI signals. This makes external sound cards a good choice for producers who intend to use MIDI devices during recording and live performances.

Noise Floor

Basic internal sound cards are known to have a relatively high noise floor. Noise floor refers to the background noise detected in recordings. This noise is noticeable when you turn the volume high on your computer, even when there is no audio signal playing. This high noise floor may be due to the card itself or its placement alongside other electrical components inside your computer.

External sound cards are usually made with higher quality components and are designed to have low noise floors. These sound cards are also shielded from the electrical interference from other devices thanks to their external housing.

Connection Options

The average audio interface also offers a wider range of connectivity options compared to stock internal sound cards. Most audio interfaces allow you to plug in a microphone along with one or two instruments simultaneously.

Internal sound cards fall short in this area because they allow you to plug in only one input at a time. This can feel limiting in certain recording or performance settings.

Should I Buy an External Sound Card?

External sound cards or audio interfaces are definitely the way to go if you value latency, low noise floor, and connectivity options. However, these devices can be relatively expensive. This is especially true when you consider you won’t need to make any purchases if your computer comes with an internal sound card.

So consider reviewing the above guide before taking the plunge and investing in an external sound card for your home studio.