Sound cards as a Video Editing PC component are often glossed over in comparison to GPU power, CPU speed, or storage space. However, sound quality does affect the user experience and is dependent upon a variety of factors. Therefore, it is important to know whether or not your PC should have a sound card or not. Often, the answer to the question “Do I need a soundcard?” will be determined based on the type of work you do, your budget, and the other external hardware (such as headphones) you use with your PC. By asking yourself the following three questions, you can determine if having a soundcard is necessary for you.
Depending on what type of work you will be doing, your PC may or may not need a soundcard. Tasks that depend on high quality audio, such as music video production or audio production, will likely benefit from a discrete soundcard. If you perform tasks related to these types of work, a soundcard and its accompanying software will allow you customize options like EQ Settings, Surround Sound, and Audio Quality. Additionally, soundcards often have more audio ports such as line in/out, microphone in, and ports optimized for 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound speaker setups. This allows you to use high quality equipment in conjunction with your soundcard and PC. Generally, high quality sound cards cost anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars.
The answer to this question is very important. As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, it is vital to know which components of a Video Editing PC most significantly impact performance. In most cases, it would be unwise to dedicate more of your budget to a soundcard while ignoring other components such as your processor, storage, or RAM. Therefore, these components should be given priority over a soundcard unless you are content with performance hits in other areas. A good rule to follow is that a soundcard should not comprise more than 10-20% of the overall cost of a PC.
While soundcards have some added benefits, there are other hardware options that have perhaps a larger impact on overall sound quality in a PC. Onboard sound, that is sound that comes built-in with a motherboard, has made great strides in the past few years. Most motherboards have hardware that allows for high quality audio without the addition of a discrete soundcard. In fact, most video editing enthusiasts would have a hard time detecting any differences in the audio output of a discrete soundcard and a motherboard with built in sound. It is a good bet that other components such as external speakers or low impedance headphones would make more of a noticeable difference than a soundcard. Chances are high that a set of $300 headphones or external speakers would be better worth your hard earned cash than an equivalently priced soundcard.
Whether or not you need a soundcard depends on a variety of factors. While sound quality affects the user experience, it is important to ask the proper questions to determine whether or not a soundcard is right for you. Asking yourself what types of work you will be doing with your PC, what your budget is, and what other hardware you will be using is important. While there is no universal solution, the answer to these questions will give you a better understanding of your purpose and whether or not you need a soundcard for Video Editing.