Selecting a PCI Multimedia Device
Whenever you use your computer to play audio of any kind, you are using a
multimedia device. Some computers have these devices built into the motherboard,
but they usually offer limited connections - usually a speaker output, a
microphone input and a line input. While this is adequate for basic sound
recording and playback, more extensive requirements require the use of a PCI
Most motherboards have several PCI slots allowing you to add extra cards for
video, sound, modems, and other special needs. A PCI multimedia device fits into
one of these slots, and since there is a limited number (usually four or five)
you need to assess how many slots you are likely to need when buying a computer.
A typical PCI multimedia device will add digital audio outputs and inputs to
your computer. This allows you to directly connect CD players and DVD players
which have digital connections. When you transfer data digitally, there is no
loss of information, resulting in an exact copy of the original.
Digital outputs also give a much cleaner sound than traditional analog outputs,
although some would argue that digital sound is harsher than analog sound. The
point is moot, though, when talking about a PCI multimedia device, since all
data stored in the computer is digital.
You can use a PCI multimedia device to drive a surround sound home cinema
system. Many PCI devices have 5.1 or even 7.1 connections allowing you to use
your computer as the heart of a surround sound system.
Musicians can use a PCI multimedia device for listening to and composing MIDI
music. MIDI can be combined with audio allowing the computer to be used as a
recording studio. The PCI device may have a built-in MIDI sound module or MIDI
jacks to connect to external equipment.
A PCI multimedia device can greatly extend the way you use a computer. The
computer can become an entertainment center, playing back audio and video. The
signals can be fed to your TV set and sound system with everything being
controlled by computer software.
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