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Audio Processor by Mind Map: Audio Processor
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Audio Processor

1) Convert analog signals to digital 2) Convert digital signals to analog 3) Contral all audio signals and pass them to the desired destination 4) Connected to motherboard and to all input/output ports 5) Processors with dedicated memory and chips take the load off CPU and system memory

output from the processor to

- audible sounds - recording to a storage medium - transference to a digital input

Digital Out

Analog Out

sound or signal source input to the audio processor

- the sound or signal source

Digital In

Analog In

Types of Audio Processors


- onboard aodio processors are integrated into the motherboard - typically they have the lowest performance and sound quality - onboard audio processors generally utilize system memory and main CPU though some newer ones have dedicated memory and a processing chip - in/out jacks are typically limited to mic-in, line-in and stereo out (one on the back panel and usually one on the front panel for convienence)

Sound Card

- sound cards have dedicated memory and processing chips and offer greater performance and sound quality - mid to high quality cards offer additional ports for connecting a wider variety and number of connections to other audio equipment such as 1/4" microphone jacks, electronic instruments, MIDI and connections to other audio production devices


- external audio processors generally connect to the computer via USB or Firewire - designed for audiophiles, hobbyists and professional recording,  they offer the greatest performance and quality as well as number and type of ports and connections - external processors range from small units with a only a few ports to full consoles for professional recording

Deciding What To Get

Glossary & Technical Specs

Buyer's Guide


Wilson, t. V. (n.d.). How Sound Cards Work. In How Stuff Works. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from How Do Microphones Work?. (n.d.). In Media Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Computer Audio Frequently Asked Questions. (n.d.). In Web Developers Journal. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Microphone Impedance. (n.d.). In Media Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Sound Card. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from List of Codecs. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Digital Signal Processing. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Products. (n.d.). In Presonus. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Products. (n.d.). In RME. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from

About Computer Audio Processing & Hardware

Computer Audio Processing The job of audio processing hardware and software is to translate analog signals into digital signals as well as the opposite, digital signal into analog signals. When you speak into your computer microphone the sound waves are transformed into digital signal which may then be sent across the Internet and received by another computer. The receiving computer will translate this digital signal into an analog signal that a speaker can reproduce into a sound wave you can hear. Without all three components, microphone, audio processing hardware and speakers, computers and other modern audio devices such as mp3 players could not function. Most commonly, the average user depends only upon digital to analog conversion, listening to music or videos. If the user utilizes a microphone then, analog to digital conversion takes place. However, for the person who only listens to audio, at some point there was analog to digital conversion during the recording and production phase. An exception where analog to digital conversion is not needed is the production of music/audio created from digital sources such as synthesizers. Audio Hardware Audio Processing: Devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks and notebooks have audio capabilities built right in to the motherboard. This type of hardware produces the lowest sound quality and uses the main CPU and memory to do all the processing. Advanced motherboard audio hardware on most personal computers may include dedicated memory and and processing chips to take the load off of the CPU and system memory. It is also possible to add dedicated audio cards in an open PCI slot in the same way it was done before audio processing was added to the motherboard. Users most likely to upgrade their audio hardware are those who wish to have a better sound quality, perhaps connecting the computer to a separate sound system for the best listening experience. There are also external audio processing units that connect to the computer via either USB or Firewire. These units are mostly used by musicians, recording hobbyists and professionals and include a wider range and number of input/output ports for connecting musical instruments, microphones and other audio devices. This type of hardware generally tends to cost the most and produce the best sound quality. If your computing device has any kind of input/output ports, then these ports are connected to either the motherboard directly or to the sound processing hardware whether internal or external.

Computer Audio Processing History

Computer audio began with the addition of a small speaker in early PCs to indicate error messages in the boot process that might occur before any video subsystems were loaded. From there developers found they could create simple music using this speaker. What began as a simple beep has now evolved into the capabilities of using computer audio for anything from computer telephony to full scale professional audio recording and production.

Primer: Analog vs. Digital

Analog and Digital Audio Sound and audio today can be classified as either analog or digital. Analog sound is the actual sound waves that are produced by vibration such as your voice, the sound of feet rustling through a pile of leaves or the sound that comes out of a speaker. Digital audio is the form that audio is stored on computers or other current storage medium.

Input & Output

Input/Output: Unless microphones and speakers are built into your device, you will need to connect them and other audio devices through some kind of input/output ports. Portable devices rarely have anything other than a stereo out that can be connected to headphones or speakers. The most common ports on PCs are a stereo out, microphone in and line in (for use with musical instruments and other audio devices) and are usually located in the back of the unit with the exception of an additional stereo out in the front for ease of use with headphones. These ports are usually for ⅛ inch jacks. For most users, these three ports are enough in addition to the ability to connect speakers, headphones and microphones via USB. Those wanting advanced sound/speaker capabilities need to make sure the computer they buy has either built in support or they need to purchase an additional sound card with the appropriate out ports. Audio hobbyists and professionals have a greater demand for different types of input which is why they may prefer to use external processing hardware where size is not as important as with a PCI card. The external hardware will generally accept ¼ inch jacks in addition to other standard jack types in the audio trade. Higher end external processors have input / output for both digital and analog signals.


Analog Source

Analog sound waves are captured by a microphone and sent to audio production equipment.