There are two major pieces of computer hardware you need in order to have a true multimedia system. One is a sound board and the other is a CD ROM drive. Since these items have been on the market for quite awhile, there are many new, refurbished and even close-out products available.
Installing a sound card and a CD ROM drive into most systems generally requires two 16-bit ISA slots on your motherboard and one 5 1/4" half-height drive bay. You can save these slots and a drive bay by using hardware products which only need a parallel port or PCMCIA slot.
Some sound boards have a built-in CD ROM drive connector and these boards can help save the slot needed for the CD ROM interface card. Be very sure that this connector is compatible with your CD ROM drive and interface software.
Besides choosing a sound board with the best configuration for your system with the appropriate input and output connectors, there are several other important features that your sound card must have. These are high quality stereo wave file record and playback, a built-in MIDI synthesizer and sound board compatibility. If you have access to a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI musical instrument, you might want a board with a MIDI In/Out port.
High quality record and playback depends on your needs and how much you want to spend. While most all sound boards can play and record sound samples at 10K samples per second, a few boards can play and record at CD quality (16 bit samples, 44.1K times per second). Most cards playback and record somewhere in between these two extremes and most playback at a better fidelity than they can record.
A built-in MIDI synthesizer allows you to play MIDI music files through your speakers. Many commercial games and educational programs use MIDI playback for music.
You need to have Sound Blaster or possibly AdLib compatibility as most commercial programs which use sound support this standard. Although you can use non-standard boards, be sure that the applications you want to use support your sound card.
With a sound card you can playback music and voices with excellent quality and in an upcoming issue, I will discuss the important features of CD ROM drives.
© 1994 Rick Smith All rights reserved.