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Old 12-14-2011, 03:03 PM   #13
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 1,875

A few years ago there was a web site devoted to sound card tests, very rigorous tests that looked at frequency reponse, noise levels, IH and IM distortion, etc. (I think it has gone inactive since then.) The results were very interesting. Many sound cards were, honestly, quite dog meat, suitable for speech on poor speakers but not music. But some, were very good even in the PC case environment. A lot depends on the board construction and what is installed in the adjacent slot. There was a reasonable coorelation between cost and quality within a given product line, generics and mass-market products did not do as well.

An external AD does not guarantee quality, but it can make it a bit easier to control the external electronic noise environment. And noise sources can be unpredictable; e.g., I recall a few years ago that some specific camcorder batteries induced additional noise into the DV audio stream in certain camcorders, and using certain types of A/C power adapters can also induce noise under certain conditions.

There is no substiture for having a good kit of audio adapters such as ground lifters, isolation transformers, etc.

Radio Shack sells a ground loop isolator (stereo isolation transformer with RCA connectors) in their auto audio product line that I've occasionally found helpful when dealing with consumer electronics. Catalog #: 270-054
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