If you want to record at home on your desk top computer there's something else you'll need on top of your mixer, headphones, mic and speakers you'll also need the right sound card.

Since the digitisation of audio and the birth of CDs in 1979, the sound card is now an essential tool in many home production studio setups.

In this article we're going to find out how to pick the perfect sound card for your desk top and how the right equipment and gear can help improve your singing and the finished product of your next up beat track.

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Singing and Using a Sound Card

What is a sound card and how do I use it?

How to record your vocals
The sound card enables you to get the best out of recording digitally on your desk top computer. (Source: Free-Photos)

Either an external or internal computer component, sound cards let you treat the recorded audio at output or input. Simply put, it will digitise your analogue audio signals. 

The three main types of sound cards include:

  • motherboard with integrated chip
  • internal
  • external

Thinking about your singing needs and which sound card is best for you is important before commit to a particular design.

Connecting an external sound card with Firewire is a good way to record if you're composing music. Let’s explore how you can choose a sound card for you desk top computer.

Learn about singing lessons with us here at Superprof.

Picking the Right Sound Card

How to Connect a Sound Card for Singing

There are two options when it comes to connecting your sound card to your computer to make a digital recording. Either USB or USB 3.0 for PC and Mac computers, something to keep in mind is that Mac computers require a Lightning Thunderbolt chord in order to connect with some sound cards.

There is also FireWire which is good option if you want a fast connection, however this is less common on desk top computers.

How to record digitially
Don't forget to double check your computer's connection ports before buying gear and accessories to record. (Source: smorazanm)

Sound Card Ports and Outputs

The microphones you have may influence which design of sound card you decide to buy, as you'll need at least one, or several, XLR ports if you want to record vocals for music production purposes.

What exactly is an XLR port?

If you're familiar with a regular audio jack then an XLR port won't look so foreign to you. Circular in shape with three holes, it has been designed to help produce a clean finished product.

Sound Card Inputs

If you want make a space to record vocals, you'll need to consider having more than one input to accommodate for instruments as well. For example if you've got someone accompanying you on acoustic or bass guitar you'll require at least two inputs. 

Keep in mind if you've got a full band behind you, instruments such as drums need a few mics and quite a few inputs, we'll cover more about this later on in the article.

For inputs in a home room setup to record you're probably going to have both regular jacks and XLR ports. If you have any digital sound makers you might also need a digital input. Don't forget you'll need an output for your headphones so you can hear yourself singing or playing.

Studio Monitor Output

Outputs, most commonly XLR ports and jacks, are also another factor which can influence your decision making, although it is handy to remember that there are good adapters out there which can be a quick fix to production issues. 

Browse through some of our fabulous Superprof singing tutors here. 

Why do I need a sound card?
The main role of a sound card is capture and record your singing. (Source: DayronV)

A sound card with good control over volumes, regular and SPDIF outputs is what you should keep your eye out for. It's far more simple than trying to control outputs with a computer mouse.

Something else to think about is monitoring, low-latency is great for digitising your analogue recordings in just about real time speeding up the editing process. There is an awful lot that goes into music production and engineering, so you'll the right equipment and gear.

The AD/DA Converter

The main part of a sound card converts your voice, the analogue signal, to a digital one. It is called to Analog to Digital/Digital to Analogue- or the AD/DA.

The quality of sound needs to be clean so the AD/DA can convert it as authentically as it is able to, not dissimilar to how a digital camera requires an analogue input before it can digitise an image.

When choosing a sound card think about how its design specs will suit the space in your house setup to record:

  • Sampling frequency

This is the amount of samples recorded per second, usually 44100 Hz will guarantee good quality.

  • The number of bits

You want the number of bits to be as close to the audio amplitude as possible, but you don't want to saturate the recording either. Commonly 16-bit for CD format and 24 -bit, or 32-bit float is recommended.

Singing and Sound Card Latency

Mentioned briefly before, latency refers to the time it takes the sounds from the input to be reproduced. Low latency is simple to manage, it can be adjusted with the size of the buffers making sounds under 10ms barely noticeable.

More often that not these days sound cards are external and compatible with a variety of systems.

Using Your Sound Card to Record

If you're keen on recording your vocals in a space setup you've made to record, then there are some specific ways you need to use your gear and sound card. 

Handy tips to record vocals
AD/DA converters help create digital audio signals. (Source: rafabendo)

If it's just you and your acoustic guitar, you can get buy with only having two inputs just fine, you can also record mono inputs or a solo instrument.

This won't be the case if you want to record multiple people singing with a variety of instruments, as we mentioned before the amount of inputs you need can be impacted by how many people you want to record.

Always remember to check the compatibility of gear with your current equipment before investing your coin to make sure it's a simple process during production.

Sound cards can cost you anywhere from $75 to $650, now that we've gone over some of the pros and cons, hopefully this has helped you think about which one would be best suited to your at home recording room setup.

Learn more about how to budget for your own home production studio.

What are the Best Designed Models Out There?

Now that we've covered the essentials of how to look for the perfect sound card we thought it'd be handy to include a brief list of some of the average prices you can expect to see when you start browsing:

  • Behringer UMC22 U-Phoria - $92
  • Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi HD - $170
  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 - $300
  • PreSonus Audio iTwo -$300
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Generation): PC and MAC compatible - $350

There's a lot of criteria to mull over when picking which one is the top choice for you. Hopefully this article has made the decision making process more simple and helped you figure out what accessories you need to build your music making and recording space in your own house!

Get singing!

If you really want to sing like a pro and take your songs to the next level, it could be a good idea to invest in some lessons with one of our experienced and talented music tutors here at Superprof.

There's a few different tuition options for you to consider as well depending on how much you want to spend, your experience and work schedule. One of our music and singing teachers may even be able to suggest their top sound card choice.

 

Face-to-face Tutorials

If you want to work individually with a tutor, private one on one lessons at their recording studio, or your home studio, would be the best way for you get the most for you money.

As the sole student you and your tutor can

are between just you and your tutor. Since you're the only student, the tutorials will be planned around you, what you want to learn, and how you like to learn. Of course, this bespoke service comes at a price and face-to-face tutorials tend to be the most costly per hour of tuition. That said, they're also the most cost-effective since every minute in a tutorial is spent teaching you how to sing.

Online tutorials are similar to face-to-face tutorials in that they're between a single tutor and a single student. However, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, you can be taught over the internet thanks to video conferencing software. However, since your tutor won't have to travel to you and can schedule more lessons each week, they can also charge more competitive rates.

Group tutorials tend to be the cheapest per hour because the tutor's time is being paid for by everyone in the class. Unlike the other two types of tutorials, the tutor won't be able to offer bespoke tuition as they have several students to keep happy. However, if you and a few friends all want to learn how to sing, you can share the cost of private tutorials between yourselves in group tutorials.

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Daniel

A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.