The most important standard for evaluating a computer sound card and speakers is to try before you buy. Ultimately, what sounds best you, and what you can afford, should determine what components you purchase. That said, there are a few technical specifications that you should look for when buying a sound system for your computer. First off, most computers include a sound card and speakers already, so you may only need to upgrade if you plan on listening to music compact disks on your computer, watching DVD movies, or playing games. If so, look for a sound card that at least supports Microsoft's DirectSound3D® audio format. When it comes to speakers, consider either two-channel or four-channel speaker set-ups. A two-channel system has two satellite speakers and a subwoofer for bass sounds, while a four-channel system uses four satellite speakers and a subwoofer. Most sound cards sound best with a two-channel system, but some sound card makers manufacture cards that support four-channel audio. Prices can vary greatly when it comes to sound cards, a little less so with speakers. Sound cards can cost as little as $30 or more than $1,000 for professional-quality cards. Speakers can range up to and above $100 .
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