Sound Cards, Optical and Floppy Drives

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Sound Cards

Making a choice on a sound card isn’t complicated, but it really depends on what your ears hear—and like. For gamers, there are pretty much two cards to choose from: Creative Audigy 2 and the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz (TBSC). To enrich the experience as much as possible, I recommend going with a 5.1 enabled sound card matched with a pair of 4.1 or 5.1 speakers.

You may ask, “What exactly is a 5.1 speaker system?” The answer is pretty simple. The ‘5’ stands for five satellite speakers and the ‘1’ stands for one subwoofer. Those five satellite speakers include a front-left, front-right, back-left, back-right, and a front-center. When gaming, having such a system is awesome because you can hear someone sneaking up on you and instantly know what direction they are coming from due to the ‘direction’ the sound is coming from.


Building an AMD Based Computer System - Systems 20

Creative Audigy 2 – the premiere gaming sound card on the market.

Professional audio cards provide a larger selection, and since I’m not an audiophile, I’ll let our resident audiophiles talk on high-end audio cards at the Audio Corner Forum. If you’re on a budget, look to onboard audio as it will provide basic audio functions with no added cost.


What type of speakers you use does have an effect on how your music and games sound. I’ll make the comparison between my Klipsch Promedia 4.1s and my grandma’s monitor integrated two speaker system. I can nearly tear a wall down and make the neighbor’s dog yelp all night with the Promedias before they begin to have distortion (you know, that terrible static that makes everything all wrong), but with my grandma’s speakers, if I turn them up much more than half of the maximum volume, they have a lot of distortion.

I realize that many of you do not want to spend in excess of $150 for a set of computer speakers. However, making a solid investment into a good set of 4.1 / 5.1 speakers will make your multimedia and gaming experience much better. As for sets of speakers, I recommend all Klipsch series except the newest GMX 5.1 set. The reason for not recommending them for computer use is mainly due to the fact that they were designed for consoles (PS2 / Xbox / GC). Logitech also makes great speaker solutions which are a bit less expensive than the Klipsch models. For a fairly cheap solution that still sounds good, look at Altec Lansing as they generally have solid products.

Optical Drives

Optical drives—better known as CDROMs / CDRWs / DVDROMs / DVD+/-RWs—allow you to enhance your computing experience by providing the ability to burn your own DVDs, store large amounts of data without using up valuable hard drive space, and turn around and watch DVDs on your computer. For me, I find it best to run two optical drives: One DVDROM and one CDRW. This is to allow me to copy discs directly CD to CD and also to allow me to watch DVDs.

CDROMs / CDRWs – What to look for

CDROMs are pretty simple. They cost very little and are able to read CDs. Most CDROMs don’t cost above $30 today, but CDROMs limit you to only reading CDs. For a very small hike in price, go with a CDRW instead.

When looking at CDRWs, the first thing that you look at is the Write/Rewrite/Read speeds. If a drive writes at 52x, it is a very fast drive and you’ll probably be able to write a full 700MB CD in under 3 minutes. Because optical drives are so cheap these days, I recommend going ahead and buying the fastest there is—from a reputable company of course. A list of companies that I find to be reputable in the CDRW business include: Liteon, Plextor, and TDK.


DVDROMs are similar in their existence to CDROMs, but they read DVDs and CDs. The main difference is that DVD+/-RW drives are quite a bit more expensive than normal DVDROMs. Because of this, and the cost of DVD media, most people still use CDRWs over DVD+/-RWs.

Writable DVD drives come in many standards, but it seems that two set of standards have prevailed and are the most compatible with DVD set-top boxes: DVD+R/W and DVD-R/W. Other standards exist such as DVD-RAM, but are not very compatible and are more expensive (yes, even more expensive). Because of the two prevailing standards, you can do one of two things. One, you can choose between the two and just go with what you buy OR two, you can look at what Pioneer, TDK, Sony and NEC have done. They have created drives that can write to DVD-R/W and DVD+R/W.

Floppy Drives

This couldn’t be any simpler. They cost about $10, and all you have to do is decide whether you want one or not. OEMs such as Apple and Dell no longer include floppy drives by default and have replaced them with USB pen / key drives. These drives are designed to fit on your keychain and hold from 8MB to 512MB of data. It’s the best alternative to a floppy drive.


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