What Is an Audio Chipset?


A chipset refers to a complex set of components in an integrated circuit. ...an audio chipset would be the circuit board located on the sound card of your computer.

Author: Collins Okoth
Author: Collins Okoth



A chipset, in most cases, refers to a complex set of components in an integrated circuit. A chipset is also a data flow management system. The main purpose of a chipset in a computer is to manage the flow of data, sequentially between the memory, processor, and other computer peripherals. Chipsets are typically located on the motherboard and are responsible for the overall system performance of the computer.

Frequently people use the terms audio chipset and sound card interchangeably. However, these terms mean different things. When referring to an audio chipset, we specifically refer to the assembly of hardware that houses the circuit system of the entire sound card excluding other notable parts such as the audio input and output connectors. In simpler terms, the circuit boards found in almost all electronic devices are referred to as chipsets. This means an audio chipset would be the circuit board located on the sound card of your computer.

What Kind of Sound Card Do I Have? 

A sound card is an expansion card for producing an audible sound that can be heard through the computer’s internal or external speakers. When you purchase a new computer, it should be accompanied by all the necessary drivers. Drivers may require updates with the initial computer setup. New sound cards and motherboards should ship with all the necessary drivers. If you need to either upgrade your sound card or just want a change, you will need to know the manufacturer as well as the model and build of the device in order to successfully install or reinstall the required drivers for the new chip. 

To correctly retrieve the above information on a Windows 10 device, follow these steps:

  1. Press “Windows Key” and search for “Control Panel”. Click on it.
  2. Confirm that you are in the Control Panel by verifying the location in the navigation bar of Windows Explorer. If a location is listed after “Control Panel” you can click “Control Panel” in the navigation bar to get where you need to be.
  3. Select the “Systems and Security” link followed by “Administrative Tools”.  Click on the “System Information” Icon
  4. Click on the plus sign “+” adjacent to the “Components” header located in the System Summary Panel on the left side of the window. 
  5. Finally, select "sound device" and windows will give detailed information about your sound card and chipset. This information will contain the model and manufacturer's details.

What do we do with this information? This information is necessary for determining what drivers to install to make your sound card work.

What Are Audio Chipset Drivers?

Drivers are simply a collection of very tiny files that enables communication between one or several of a computer’s hardware devices like the keyboard and the computer’s operating system.

A computer requires several different drivers to ensure successful communication between all its hardware and its operating system. 

Now that we know what audio drivers are, let’s see how we can manually install them.

How Do I Install Audio Chipset Drivers?

If your computer does not have audio drivers pre-installed, it is necessary to install them manually. It is recommended to first uninstall the audio drivers present (if any), before attempting to install new or updated drivers.

To uninstall old audio chipset drivers: 

  1.  Press the Windows key and search for “Device Manager”.
  2. Click the arrow next to “Sound, Video and Game controllers” to display the list.
  3. Select on your audio driver chipset based on your manufacturer (e.g. C-Media, Realtek, Yamaha, etc.)
  4. Right-click on the device and click uninstall.
  5. Restart your PC.

Installing new drivers:

  1. Download the latest version of audio drivers from your audio chipset’s manufacturer's website.
  2. Determine if you are running a 64-bit or a 32-bit operating system to ensure you install the right drivers.
  3. Run the software and let it install all the drivers.
  4. Restart your computer when the process is complete.

Sound cards, like any other hardware devices, require the appropriate drivers to ensure the installed audio chipset works correctly. Lately, there have been options where the manufacturer offers downloadable software on its website to allow its customers to directly install specific drivers to their computers. This has been an important step since many manufactures (Notably, Intel, AMD, SoundBlaster, and Realtek) develop several audio chipsets with different capabilities and hence the need to make available driver solutions for each audio chipset in the market.

Is It Worth Getting an Extra Sound Card with an Advanced Audio Chipset?

Performance enhancement is the main reason one would choose to get a dedicated sound card with an advanced audio chipset. Gamers are some of the biggest fans of dedicated sound and video cards. This is because factory CPUs get overwhelmed when handling software and games that require strenuous processing work . Dedicated sound cards reduce CPU (Central Processing Unit) usage by offloading extra work from the built-in CPU and hence improves the overall framerates during a gaming session. Similarly, other computer users interested in advanced graphics processing purchase graphics cards for better experience without overworking the inbuilt CPU 

An extra sound card with an advanced audio chipset is a good idea for heavy computer users like gamers, producers and sound engineers, but it is not worth the money for regular PC users who are looking to listen to recent YouTube videos and MP3 files.

Conclusion

An audio chipset is a specific part of a sound card that contains the circuitry. The manufacturer of the audio chipset is often the same manufacturer of the entire sound card in your pc but not necessarily the manufacturer of the PC. 

In some computers, audio chipsets are built permanently on the motherboard. This is especially true for standard personal computers that are pre-built and require no specialized audio hardware. These on-board audio chipsets go a long way in reducing computer casing space in comparison to the separate sound cards.

The takeaway here is that audio chipsets are vital parts of a computer and every computer that processes sound has an audio chipset in its sound card or motherboard. However, not all computer users need to go the extra mile to get an advanced sound card since these sound cards are expensive and only meant for highly specialized sound users such as gamers and music producers.