Under a sound chip refers to an integrated circuit for sound output on computers, which has at least a D / A converter and an interface to the rest of the system.

The late 1970s, sound chips for arcade games were used for the first time, the most famous sound chip this time is likely to be the AY- 3-8912, which was also marketed later than YM2149. In home computer sound chips were the only way, music and sounds play as the technology of sampling allowed only unsatisfactory results at relatively high resource consumption on 8- bit systems. (To be found among others in the Mattel Intellivision, Amstrad CPC and Atari ST) In addition to the AY- 3-8912 is the SID name in the C64 as the most famous sound chip. More sonically interesting and still used today in the so-called Micro Music 8- bit sound chip found in the Nintendo Entertainment System ( 2A03 ), Super NES ( SPC700 ) and the Game Boy.

From the early 1990s sound chips for PCs on sound cards were introduced that were based on FM synthesis (Yamaha YM3812 and successor, better known as OPL ). Without sound chip the sound could only be made via the system speaker beep as ( monophonic square wave).

More modern sound chips can have a polyphonic sound synthesis, its own memory as ROM (eg sample ROM) or RAM ( to relieve the system memory) and its own processor to offload the CPU. This sound chip with signal processor is referred to as APU (Audio Processing Unit ).

In modern sound chips can distinguish different versions:

  • Onboard sound chip directly on the motherboard located and therefore cheap
  • Sound Card: Sound card with chip on other components for the subsequent expansion of the system
  • USB: external sound enhancements for systems that do not have their own expansion slots
  • FireWire: Sound enhancements for professional applications