For a personal computer, sound is not as important as it is for a home entertainment system. Computer operators do word processing, create spreadsheets, answer emails, or shop on-line without needing speakers. Home entertainment systems, on the other hand, rarely operate without sound. Because high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) was originally developed by adding sound to computer video technology, computer video cards need upgrades to add sound to the HDMI.
HDMI Video Cards
The video card in a computer determines the output format. Before HDMI, the cards connected to monitors using digital video interface (DVI). When computer manufacturers changed the DVI ports on video cards to HDMI, they only had to relocate the video wiring to the correct pins. The technology was the same. High-quality digital sound isn't essential to many computer operations, so while manufacturers developed audio options for the cards, they only provide them in computers on request. If you want to add audio to your computer's HDMI, you need to change the video card.
The audio cards in most computers route analog sound to speaker or headphone jacks. An HDMI video card with an audio option puts out digital audio. With a wide range of video cards on the market ranging from less than $100 up to $3,500 or more, those with HDMI sound options may require inputs your present audio card can't provide. So adding sound to your HDMI port may entail changing your audio card as well. If you route audio to your video card, you may need to remove the connection to your speakers or headphone jack.
If you bought a computer with a DVD player and an HDMI port, you may have believed you would not need a new external DVD player for your home entertainment system. But buying a new external DVD player that would take advantage of the HDMI features may be the best choice. Factors to consider include: -- A computer DVD is intended primarily for loading programs and storing information to discs. -- The sound quality of a computer DVD is generally not as good as that from DVD players built for home entertainment systems. -- Adding an HDMI option to your computer may be difficult and costly.
HDMI Audio Uses
Other than potentially sending audio from a computer's DVD player to a home entertainment system, computer operations that would need high-quality digital HDMI audio instead of simple analog speakers or headphones are limited. An operator editing or creating a video or animated feature with music or sound effects might want to hear the enhanced sound while watching the video to see if it achieves the desired result. But in most cases it's a personal choice rather than a need. If you really have to have it and can stand the expense and hassle, go for it.