Audio is sound within the acoustic range available to humans. An audio frequency (AF) is an electrical alternating current within the 20 to 20,000 hertz (cycles per second) range that can be used to produce acoustic sound. In computers, audio is the sound system that comes with or can be added to a computer. An audio card contains a special built-in processor and memory for processing audio files and sending them to speakers in the computer. An audio file is a record of captured sound that can be played back. Sound is a sequence of naturally analog signals that are converted to digital signals by the audio card, using a microchip called an analog-to-digital converter (ADC). When sound is played, the digital signals are sent to the speakers where they are converted back to analog signals that generate varied sound.
Audio files are usually compressed for storage or faster transmission. Audio files can be sent in short stand-alone segments - for example, as files in the Wave file format. In order for users to receive sound in real-time for a multimedia effect, listening to music, or in order to take part in an audio or video conference, sound must be delivered as streaming sound. More advanced audio cards support wavetable, or precaptured tables of sound. The most popular audio file format today is MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3).