As discussed in the Basic Technology section, sound cards use chipsets to do their things. These chipsets are similar to motherboard or video card chipsets in that a company (such as OPTi or IBM) produces a chipset which they may use in their own products or which other companies may use in theirs. For instance, IBM, Spectrum, miro, Proline-Tesla, Dynalink, and others all sell sound cards based upon the IBM Mwave chip. Some of these boards are based upon a relatively unchanged "reference" design, while others may be more customized.
In some cases, a sound board is strongly associated with the chipset(s) it uses. This is the case, for instance, with most Mwave-based boards. In other cases, the manufacturer may try to hide the chipset(s) used, or may utilize a heavily modified design or a custom chipset. This section includes information on several chipsets in common use today. Boards based upon these chipsets may or may not be able to use "generic" drivers for the chipset. If you know you have a board using a particular chipset, you may want to try drivers for it, if they exist (but see the section on driver installation first).