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Sound card recommendations..... Anyone have any suggestions??

phill

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A friend of mine is having some issues with his Asus D2X card that he's had for ages, so he's asking me to help post something up and find out an alternative :)

Trying to find a good quality sound card, long term driver support brand. I think also driver support sounds good as it mostly bypasses windows. Usual input and outputs really. But was looking at more pro cards for more solid driver support potentially. Currently have Xonar D2X but drivers have been lacking for years

Some possible options??

Internal

Creative
Sound Blaster AE-9 - Has ASIO
Sound Blaster AE-7 - Has ASIO
ESI MAYA44 eX
Rme HDSPe Pro
Lynx AES16e - Not convinced as they keep dropping OS support as MSFT do
Sonifex - Expensiev but rock solid apparently. Drivers don't really need updates
HT Omega - ECLARO
HT Omega Fenix

External

Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen

Can anyone suggest something that might work for him please? For use with Adobe and such like for his work, I've tried to find out some more information from him so I can help with his post :) Any help would be most gratefully appreciated and received!!
 
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I'd look for ASIO support, which makes it possible to bypass windows mixer. Other than that, how many inputs and outputs do you need? At least the external ones that you listed have 4 each. Microphone inputs too?

There are some other pretty good options in this price range, like the Steinberg UR22C and the MOTU M2. Those are 2-input+2-output but 4+4 versions exist too. I can't comment on driver quality and long term support, try to locate older sound cards in a similar price range by same brands and see if there's still any trace of support.

Edit: Hey, I see that ASIO4ALL project is still alive, I suggest you to take a look and see what hardware they support.
 

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I'd look for ASIO support, which makes it possible to bypass windows mixer.

Is there any point to that at all unless he's recording?
 

phill

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Message from friend -

I was really liking the asio angle to bypass windows. To be honest my setup D2X is the main sound card L&R outputs. This goes to a splitter box so i can switch between a pair of stereo M-Audio Bx5 studio monitors and then my sennheisser HD650 headphones.

Then i use the Zenith extreme motherboard supremeFX pcie sound board basically a bit better than onboard to connect a sennheisser headset for teams calls and such as a separate setup as sometimes i need to have dual use on the go and its far easier to have things setup in this way than keep changing things.

Would be nice to have an xlr input to connect my Rode NTG5 shotgun mic up but not essential.

So the main thing i mean the D2x is old now (i forgot how old it actually was). Think drivers were goos on win7. But support sort of ended about there as drivers classes as beta since.

I was always dubious of usb boards but seems like the way things have gone. Some of those makes i listed are fairly pricey but broadcast grade. A few of them have superb driver support and even after launch support things for years and years and dont abandon the end buyer once new models release. Obviously thr initial outlay is high cost. But would be nice to know that its a rock solid card. I do wonder if the creative ones are better and if you csn just run in asio mode. Unsure.but the pro ones damn they can be pricy! One company the cable you have to buy as a choice and he said its £200 just for the cable on top of the £700 sound card.

So unsure what thr best route to go is really. I know latency is super low on pcie and such but i guess usb c maybe a good one and low. Its a tough call to make. I did seea couple more externals like the M-Audio AIR 192x8 USB C MIDI Audio Interface.

That older pci M-audio sound card was meant to be legendary shame they stopped making internal boards.
 
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Do internal sound cards make sense any longer? Seems like they’re overpriced with little support and less bang for your back when compared to their USB counterparts, in addition to the internal noise and CPU IO… inconveniences, but I’m an amateur in audiophile land
 
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The advantage of USB DAC/AMPs in that you aren't required to install drivers. They just work

If you need something with ASIO the Topping EX5 is a good unit.

If you need a sound card specifically, the EVGA NU Audio (regular or pro version) is very well reviewed.

I can't speak on many of the products you listed as there is not much in the way of reviews. I used to have an HT omega card a long time ago and I don't remember it being particularly amazing. Ditto goes for the ASUS Xonar. I tossed that card out the instant I got the notorious random screeching that likely damaged my hearing. I will never buy another ASUS sound card again.

Typically I recommend checking out AudioScienceReviews and selecting a unit based on your needed input/outputs, budget, and desired audio quality. Units that aren't reviewed are hard to quantify beyond their physical specs.

Do internal sound cards make sense any longer? Seems like they’re overpriced with little support and less bang for your back when compared to their USB counterparts, in addition to the internal noise and CPU IO… inconveniences, but I’m an amateur in audiophile land

Typically you can get 7.1 audio cheaper in a soundcard than an external DAC. That's about the only advantage.

Some people will say latency is lower on soundcards but I've never seen any tests of it nor did I ever notice a difference between a soundcard and a DAC, even when using my 240 Hz monitor. The idea is that latency is lower because the sound card is connected directly to the PCIe bus but then again you have USB devices like mice that can obtain sub 1ms response times. If the latency difference is a fraction of a ms, no one is going to notice that. Mind you that's before you consider if the drivers of a sound card add any latency, which they may. For all we know the low overhead of a dac might mean it's actually faster.
 
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I upgraded from Essence ST Dlx. to Motu M4, and I can tell the difference in sound quality and "tone"/"color"/"vibrancy"/(?)... OK, hard to describe.
Let's call it better sounding to me, than my previous setup :D
(BTW : I got ATH-A900Z headphones, NO speakers).

From main issues I had after using M4 for around half a year now : Sensivity to memory (RAM) instability would be my top pick (on my X99 platform).
It's sound driver REALLY get's messed up when stuff isn't stable. Only changing sampling (buffer size), to any other value than selected usually resolves this (for some time).
^Never had any problems with Essence ST on that part (I blame USB drivers, or controllers or platform change that happened not long after I got it).
Works fine now, after I finalised my memory OC.

Second main issue would be USB drivers, and I'm talking mainboard ones (NOT DACs itself).
Windows 10 likes to mess around with Windows update and forcing subpar/generic USB 3.0 driver on my X99 board - making things not work correctly.
Goes for DACs, Keyboard/Mouse, or Pendrives - I always have to manually check (when issues show up), what driver OS is using for my USB ports because of it. I think this may be limited to older platforms only ?

Apart from all ^that :
Turn off switch is great to have (gets that screen to not illuminate my room at night).
Latest version of M2/M4 he will get is probably different than OG one tested by earlier reviewers (Motu changed some hardware inside some call it "2021" or "2022" versions).

I wanted XLR input for mic too (48V phantom power being required on some mics), and it works great (when driver isn't messing stuff arround).
I don't create music, or use music creation software to do other things - so can't tell you about that.
"Loopback" out feature is interesting to play around with (but I think most not cheapest DACs got it now, as it's "a software thing" ?).
2x TS 6.3" to 1x Minijack (f/m), and/or 2x TS to 2x Cinch (f/m) adapters are your friends :)

Overall, I'm happy with my Motu M4 (rating : "4/5" or "7/10").
 
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For all we know the low overhead of a dac might mean it's actually faster.
That’s what I was thinking of when I mentioned IO, especially if you’re not in a PCIe slot that’s not directly connected to the CPU?

IDK I used to buy Creative and HT cards, too, but find modest $100 DACs just sound better? Never tried the high end/production stuff, though, but it seems in the less than $250 range all you’re getting is post-processing with an internal card (maybe great for hxc gamers I guess).

Regarding 7.1, seems like you’re locked in to PC speakers (maybe I’m mistaken), which seem to also suffer the same problem when compared to their traditional counterparts. Is there any reason not to just get a receiver and common bookshelf speakers at that point?

Edit: thanks @agent_x007 and @Wirko, more for me to learn about :oops: sorry if this post is off-topic or just stupid lol
 
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Regarding latency, I wasn't aware it's still (potentially) bad in USB 3. Looking at this forum thread, it appears that it's quite high (but there can be exceptions).

So @phill , what would be an acceptable latency for the use case you're asking about?
 
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It's not exactly a recommendation, but...
Few years ago when I was searching for a sound card, the initial idea was a pcie card. I remember those were the thing back in 90's and 00's. As always prior to purchase decision, I did the forums research. The result was in short: not much choice as compared to the external ones, static electricity problems, blocking the airflow for the GPU (less important, myself excluded), outdated and broken drivers for newer OS (especially Win 10), overpriced for what they are and do. So i went for external, and that decision still makes me happy each time i hear and even look at it.
 
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Is there any point to that at all unless he's recording?
The mixer is made by the same company that somehow messed up copy/paste functions in Windows 11 (then apparently backported the mess to Windows 10). It's easy to assume they don't have a top class QA team for the Windows audio chain.
 
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The OP did not talk about DAW digital-audio-workstation or such workflows. Like recording, syncing, mixing, or MIDI control. There are no secondary sound sources or inputs. Therefore talking about latency is a misconception/distraction. The fact that the OP "might" direct connect a mic to a soundcard, and not through a pro-preamp with XLR input and mixer, is an indicator that there is no professional audio workflow here.

Therefore > no need to go "pro". Just get something basic. The MOTU M2 or M4 is TOTAL OVERKILL for what your needs are - but you will have fun owning it, having an easy to reach monitor/volume knob, and lots of whizzy lights. If you don't want a cluttered desk, then just get an PCIe soundcard that keeps everything neat and tidy and under the desk.

Do not get hung up on latency which is really only relevant if you are recording FROM DIFFERENT SOURCES, AND mixing AND monitoring at the same time.
 
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That’s what I was thinking of when I mentioned IO, especially if you’re not in a PCIe slot that’s not directly connected to the CPU?

IDK I used to buy Creative and HT cards, too, but find modest $100 DACs just sound better? Never tried the high end/production stuff, though, but it seems in the less than $250 range all you’re getting is post-processing with an internal card (maybe great for hxc gamers I guess).

Regarding 7.1, seems like you’re locked in to PC speakers (maybe I’m mistaken), which seem to also suffer the same problem when compared to their traditional counterparts. Is there any reason not to just get a receiver and common bookshelf speakers at that point?

Edit: thanks @agent_x007 and @Wirko, more for me to learn about :oops: sorry if this post is off-topic or just stupid lol

Yeah, that's also another variable to consider.

PCIe lanes can come from the chipset or CPU and USB ports can come from the chipet or CPU.

Now I really want to see a test done with a variety of different sound cards and external dacs testing latency under various conditions.

Correct in regards to a 7.1 setup. You'd need a separate receiver in order to use anything that isn't specifically designed as PC speakers.
 
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ChrisM

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Hey everyone phill posted for me originally but ive signed up to reply. So i know there is the asio project but i dont think its as good? As i think its emulated etc. My thinking behind asio was its a standard and not an interpretation and differnt to a companies way of making drivers for their own specific hardware i thought. Ie lesa issues over time and bloating with drivers.

Windows 10 is notorious in replacing what it thinks you need and i dont see windows 11 differing. Even though the external ones are usb i thought theres still drivers involved. I have hqd issues in the past with some usb bqsed items\hardware but i think that may have been by adding in usb 3 expansion cards

I did wonder with the usb side of things if they process much in the way of the audio off computer or are more geared up for just allowing extra input feeds. Ie i always imagined a pcie dedicated sound card in the way of a gpu dedicated to the task and more efficient at it less overhead for the cpu and other aspects. So on complicated projects it would help.

On complex projects ive had the time line in after effects cut out with an audio glitch and it not preview so going to avoid those sorts of things in the future with an upgrade.

It seems like from reading around if you buy cheap ish cards sub $200 for main stream the improvement over on-board is minimal.

I figure the lower latency the better even if your not always recording if you start processing sounds with effects and such and stacking them wouldnt it help still? Or is itisolated to external device inputs only?

Adobe audition is a digital audio workatation platform i use. Inputs minimal but it would be good to get the extra kit in for the rode and maybe a guitar down the line. So xlr would be a nice feature

I i had 7.1 years ago but very good stereo is mainatay now.

Its interesting as that last link to the fulla2 seems to use ess chips which the creative sound cards also do i think!

Some those cards at the start i located are serious coin. Broadcast and live production environment ready though.

That ESI Maya44 ex i think is meant to be good but still at a bit of a loss. Always appreciate more thoughts!

Thanks everyone!

So actaully, Inititally i said it was the SupremeFX pcie card add in. That was incorrect!

My motherboard states this for the built in one i use along side the Xonar D2X.. Which is making me now wonder.... What's interesting is on the creative website the AE-7 uses this chip which i think is the same as my motherboard.....- "ESS SABRE-class 9018"

************
Sonic Studio III
- Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback *5
- High quality120dBSNR stereo playback output113dBSNR recording input
- ESS®SABRE9018Q2C DAC/AMP
ROG SupremeFX8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220
- Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- Sonic Radar III
Audio Feature :
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
**************
 
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Can anyone suggest something that might work for him please? For use with Adobe and such like for his work, I've tried to find out some more information from him so I can help with his post :)
Any help would be most gratefully appreciated and received!!
For lower latency and mainly efficiency and driver support, there is nothing better than RME HDSPe AIO Pro.


BTW, to improve Windows DPC latency check this
 

ChrisM

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I also think i read the EVGA NU is actually a USB bus conversion via Pcie - So bit unsure on that..

Yea RME sound very efficient, rock solid on the driver front too. Just trying to get my head around the price ha!
 
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The D2X is still my favorite audio card. I have 8 of them in use in Win 7, 10 and 11 rigs. Here's a link to the UNi drivers which are vastly superior to the ones on the Asus website. There's also different install options for ASIO drivers and the C-Media display panel. UNi Xonar Drivers official page (maxedtech.com)
 

ChrisM

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The D2X is still my favorite audio card. I have 8 of them in use in Win 7, 10 and 11 rigs. Here's a link to the UNi drivers which are vastly superior to the ones on the Asus website. There's also different install options for ASIO drivers and the C-Media display panel. UNi Xonar Drivers official page (maxedtech.com)
Im sure i tried those drivers in the past and had some issues. So i think i may have reverted back. I mean when its fine the sound from the speakers and hd650's is really great. Your post is making me think i should explore it a bit more. And see if it was some sort of setting.

Looks like issues likley - mins x399

Xonar Essence STX II, Xonar D2X cards and other Xonar cards may not be compatible with certain Ryzen motherboards. Certain systems with B350, X370, B450, X470, and probably A320, X399 and X570 chipset motherboards may crash when trying to install the drivers or when changing various soundcard settings. More details, possible solutions and a list with compatibility reports here

Windows 10 compatibility might be an issue with future Windows 10 versions. At the moment the cards work fine for most owners, just a few experience system crashes or other issues. You can read more about Xonar and Windows 10 compatibility here.
The Xonar drivers are causing crashes with different programs and games (e.g. Skype, Corsair iCue, Apex Legends). The fix for this would be to install UNi Xonar drivers with "Low DPC Latency" or "C-Media Panel" configuration. Please note that while such a configuration is recommended in general, in some extremely rare circumstances that involve having certain drivers or software it could cause BSODs. So far, there is #1 report of such behavior.

If you want still want to buy an ASUS Xonar card or another CMI8788 audio chipset card, you should buy it second hand and use it with UNi Xonar drivers. If you are looking for an alternative card I recommend you check Creative's SoundBlasterX AE-5, AE-7 and AE-9 cards.


Just had another crash it feels like it was gpu bqsed however i heard the asus xonar dx2 cards relay click off at the same time which seems to be common when there is an issue.
 
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ChrisM

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So still thinking about this and mulling things over! So I can buy it for work so I do get a lot of savings by doing this on any option. The D2X was a 2008 card and dropped support I think around 2015 officially.

My thoughts are again consumer grade card? AE-9? AND if it needs repalcing in 3-4 years so be it? Or go all out ie RME and know that unless there was a hardware fail, it probably wont ever need replacing?

Sound Blaster AE-9 - Has ASIO - Says supports windows 11 already so may have some longevity with this? Also on offer currently £215 inc VAT

Rme HDSPe Pro - Rock solid long term support back to XP even.. ASIO £700 inc VAT and cables. WAY OTT I think for anything i'd ever do, but nice knowing long standing driver support, Germany made, solid reliable and a great reputation. I do wonder with this one as you can run every input and output at the same time and theres optical if extra inputs were ever needed an external breakout box maybe could be attached via optical?

ESI MAYA44 eX - Low ish cost. £130 ish inc VAT - Sounds good again for driver support. ASIO etc.

Any further thoughts?
 
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ChrisM

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I'm struggling to get my head around this. These external boxes, being so cheap compared to some of the pcie cards? and offering similar or great quality? My brain just feels mushed. Theres so many of these boxes out there. Literally thousands by hundreds of makes.

So the next train of thought is. Money no object within reason (not talking thousands etc). Pcie pro cards by the companies above. Or even some of them like M-Audio/RME do these external ones also for external box.

Again looking for absolute stability and quality is the main goal, over price.

Latmon/DPC latancy checker. Keeps flagging up Realtek HD Audio universal service, cmudaxp.sys - C-Media Audio WDM Driver, C-Media Inc and windows HD audio.

SO basically what is my best option. Coming around to external box as an option but my main goal is i just dont want any hassle or issues glitches or driver issues or literally anything. I just need stuff to work and work flawlessly. I used to mess around with PC's OC and tinkering and such years ago but i just don't have time now and i just need things to work with no issues.

So Would be cool to have a top 5 or 10 suggestions of any products and makes, internal or external or both etc.

Just feels a tough call to make with so many options.
 
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I understand your confusion. It is difficult to give a simple answer or recommendation based on your preferences. There are so many choices out there, and like most of the stuff in life, price isn't always a reflection of a quality. There are cheap DACs that are of decent quality, and there are overpriced DACs of mediocre quality. I'm talking about external sound interfaces, can't comment on PCIE, as I gave up on those at the start for the reasons I mentioned before.
What I can do is to give you a hint as a start, a few YT channels I kinda grow fond of:
Julian Krause;
Present Day Production;
Zeos Pantera

The latter two are more for fun, each on their own. Julian is the spreadsheet guy you need. ;)
 
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ChrisM

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I understand your confusion. It is difficult to give a simple answer or recommendation based on your preferences. There is so many choices out there, and like most of the stuff in life, price isn't always a reflection of a quality. There are cheap DACs that are of decent quality, and there are overpriced DACs of mediocre quality. I'm talking about external sound interfaces, can't comment on PCIE, as i gave up on those at the start for the reasons I mentioned before.
What I can do is to give you a hint as a start, a few YT channels I kinda grow fond of:
Julian Krause;
Present Day Production;
Zeos Pantera

The latter two are more for fun, each on their own. Julian is the spreadsheet guy you need. ;)
Yea i know what you mean. I just start to find it tedious ha. With GPU's couple makes really. Look at the most expensive and generally you have the performance there haha! Obviously sometimes the premium is alot for like 5-10% extra performance but it's relativly easy to work things out. Same with CPU's. But Audio is a totally different ball game.

And just to be clear, i'm after if external. A USB Audio Interface a DAC. not like just a breakout box etc? It's bascially a self contained sound card linked up via a USB cable.
 
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Motherboard MSI B450 Tomahawk Max & Gigabyte G1.Assassin 2
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Display(s) AOC 24G2U & Fujitsu P24W-6
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Software W10 LTSC 21H2
Yes, so many details to pay attention to, mostly features you need or don't need. Easy to slip into the wrong price bracket. :D There are reasons i got Audient iD14, and not iD4. Same internals, but quite different features. Although even the iD4 is overkill for my needs, I've chosen the step up because iD4 lack of these:
78-103816_l.jpg
Optical in, so i can add 8 more inputs if I ever need them. Extra pair of outputs, for extra pair of monitors. Separate volume control for speakers and headphones. Loopback and other mixing options.
And I've chosen iD line instead of EVO, as this one could break your foot if you drop it, and any interface from the EVO line would probably break itself. iD14 was almost double the price of iD4...
Audient drivers are solid, the app itself feel kinda laggy, but everything works as expected so far. The main concern were the drivers OFC, and I've read a lot of horror stories while researching. BTW I think I've read somewhere that the PreSonus interfaces (someone mentioned earlier) work out of the box (without drivers). Just make sure you have all the controls you need right on the interface itself. If that's your cup of tea. Some interfaces work great both in Linux and Windows, and most of them are Windows only. Take your time to figure what exactly you need and don't need, so you could save some money and nerves in the process.
 
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