Which higher end sound card for linux

Finding some info on this subject is proving difficult and I would be interested in other peoples experiences. The only card that does seem to have direct support is the m-audio 2496, alsa tools will work with that as it has the ice 24bit 96khz chip set. It’s rather old and dated now and fits into a PCI slot. Nothing wrong with the audio of this but the PCI aspect would be a problem for many people.

Linux.com reckons any usb sound card providing it used standard usb drivers. Not many do or suggest using a none windows more direct faster driver. Lots of these at the mid price level don’t give anything like a reasonable specification for the sound they produce either…

Alsa firmware is available for some cards but there is no indication of what this does?

The sort of thing I am looking for is a virtually flat frequency response from 20 - 20kz and very low distortion etc. Cards like this will generally have phono sockets. A mic input would be nice as well.

The esi Juli@ is pretty good but pci and I am not happy with the speakers thumping when the PC is turned off. It’s more like a very loud crack really. Some sources reckon that this wont work on Linux but I can assure you it does. The ice7124 chip driver was loaded automatically.

I understand there is some support for the esi maya but info is scant and also maybe some of Asus Xonar 2.0 audio cards. The later one is a mite expensive really.

There is also a slight possibility that I would want a midi interface at some point.

Any help?? Most of the readily available info is out of date.


In general I recommend a Creative Labs X-Fi sound card. If it does not say X-Fi, then its not. I really like the sound card SB1270, a Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD. It supports optical jack out in and out (Dual purpose jacks that can only be used one way, AC3, DTS audio) as well as stereo phono in and out and headphone out. It works with openSUSE, KDE and VLC to name a few and Windows anything, of course.

The card uses a pci-e motherboard slot and in general, I am not a fan of USB sound devices. For PCI, you can still buy Audigy 2 sound cards I think on the internet.

Thank You,

Thanks James. The test reviews that actually take measurements suggest that this card is very similar in performance to the Xonar stereo cards. That level of performance seems to be hard to beat. I will bear it in mind. My main dissatisfaction with the ESI Juli@ is the BANG when I power down the PC. It’s more of a less worrying crack if I put it into sleep mode. I would be very interested in knowing of any cards that don’t do that. It isn’t a problem using on board intel sound. I have separate hdmi sound via the video card. Not used yet so pass. Speakers turn themselves off these days. So if I changed to the SoundBlaster card would I still have that problem?

The other aspect is that one “mixer” does offer significant control of theJuli@


This is the gamble when buying a card. I have seen indications that the Xonar and ESI Maya may offer similar controls. On the other hand some one with a Xonar was pleased that the sample rate could be changed. There doesn’t seem to be any up to date control info on any card.

Thanks for your blog James. I can now sort out the sound source order. KDE seems to be able to do it but forgets about things down below it. I had hopes for the Gnome volume control. Much better than the KDE one but controls as above seem to be missing.

If anyone is thinking about going into this area they should note that audio processing that may be built into the card wont be available in Linux so not much point in paying for it. This has always surprised me. No one seems to have reverse engineered any of them. This is why I wondered what the alsa firmware was for and still do. Maybe some have been reverse engineered.

Cards like those mentioned need hi quality speakers as well otherwise there is likely to be little noticeable difference. Chasing after latest higher sampling rates has little point as well. :)I recently got fed up of noticing that bass often sounded like it was coming out of the subwoofer under the table. It was so the speakers are now rather large. OTT really.


Well consider I own two of the SB1270 cards and both work with openSUSE and Windows like a champ. There is the guess and then there is the know, when buying hardware that works with Linux.

Here is the ALSA mixer on the card I suggest:


The Package Picture:
It comes with two special long throw Optical cables, but I found you can buy an adapter that fits on a normal Optical cable and work if you don’t want to run the new cables it comes with. I have this card on my main openSUSE PC and on my HTPC and in general, I buy a Creative X-Fi card if I can find it.

Thank You,

I think what I need is the EMU-E-MU 1212M PCIe. The spec mentions speaker pop protection. The Alsa sound card matrix mentions it as supported. It reckons that the x-fi titanium doesn’t work but as it does for you hopefully both cards will be well supported now.

The E-MU cards spec is much the same as the X-FI range but like the Juli@ it’s purely a stereo card. That’s all I want for my main PC.

Finding one in the UK looks like it will be difficult though. There is a cheaper version with 2 plugs plus break out leads available but it mentions -10dB on the frequency response. Some how I think that is a printing mistake but putting all on one card in this case makes other things slightly worse.