Best PCI Audio Interface

Best PCI Audio Interface

Building a audio production engineering PC? Surely you’ve opted for plenty of fast RAM and a powerful multicore processor. So in this buying guide we’ll focus on selecting the best PCI audio interface you get buy for the money. 

Quick Answer: Our top choice in this list is the Lynx AES16e AES/EBU PCI, due to its fair price, pro-grade quality, and popularity.

However, there are many other choices in this list that may fit your particular situation. So do take the time to check out the rest of this list to understand which is best for you.

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Top 8 PCI audio interface

  1. Lynx AES16e AES/EBU PCI
  2. RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 32-channel PCI
  3. RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 52-channel PCI
  4. RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe
  5. Lynx E44 PCI
  6. Lynx E22 PCI
  7. Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante
  8. RME HDSPe AIO Pro Multi-format PCI

Best PCI audio interface Reviews

Lynx AES16e AES/EBU PCI

Lynx AES16e AES/EBU PCI

Pros
  • High-quality audio and engineering
  • Variety of features
  • 192 kHz
Cons
  • Unusual choice of connectors
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

Lynx AES16e is a premium multi-channel interface, with professional-level sample rates, that provides low-level latencies, and reduces the load on the CPU. This audio interface also provides its own digital mixer that has 32 digital channels with 16 outputs.

Best features and specs

Lynx AES16e exclusive SincroLog technology gives you an exceptional jitter tolerance across all of the inputs. This technology also provides a very clean and stable clock and can be used as an accurate word clock for any other studio device.

User impressions

Users say that Lynx AES16e is really easy to install and has excellent sound quality. Some users add that using this card allowed them to connect with more professional converters. Also, this card is well-shielded, so it doesn’t pick up any interference from any other electronic devices around.

What we think

We were very impressed with the Lynx AES16e patch-bay style digital mixer. It’s a highly intuitive and very stable piece of software that would leave even the pickiest audio engineers satisfied.

Bottomline

Lynx AES16e is a great choice for someone who is looking for a professional-grade PCIe audio interface for a very fair price. Although note that you’ll need some time to figure out all of the internal buses.

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 32-channel PCI

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 32-channel PCI

Pros
  • 192 kHz
  • Totalmix software for zero-latency monitoring
  • 16 channels
Cons
  • Requires reading a manual several times
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 is a very versatile PCI audio interface with converters that offers you more than a 110 dB signal ratio and the ability to make all inputs and outputs simultaneously operational.

Best features and specs

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 has a stereo RCA input and output, MIDI connector, ADAT, and SPDIF inputs and outputs. This audio interface also supports additional audio expansion boards from RME. Its TotalMix software offers you a mixer with 512 channels and buffer sizes of up to 1.5 ms.

User impressions

Users like RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 for being a trustworthy and reliable unit that works without problems. Also, this audio card is very simple to set up and use and it performs great. Users say that they value the number of inputs and outputs and other useful features.

What we think

What’s good about RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 is that its ASIO zero CPU load technology eliminates CPU load completely even when all of the 42 channels are used. Which means you’ll have a perfect opportunity to save a bit of cash by purchasing a less powerful CPU.

Bottomline

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9632 is a great choice for someone who is looking for an extremely versatile audio interface that is capable of accommodating every possible audio engineering need. And all of its features are available for a very competitive price.

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 52-channel PCI

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 52-channel PCI

Pros
  • 28 channels
  • 96 kHz
  • Lots of features
Cons
  • Doesn’t have a headphone output
  • Weak support of macOS
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 is a 52 channel audio interface that supports expansion boards and has 2 separate internal ADAT inputs and outputs, which allows you to create 16 additional analog inputs and 16 analog outputs.

Best features and specs

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 has unique to RME 3 ADAT digital inputs and outputs, 1 SPDIF input and output, and 2 separate MIDI inputs and outputs with 32 MIDI channels. All of the possible connections sum up to 28 inputs and 28 outputs.

User impressions

Users like RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 for being made with great attention to detail and providing rock-solid performance. Also, it has zero latency and it requires lower CPU usage than the other products in its category.

What we think

If you’re not familiar with PCI expansion technology, RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 would be a perfect place to start. It gives you exceptional performance at a very budget-friendly price. That being said, for all of the iOS users, we recommend waiting for software updates.

Bottomline

RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a professional audio interface that delivers exceptional sound quality and great variety when it comes to connectivity for a very fair price.

RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe

RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe

Pros
  • 36 channels
  • 192 kHz
  • Dual PCI card
Cons
  • Isn’t exactly budget-friendly
  • Doesn’t have any I/O port indications
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe is a professional PCI audio interface that offers you 46 inputs and outputs that can be used simultaneously, TotalMix software with the 42-bit external resolution, and 9522 channel mixer.

Best features and specs

RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe offers you 2 separate MIDI inputs and outputs and both SPDIF and XLR connectors that could be used simultaneously because recording and playback devices are separated in the form of 2 different audio devices connected by an expansion cord.

User impressions

Users say that RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe has helped them greatly to upgrade their pc built and home studio setup. It’s a stable and mighty audio interface with lots of converters of the highest quality. The only thing that some users wanted to add is the markings on I/O ports.

What we think

We believe that you should definitely check RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe out, but whether to purchase it or not, you should decide based on how serious you are about PCI cards in general.  For most people, USB interfaces are more than enough, so ask yourself, are you willing to pay extra for additional precision?

Bottomline

RME HDSPe RayDAT PCIe is a great choice for someone who is looking for a high-grade professional interface that gives you the possibility of expansion, an extremely clean clock, and exceptionally precise calculations.

Lynx E44 PCI

Lynx E44 PCI

Pros
  • 192 kHz
  • 4 analog and 4 digital channels
  • Versatile
  • Low latency
Cons
  • Pricey
  • No cables included
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

Lynx E44 is an evolution of acclaimed Lynx ONE and Lynx TWO sound cards with updated performance numbers and far better conversion quality. It offers you very low noise and distortion and its circuitry is well protected from any external noise.

Best features and specs

Lynx E44 offers you 4 separate analog and digital input and output channels, SPDIF, a high-quality sample clock generator, and professional-level sample rates. This audio interface is also Thunderbolt compatible and has full support for both Windows and iOS.

User impressions

Users agree that Lynx E44 is one of the best audio interfaces for professional work at the studio and at home. It provides really impressive ADC quality and low noise.

What we think

You’d be very impressed with Lynx E44 if you take an interest in electronic engineering and design. It has capacitors with solid dielectrics for improved reliability and copper shielding, all of which are put together with impressive care and precision.

Bottomline

Lynx E44 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a carefully engineered audio interface with circuitry that could be rivaled only by the software that runs on it. One might think that for a 4 channel interface, the price is too high, but that’s only because you haven’t heard how it sounds yet.

Lynx E22 PCI

Lynx E22 PCI

Pros
  • 192 kHz
  • 2 analog and 2 digital channels
  • Versatile
  • Low latency
Cons
  • No cables are included
See price @ Sweetwater

Lynx E22 is a greatly engineered audio interface with 2 separate analog and digital input and output channels and a signature Lynx SynroLoc sample clock generator. It has both SPDIF and AES3 inputs and outputs and produces extremely low latency even at 192 kHz sample rates.

Best features and specs

Lynx E22 offers you 2 analog and 2 digital input and output channels, a V2 DMA Engine that ensures low latency operation, full support on Windows and iOS, and a software mixer. And its circuitry is completely shielded from any external noise and interference.

User impressions

Users like Lynx E22 for being stable and producing low latency and sound without jitter and distortion.

What we think

To be completely honest, Lynx E22 is exactly the same as the Lynx E44 model except for the number of channels. So it really comes down to how many channels would suit your workflow the most and will this number remain sufficient in the long term.

Bottomline

Lynx E22 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a greatly engineered audio interface with very reliable software and remarkable engineering. There might be other viable options within this price range and with the greater number of channels, but this one is still worth checking out.

Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante

Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante

Pros
  • Versatile
  • Understandable interface
  • Compatible with Dante products
  • Low round-trip latency
Cons
  • Can be a source of acoustic noise if fan cooling is used
See price @ Sweetwater

Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante is a top-shelf PCIe audio interface that delivers 128 channels of inputs and outputs via RJ45 gigabit Ethernet connection with latencies lower than 3 ms. This sound card was designed to control networked interfaces with ease and without effort.

Best features and specs

Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante delivers 128 channels of inputs and outputs at 96 kHz on the low, but at 192 kHz, the number drops to 64. This audio interface also comes with included emulation of famous Focusrite ISA 110 and 130 channel strips.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante as it’s based on widely-known and reliable technology and is compatible with other Dante’s pieces of equipment. Users like the aesthetics of this unit and the fact that it has minimal latency.

What we think

Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante would make perfect sense if you intend to build a studio with several recording rooms that had to be networked together. Or if you want your recording space to be as modular as possible, even in a singular recording space.

Bottomline

Focusrite RedNet PCIeR Dante is a great choice for someone who is looking for a professional PCIe audio interface that highly emphasizes network capabilities and modular recording space design. It’s rather on a pricey side of things, but the quality and reliability totally match its price range.

RME HDSPe AIO Pro Multi-format PCI

RME HDSPe AIO Pro Multi-format PCI

Pros
  • 192 kHz
  • High-powered headphone output
  • 30 channels
Cons
  • None
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

RME HDSPe AIO Pro Multi-format PCI is a very flexible and versatile audio interface with 14 inputs and 16 outputs, with 24-bit / 192 kHz AD conversion. It comes with already mentioned TotalMix software with a mixer that features 760 channels and 46-bit internal resolution.

Best features and specs

Considering that RME HDSPe AIO Pro Multi-format PCI fits in a single PCIe slot, it’s remarkable that it features 2 analog input and output channels, SPDIF, XLR, and MIDI inputs and outputs, on top of a very powerful headphone output.

User impressions

Users say that RME HDSPe AIO Pro Multi-format PCI has been improved greatly and its general performance is state-of-the-art. It gives an excellent technical performance because of its analog I/O and provides exceptional versatility.

What we think

As with most of the PCI express audio cards, you have to be very serious about what you’re doing. This would actually make sense if you’re working towards a highly professional and versatile studio. But for a home studio, a USB audio interface would make much more sense, considering price ranges on both devices.

Bottomline

RME HDSPe AIO Pro Multi-format PCI is a great choice for someone who is looking for a high-grade PCIe audio interface that can expand the possibilities of your studio greatly. And the quality of this interface shouldn’t be a surprise considering its price range.

PCI audio interface Buying Guide

There’re a few additional things that you might need to know if you want to choose the PCI audio interface more carefully.

What is a PCI audio interface?

A PCI audio interface is an internal sound card that connects directly to the PCI bus on your motherboard.

Why would you need a PCI audio interface?

There’s no doubt that in this day and age USB audio interface would be your best choice, but having a PCI one is also not without a few benefits. First of all, the PCI bus is significantly faster than the USB, which means that you’d have noticeably more processing speed. And secondly, since PCI audio interfaces are located inside of your PC, you wouldn’t have to worry about other devices cluttering your desk.

Important features

In order to choose the PCI audio interface, you have to pay more attention to your PC than to the interface itself. The audio interface has to be compatible with the form factor of the case and there should be enough PCI slots on the motherboard.

Form factor

If specs on your audio interface say that it only fits into a mid-tower ATX case and you have a mini-ATX case, you’d have a lot of trouble fitting it in without a special bus extension cord. If you’re not sure about the particular measurements of your PC, try to use a ruler or a tape measure and figure it out.

PCI slots

If you’re a happy owner of a full-sized motherboard, you’ll have enough PCI extension slots even if you also have a video card. But smaller motherboards won’t give you that luxury and also note that if you decide to include NVMe drive, some of the PCI slots will cease to work.

How to choose the right one for you?

After you’ve decided if a PCI interface is something that you really need, knowing if the form factor of your PC will do and if you actually have a spare PCI slot will help you to choose the best PCI audio interface.

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