Good quality sound card for linux

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Nowadays, all computers and all motherboards come with fairly decent inbuilt sound cards. When one wants to purchase a discrete sound card, it's because one wants that extra quality. But searching for the right soundcard can be daunting, especially when considering all kinds of specifications, what constitutes quality, linux drivers, and the huge price range between the cheapest and the most expensive, professional cards.

Help us build the best, a-temporal technical guide to purchasing the best sound card for linux.


The cards can be connected in different ways:
- PCI-e 1

Some cards may need extra power, like an available 4-pin power cable from the computer's power supply unit.

External interface:
USB or Firewire


What specification matters?

Most sound chipsets built in motherboards work at 16 bit, 44.1 KHz, the standard for CDs. This is perfectly adequate for most users.

Bit depth

The higher the better.
CD standard: 16 bit.
Usually, real recording work is done at 24bit,

Sample rate

The higher the better.
CD standard: 44.1 KHz.
96.0 KHz for high quality audio.


The lower the better.
Measured in miliseconds.

Noise and interferences

A built-in sound chipset will suffer from the electronic interferences coming from the motherboard.
A good quality dedicated soundcard would be properly shielded so as to avoid such electronic interferences and background noise.

Digital <-> Analogue converters

Good quality AD/DA converters.

Inputs and outputs

The higher the number of inputs and outputs, the higher the number of connection possibilities.
The lowest standard is:
- 1 input (microphone)
- 2 output (stereo audio output).

RCA or Balanced Jacks input/output connectors for the audio.
- mini-jack connectors d wouldn't give as high quality in the signal flow.
- balanced connectors will give the least noise in the signal flow.

Midi connectors (input/output)

SPDIF connectors?


- PCI-e
- firewire

sound interface: support ASIO drivers?

Linux drivers


ALSA SoundCard Matrix


Sound Blaster Z:
Bug 109191 - No sound with Creative Labs SB Recon3D (rev 01), Sound Blaster Z, PCI SSID 1102:0010


Asus Xonar DX PCIe sound card:
reported to work out of the box.


Popular manufacturers: