Our first professional sound card was the original Digital Audio Labs Card-D running in a Win 3.1 486 box with Sound Forge and we were simply blown away. For the first time we experienced what professional quality audio on a PC was all about. Goodbye and good riddance Creative Labs.

Over the years, we’ve used cards from a variety of vendors including: Aardvark, Echo Digital Audio, Digidesign, Digigram, Digital Audio Labs, EMU Systems, Lynx Studio, M-AUDIO, RME Audio, Turtle Beach and more. These cards have been installed on both Mac and PC systems, desktops, workstations, laptops and various operating system. Some of these vendors have gone out of business but many still offer quality solutions to meet just about any budget.

In our testing and real world use we’ve settled on three primary suppliers of audio solutions for our PC based NLE systems that we use to get actual work done. Our preferred vendors include Digital Audio Labs, Lynx Studio and RME Audio. We’ve found that all three have consistently delivered quality performance at a reasonable price.

Among our preferred three vendors, the best sounding PCI audio card we’ve tested and abused for 5 years is the Lynx Studio Two B. It’s simply transparent with an incredible signal to noise ratio and beefy, natural analog sound. The Lynx Studio Two B is our preferred card for laying down tracks, voice over, mixing and pretty much any audio task. Our ears have not heard a better sounding PCI audio card. It also has some of the best shielding technology and does not pick up noise and interference inside the PC.

Coming in second is the Digital Audio labs CardDeluxe. It’s got the same beefy analog, full frequency sound as the Lynx Studio, but is not quite as quiet and transparent. Depending on the PC or workstation you may pick up more noise with the CardDeluxe than the Lynx Studio. Our biggest concern with Digital Audio Labs and the CardDeluxe is it seems the company may be winding things down and the web site is completely out of date and there is very little activity.

Coming in third is the RME 9632. While this card still sounds good it does not have the transparency of the Lynx Studio or CardDeluxe. We would rather spend a little more money and get the Lynx Studio Two B for superior sound. RME is likely to keep improving and has a solid user base that raves about its products. Good value for the money but to our ears not the best sound.

Visit Lynx Studio Technologies for more information.
Visit RME Audio for more information.
Visit Digital Audio Labs for more information.

Testing platforms:  HARDWARE: HP xw8400 workstation, Dell T7500 workstation, Supermicro 7046A-3 workstation. Intel Xeon CPUs. OS: Windows 7 Pro, Windows XP, Windows 98.  SOFTWARE: SawStudio, Universal Audio Plug-ins, Sound Forge, Sony ACID, Sony Vegas, Adobe Audition, Adobe CS5, Edius 6.5 and varous windows apps and utilities.