When it comes to audio cards that go inside your workstation the options are getting more limited. The PCI slot is getting phased out and most motherboards these days feature PCIe slots. If you’re upgrading to a new workstation you may be forced to upgrade your PCI based audio and DSP cards.
That’s just what we had to do when recently upgraded our workstation. There are countless external audio interfaces in various flavors of USB and Thunderbolt or we could have tried an external PCI chassis connected to one of the PCIe slots. But in the end decided we still prefer the performance of an internal audio card. We narrowed our search down to the Lynx E22 and the RME HDSPe AIO. Turns out, they’re both really good sounding cards.
Several years ago when we tested the Lynx two series versus the RME 9632 and the Lynx was the clear winner. It just sounded better, cleaner, beefier. Well, RME has upped its game and that’s no longer the case. The PCIe based HDSPe AIO sounds great. RME’s drivers are rock solid and continuously updated. Lynx is still the benchmark for pristine audio quality and you can’t go wrong with the new E22 PCIe audio card. But RME is right there in terms of quality and performance and the robust routing options of Total Mix makes it very attractive.
We prefer the Lynx breakout cable. It’s a much cleaner way to move audio to and from the card and connect to an external mixer. The RME HDSPe AIO breakout cable is really just a short trunk that requires at least 4 additional balanced cables to connect to a mixer. We also think this breakout cable should be included instead of the unbalanced version given the $899 price tag. The Lynx E22 comes in at $699 plus another $40 for the cable. So Lynx is the better deal and overall still the better sounding card but RME is narrowing the gap.
One final note, If you get one of these cards and add it to a Windows 10 system make sure you optimize the system performance before passing judgement, especially if you have any hardware based plugins from Universal Audio. Windows 10 has been challenging to optimize for audio. We experienced stuttering and buffering issues with both cards across a range of NLE packages that we didn’t experience in previous versions of Windows. We found these audio optimization tips from Native Instruments helpful.
We also found this tool really helpful for fixing latency issues. Network cards are a pain.