Satisfactory Audio I/O Devices

Hello from Washington DC and a new user/member of the Ardour forum.

One thing I’ve been unable to find is a table or chart of preferred - or at least functional - audio interfaces for Ardour under Linux. I don’t need a simultaneous 32-channel screamer, but at the same time I’d like something better than a $9 computer show soundcard.

What’s a good 4-to-8 channel interface - USB, FW or otherwise - that you as a user can suggest or recommend? Or at least please point me in the direction of “Requirements>Recommended Hardware”.

Thanks very much.

i personally use a rme hammerfall multiface with a laptop and i am very satisfied with it! it works with an expresscard (former pcmcia) or with pci / pci-express cards (if your not on a laptop) . you can get very low latency for live use and still very low cpu usage, because all the mixing and routing is done on the hardware itself.
if you look for something more standard go for a firewire device, usb is imho not an option under linux. only usb 1.1 devices are supported , and performance/latency is generally bad.

check for compatibility and driver support for firewire devices under linux.

as an additional sidenote: generally all soundcards that are supported by alsa, will work with jack and thus also with ardour.


In addition to lokki’s comments, I suggest you should check this:

and a recent thread on this subject, here:


RE: Firewire…

Unfortunately despite all the best efforts of the ffado team NEW supported firewire devices (10 Channels+) are not very plentiful, For example Mackie Onyx with optional firewire module supported…Current Mackie Onyx “i” series NOT supported…Presonus Firepod supported, Current Presonus Firestudio NOT supported and the list goes on and on. The point being if you don’t mind something secondhand, a generation old or used you can get a good FW device for Linux, otherwise you are apt to be disappointed which is due to the device manufacturers releasing models with completely different chipsets than prior models that worked well.

RME is very good, well supported under Linux but expensive, I recently very seriously looked at FireWire which is when I discovered how few current devices had support, I opted to add a second M-Audio 1010LT since I already had one and now have a stable Linux setup for 16 channels of I/O for under 400USD. Just my opinion but it seems supported PCI cards are still a little more sure bet .

USB M-Audio Fast Track Pro. Works wonders, ultra low latency but a living hell to set it up to perform @ 24 bit. Will work out of the box @ 16 bit. I don’t recommend it if you are new to linux.

I recently bought an Edirol FA-101 (8 I/O + Midi I/O) second hand and I’m very satisfied with it.
It runs out-of-the-box with the newest FFADO drivers in Jack, runs well in 16bit and 24bit and switching between 44.1 and 48 kHz works fine (there are more options which I haven’t tried out yet)
Since I only use the device for recording, I can’t say anything about latency.

Sadly, the FA-101 was discontinued and replaced by the FA-66 which only has 2 Jack/XLR inputs although it says 6 I/O in the description.

since you asked for a list of audio devices:
They have a list there with some devices that have been tested in Linux. The site is currently down but maybe they’ll be up again soon.

if you can find a used presonus firepod or FP10 (same thing, apple made them change the name due to “pod”) you’ll be very happy. Works great with ffado driver. Sounds great too, especially at the price point, usually around $250 used now, nice clean preamps and converters. The only thing with firewire audio that can be tough is getting permissions right to access raw1394, but after that it is usually smooth sailing. And, that isn’t always hard anyway, depends on the distro.

I have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 10/10, which is fully supported under FFADO, and if I recall correctly, Focusrite actually works with the open source community (either by releasing specs or providing info).

Anyway, nice interface, clean preamps, more than enough I/O for my purposes. The only issue is that FW on laptops can be tricky, at least in my experience. It works flawlessly on my 5 year old desktop, but on 3 different laptops (ranging from 3 years old to 3 months old) I get the same pops and clicks and can’t make the go away.

It’s due to the crappy FW chipset that comes stock with most laptops. You will either need to get a built-for-audio laptop, or try a FW expresscard with the Texas Instruments chipset. Apparently, that resolves the pops and clicks.


I’ve read about the Texas Instruments chipset issue with FW on laptops as well.
I’m using my laptop successfully without having a TI-chip in it. Or at least, I’m quite sure that this is not TI. It says “Ricoh Co.” in “device manager”.
I’ve also read that the workaround for bad chipsets (by using expresscards) might not work when the controller for the expresscard-bus isn’t TI as well. Don’t know if thats true, I havent tried to use an expresscard yet.
Although I wanted to get an expresscard for FW when I started doing audio a few months ago I abandoned the idea after I found out that FW-expresscards do not supply power to the external device (and I still had to use the bulky power supply for the edirol). This would have worked with PCMCIA but expresscards seem to be a crappy standard. (and a lot more expensive!)