Would a Better Sound Card Help With Latency


I’ve only played with Ardour for a few months. I only use it (so far) with a MIDI keyboard with Ardour’s output going through a sound card. At first I routed the output through my video card’s HDMI connection, but the latency was too great.

So I’ve used one of my sound cards for a few months, and the latency is passable, not great, but usable. I’ve played around with my Buffer Settings and Sample Rates until I’ve arrived at a workable solution.

But every so often, when I’m playing, I’ll get some pops, or a dropped note, or something. So I want to improve this so I can play for my family and friends.

I have two sound cards, both of which are pretty sub par cards.

#1 Just the sound card that is part of my mother board. Adequate for streaming music but not great.

#2 Even worse, an $8.00 junk USB card from amazon, which doesn’t even sound good streaming music. But, hey, what can you expect for $8.00?

Anyway, would a better sound card help all that much do you think?

I’ve haven’t bought an Audio Interface yet because I don’t record anything other than the occasional MIDI track, and since I’m pretty new I’m not sure an Audio Interface would help with MIDI.

Maybe I should buy an Audio Interface AND a new Sound Card. What do you folks think?


A sound card is an audio interface.

My experience has been this: the better my audio interface, the lower latency I can run at without xruns.

Thanks Dan!

Looks like I’ll be buying some new equipment then – and also learning more about hardware. :slight_smile:

Thanks again,

I always considered “audio interface” and “sound card” to be synonyms. What distinction are you trying to make?

Very likely.
Someone recently posted to the linux audio users mailing list the results of latency tests he made on several different audio interfaces.
interface latency results from Giso Grimm

To get consistent quality at lower latency settings you often have to tune your system settings a little bit. There are several guides around on the Internet, some outdated.
Without any quantitative information about what latency you currently achieve, and what you would like to ideally achieve, it is hard to say what you should expect.

Traditional MIDI, or MIDI over USB? The Focusrite Scarlet range of USB interfaces are known to be a reasonable value for the quality and latency you can achieve, but the lowest two models in the range, Solo and 2i2, do not have MIDI. You have to go up to the 4i4 before one of those devices has MIDI in addition to audio.
That is only a concern if you would like an interface with both audio and traditional 5-pin MIDI connections. If you are using your keyboard as a USB MIDI interface it won’t matter, and you can get an audio only interface if you prefer.


Thanks for the reply. As far as the difference between and Audio Interface and a Sound Card goes. I actually didn’t know the difference. Like I said I’m pretty new to the Audio recording, and when I would go out to, say, Amazon, and I’d see these external boxes with microphones plugged into them, I got it into my head that the things called “Audio Interfaces” were just for recording analog music of some kind.

I guess I have a lot to learn.

As for my midi keyboards – I really have two – they are both just USB keyboards made by M-Audio.

Thanks for the link! I’m going to go through that now.


That simplifies things somewhat, you do not have to be constrained to looking for devices with both audio and MIDI in the same interface.

I have a Focusrite Scarlet Solo that I got as an extra interface and I have no complaints within the limits of what it is. One microphone and one instrument input, and only RCA connectors on the two output channels (which makes it less convenient to connect to balanced semi-pro gear). Can do direct monitoring (where you can hear your microphone or instrument signal mixed with the audio coming from the computer), but that is just an on/off control, no way to adjust the balance between recorded signal and playback from the computer. Latest generation is about US$130 new, but I bought an older model used, seems to be as good quality as the newer ones as far as I can tell.

The Behringer u-phoria UMC22 on that latency test list performed pretty well, and is around $US70 if you are looking for something less expensive (prices quoted from checking Amazon just now).

Thanks Chris.

In the past couple of days I’ve been looking at the Focusrite Scarlet, and that is the one I’ll probably get.

Thanks again,

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