All You Need To Know About ASIO
Explore the ins and outs of ASIO technology
As computers become more commonplace in recording and home project studios, so does the demand for faster, more responsive sound cards to work in these systems. A sound card is expected to enhance the recording process by handling many jobs at once. At any given time it's expected to be recording audio from a single or multiple inputs, playing back audio from multiple sources such as audio from the hard drive or virtual synthesizer instruments, and doing it all in a synchronous manner keeping in step with MIDI or other time dependent devices. These requirements are steep and often leave an ill-equipped system at a grinding halt.
In order to create a more direct path to the hardware, and also make the hardware more responsive to the software's needs, Steinberg of Germany (developer of the popular Cubase digital sequencer and Nuendo digital audio workstation) developed Audio Stream In/Out (ASIO) technology. ASIO has made its mark as the driver standard for delivering low-latency transfer of digital audio. This means that hardware supporting an ASIO driver is able to deliver low-latency recording and monitoring to hard disk.
Shipping with the Sound Blaster® X-Fi™ and selected Sound Blaster® Audigy® series sound cards is a rock-solid ASIO driver with low-latency performance down to <=2ms.
The low latency made possible by ASIO, for example, allows you to sing into a Microphone and hear your voice going through software and hardware effects with virtually no delay in the signal. The effects of a low-latency ASIO driver make it ideal for use with Virtual Studio Technology (VST) instruments, plug-ins, and all other software-based synthesizers. Many of these devices can be played back in real time from MIDI output devices when connected to Sound Blaster X-Fi sound cards that feature MIDI inputs without any audible delay.
The Sound Blaster® series of sound cards has always been known for its extensive connectivity. The ASIO driver in Sound Blaster X-Fi and selected Sound Blaster Audigy sound cards lets you take advantage of that fact by allowing you to record from multiple sources simultaneously on separate tracks. Now everyone in your band can jam together, making the recording process a more enjoyable one. Utilizing every kind of audio device in your recordings from multiple microphones to digital devices like minidisk players allows you to truly represent a live performance in any recording.
Mixing your recordings has taken on a new level of sophistication due to a new flexibility of routing in the ASIO drivers. Any track can be mapped to any one of the discrete or virtual 7.1 outputs on your Sound Blaster X-Fi. This allows you to preview a multi-channel mix in real-time. To do this, simply use your music software's mixer to pan any one track to any or all of the Sound Blaster X-Fi outputs (up to 7.1). To further enhance the mix is the option to route any track directly to the EAX® reverb. This opens the door to anyone who's wanted to use the world class EAX® ADVANCED HD™ effects within their compositions. These reverb presets are accelerated on the Sound Blaster X-Fi series, and their performance is less taxing on the CPU than software reverb effects.
Finally, when you're ready to record your final mix to stereo, the ASIO driver's unique Post-EQ Mix routing allows you to digitally record the speaker virtualization without any unnecessary cabling. When you switch from 5.1 speaker mode to 2-speaker mode or headphones, the surround mixing you've done becomes virtualized. What this yields is a stereo recording with a wide, virtual 5.1 feel.
The Sound Blaster X-Fi is capable of play back and recording at resolutions of 24-bit/96kHz. Recording audio at the 24-bit/96kHz resolution is quickly becoming the new standard, due to its stunning detail and clarity when capturing a performance. You can count on Creative to understand the necessity of having 24-bit/96kHz recording by adding this feature to the newest of Sound Blaster sound cards. Choosing the highest combination of 24-bit depth and 96kHz resolution gives the best possible results, however it does require much larger storage requirements than even most high-end users would be used to for the storage of the recordings. For those of you who are looking for high-quality audio recording capabilities but also want to minimize HD load, an excellent alternative is to record at 24-bit depth and 48kHz resolution. This only uses approximately 1.5 times more space than 16bit/48kHz but gives a dramatic improvement in the quality of the recording.
ASIO is the means by which the Sound Blaster X-Fi series shine in the music creation space. Now the class leading multi-media sound card is the front contender for belonging in your studio. Never has a sound card with such flexible routing, low-latency performance, and high resolution recording abilities been this easy to own. By including an ASIO driver in Sound Blaster X-Fi and selected Sound Blaster Audigy sound cards, Creative has shown its commitment to being the leader in providing solutions for musicians and audio professions of every level.