RME’s PCIe audio interface gets a major overhaul.
While external audio interfaces dominate the market and are probably the mainstay of RME’s product lines, the company has a long tradition of manufacturing internal sound cards too. I’ve been using the multiformat AIO card for 10 years now, and it has served faultlessly over that time as the core interface for my studio computer, hooked up to a Crookwood mastering console. The AIO card was actually a development of the original ‘Hammerfall’ DSP 9632 card which was designed for the PCI computer slot format, and the AIO was produced to conform to the then‑new PCI‑Express format.
Impressively, the HDSP 9632 is still available and still supported with up‑to‑date drivers, providing a multiformat audio interface with plentiful input and output connectivity: stereo‑balanced analogue in and out, eight‑channel ADAT light‑pipe (configurable for stereo optical S/PDIF) in and out, and both wired AES3 and S/PDIF in and out, plus a headphone output and 16‑channel MIDI in both directions. Optional analogue expansion cards are also available to add another four balanced inputs and outputs on TRS sockets. When added to the HDSP 9632 a total of 18 inputs and 20 outputs could be accessed simultaneously!
When the PCIe HDSPe AIO card was produced, all of the 9632’s interconnectivity was retained (although a revised version of the two analogue expansion boards was required), but RME took the opportunity to employ the latest converter and clocking technologies which improved the dynamic range of the analogue I/O by a couple of decibels from the nominal 110dB of the previous card to 112dB (unweighted) in the AIO.
Now, the venerable AIO card itself has been updated, with the new version christened the HDSPe AIO‑Pro. The physical format and the card’s own rear‑panel connectivity remain exactly the same once again, but RME have completely redesigned the board from the ground up to incorporate the latest technologies and developments introduced across the company’s other recent products.
Sadly, as part of that full make‑over the option to expand the analogue I/O count with additional four‑channel input and output cards has been lost. I can only presume that sales of AI4S and AO4S expansion cards were insignificant and...