Terratec offers passive support for GNU/Linux. Alsa fully supports this audio device, and several Alsa hackers use it. It is a recommended choice for people needing good sound quality, without investing in a professional sound card.
Terratec Aureon 5.1 USB (not MKII!!)
Was replaced by Terratec Aureon 5.1 USB MK.2
I can just tell everyone: "avoid the m-audio quattro usb!" i never got it working with more then one stereo out (debian/ubuntu, alsa/jack), furthermore the card is really sensitive to the power environment - i strongly encourage people to use a separate power circuit when performing on stage. it just crashes, even worse on windows. i know three other people with similar problems. this card has great sound, but otherwise it's a troublesome interface.
Hmm... Can someone please verify that the quattro is really as bad as the guy above says it is? I'm questioning his credibility... he calls the quattro a card twice. The quattro isn't a card, it is a box that connects via usb. Hard to imagine someone who had actually used it or even just seen it would make that mistake 2 times. Is this person just messing with wiki, or does he work for an m-audio competitor or something?
-My Audigy 2 ZS works fine when installed via ALSA, but needs asfxload to load soundfonts into the hardware wavetable synthesizer to use MIDI in hardware.
The Bithead is a two-in-one device, about 3.5in by 2.5in. It can plug into a portable music player and (using 4 AAA batteries) amplifies the output signal to the point where it can drive reasonably good headphones. But it is also a USB audio device which can connect to a USB port, and put the signal through a good 16-bit digital-to-analog converter. When connected to the USB port it will either run from the 5-volt USB power supply, or else and in addition use the power from the batteries (if your headphones need the extra push). It has two headphone output jacks, a clipping meter to give you guidance about volume levels, and (best of all from my point of view) a crossfeed processor.
Getting it to work with Linux/Alsa was trivial. The USB audio chip is a Burr-Brown PCM2902E stereo audio codec supporting sampling rates up to 48kHz and is well-supported by the snd-usb-audio driver. In my own case, I just rmmod-ed the snd-intel8x0 module for the onboard sound card (which I have always hated), and when I plugged in the device, the hotplug and usb subsystems identified it right away and loaded the snd-usb-audio module.
These are not full-fledged sound-cards. All they (aim to) do is provide higher quality audio ouput. That, though, they do very well; the improvement over what I had before is phenomenal. It's not cheap (\$199 direct from the manufacturer) but I am extremely happy with it, and especially with how well it plays with Alsa.
Some direct links to where these cards can be purchased would also be useful. For instance, most computer shops in Australia only carry one or two very cheap commodity cards plus most of the Creative SBLive range and that's it. Where to actually buy ANY other card is a well kept secret.
Also, comments and opinions about the various cards and their performance, merits or otherwise would be most appreciated. Any and all information helps to lower the barrier to a satisfactory audio linux experience.
A companion page for devices listed by type instead? (USB, FireWire, PCI, PCMCIA, etc.) I am sure the mailing lists and such get clogged up with people asking "what is the best sound card for linux?" (Which is why I haven't bothered, even though I am looking for a good one for a laptop.) Also a link to a page discussing the latency, cost, compatibility, etc. tradeoffs of each type. (Maybe this page already exists?)
Comment added by Stuart Allie For people in Australia, you can get the m-audio audiophile 24/96 for (currently) A\$280 from hometheatrepc.com.au, or for A\$299 from network-ed.com.au. A pretty reasonable range of soundcards can be found at network-ed or at musiclab.com.au. I have heard that it is possible (and possibly simpler) to buy things like the audiophile 24/96 from overseas for around US\$99 and have it shipped to Oz.
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