Interfacing Linux: RME HDSP 9632

In 2003 RME released the HDSP 9632, a PCI 2.1 interface that incorporated their latest 24-bit converters and stereo analogue I/O. It was a 16 channel FPGA powered juggernaut capable of 192kHz. The thing is, eighteen years later RME is still churning them out. That’s right! You can pick one up new in box from Amazon.

I managed to yoink one off eBay for $160 so let’s find out if this critter knows how to Linux in 2021.

Where to buy:
eBay (used)
Amazon US 9632
(new)
Amazon CA 9632 (new)
Amazon UK 9652 (digital only)
Amazon DE 9652 (digital only)


Jackbox: System specs

CPU AMD Ryzen 7 1700
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB
Motherboard MSI B350 Tomahawk
GPU Nvidia NVS 300
SSD Samsung 840
PSU: EVGA 600 B1
Firewire: Syba SY-PEX30016
Network: Intel i350-T4
OS: Debian Buster
Kernel: 4.19.0-8-rt-amd64
Desktop: XFCE 4.12

INSTALL: In order to use the HDSP 9632 we’ll need to install some extra ALSA bits.

sudo apt install alsa-firmware alsa-firmware-loaders alsa-tools-gui

CONFIGURE: First thing to do is configure the HDSP 9632 using hdspconf.


ALSA: You can control the HDSP 9632 directly with alsamixer.


IMPORTANT: You need to launch hdspmixer before using the HDSP 9632 with Jack.


JACK: Jack setup is straightforward, the only catch being the Periods/Buffer must be set to 2.


CATIA: And here is the HDSP 9632 running with Catia. Keep in mind that channels 1-8 are digital (ADAT).


LATENCY: While many kinds of audio latency metrics exist, one useful and well-understood metric is round-trip latency; the time it takes for an audio signal to enter the input of a device, get processed, and exit the output.

This is what sold me on the HDSP 9632. Hard. It’s capable of 9.41 (ms) round-trip latency at 48 kHz with a buffer size of 128. For comparison, my MOTU Traveler clocks in at a respectable 14.84 (ms).


RME HDSP 9632: Round-trip latency @44100 Hz


RME HDSP 9632: Round-trip latency @4800HZ


RME HDSP 9632: Round-trip latency @9600HZ


RME HDSP 9632: Round-trip latency @19200HZ


Conclusion:
Why in the world would you want to use a PCI recording interface in 2021? The answer is surprisingly simple: you need the functionality of the RME HDSPe AIO but $899 is not in the budget. In all fairness, $500 for a new HDSP 9632 might not be in the budget but $200 for a used one is.

Outside of that you’re either a hipster or a tech hoarder.


Where to buy:
eBay (used)
Amazon US 9632
(new)
Amazon CA 9632 (new)
Amazon UK 9652 (digital only)
Amazon DE 9652 (digital only)


Check out our Amazon idea list, and take a look at our studio gear.

RME Hammerfall DSP 9632

9 out of 10
Works out of the box
10/10
Ease of setup
9/10
Stability
10/10
Features
7/10

Pros

Wicked-low latency.

Stability.

Flawless A/D conversion.

Kernel drivers.

Cons

PCI in 2021.

No preamps.

Limited analogue options.

Price

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