ALSA Linux Driver for RME Digital Audio Cards

»Linux Driver Overview

The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture project (ALSA) was founded 1998 by Jaroslav Kysela. It is intended to improve sound support for Linux, thanks to an improved software design and the ability to fully utilize Linux-specific features. ALSA provides free drivers for the most popular audio cards; at the same time, its design allows multi-channel operation at 24 bit/96 kHz with very low latency and very low CPU load.

At the end of 1999 the German Linux distributor SuSE began sponsoring the project. Their financial and logistical support is there to further improve ALSA and to ensure the merge into the official Linux kernel tree. For the German speaking readers see this smart introduction to ALSA, an article named
Neue Klänge from the German magazine iX.

Hammerfall under Linux

Since January 2000, the latest version of ALSA includes full support for the RME Hammerfall and Hammerfall Light (except ADAT Sync - coming soon.) The RME Hammerfall is the first professional digital audio card which can use its full potential under Linux, all 52 channels and full 24 bit resolution. The efficient driver concept allows an operation on usual PC's at 20 ms latency and full channel usage causing a CPU load between 2 and 5%.

We are sure that many programmers will now view the availability of the Hammerfall driver, combined with Linux' own performance and stability, as an excellent reason to develop new multi-track applications for Linux. Several native projects are already known to talk directly to the card, thus realizing a totally new potential with realtime applications (jMAX from IRCAM, pd from Miller Puckett) and on different computer systems (e.g. Compaq/DEC Alpha.)

ALSA support for the Hammerfall breaks the annoying chicken/egg principle: no professional hardware/driver - no professional software... RME is proud to be a part of this first big step for Linux towards a professional audio usage. Possibly bothered by the Hammerfall's appearance on the Linux scene, some of our competitors have now followed our example. Drivers for other well-known cards and chips in the professional market are expected in the near future. Meanwhile, the Hammerfall is a breakthrough for pro audio on Linux, as the first professional card available with full support for multitrack applications.

ALSA Resources

Applications having ALSA Support

Meanwhile several native ALSA applications exist.

The picture to the right shows the ALSAPlayer, an audio player supporting several file formats from MP3 to WAV.

More applications can be found on the ALSA website and inside the ALSA FAQ.

An excellent, general overview on Linux audio software can be found at Sound & MIDI Software for Linux.


RME would like to thank Mr. Winfried Ritsch from the Institut für elektronische Musik (IEM), Graz (Institute for electronic music.) He convinced us that ALSA has a future and wrote a native (non-ALSA) version of the driver. We would also like to thank Mr. Paul Davis, who implemented an ALSA version of the driver in an olympic-record-like short time. Mr. Davis is also available for questions regarding the use of the Hammerfall ALSA driver under Linux.

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