ALSA Project drivers. Your average consumer sound card, for instance, a Sound Blaster Live!, is designed around outputting sounds to a single set of
speakers, be it a stereo setup or surround sound. Sound input, such as from a microphone, is an unconnected function done by the rare program that
needs it. The HDSP on the other hand is designed as a sound I/O device. It has inputs and outputs, and you can route sound between them arbitrarily.
It's like the difference between a NIC and a router. Sure a NIC is useful, but if you want to run a network, or sound studio, you need a full-fledged
What exactly makes the HDSP special? First of all, it actually comes in two pieces, a PCI or PCMCIA host card and an external sound I/O module. The
card and module are connected by a 10-foot Firewire cable, though the protocol used isn't actually Firewire. Two types of sound modules are available,
the Multiface and the Digiface. The Multiface offers eight channels of analog I/O and digital SPDIF, as well as ADAT in and out for a total of 20
channels of 24bit/96kHz audio. The Digiface offers three ADAT in and outs and SPDIF for a total of 26 channels. With this separated design you can
buy, for instance, a single Multiface and share it between your desktop and a laptop. One example of where this is useful is in live DJing. You don't
have to buy two complete sound cards, which saves you money; you also can test software on your desktop knowing that the environment is the same as it
will be on your laptop.