Suggested sound cards for auditory stimulation

Hi all,

I’m using PsychoPy to present visual and auditory stimuli to mice. My plan for the auditory stimulation is to present brief (say, 500ms) sounds, including prerecorded ultrasonic (<65 kHz) vocalizations, using some kind of 192 kHz DAC (e.g. a PCIe sound card, or an USB audio interface). This stereo output will be fed to a TDT SA1 stereoamplifier, after which one channel will be drive an ultrasonic-capable speaker and the other will feed directly to NI-DAQ to record the presented waveform synchronized with electrophysiology. Stimuli will be delivered in jittered intervals (say, 25-35s), and do not currently need to be triggered in a closed-loop fashion (e.g. low latency and low jitter are not absolute requirements), but of course it is nice to leave my future options open.

I have been reading through PsychoPy (and PTB) documentation and forums, and still have a couple of questions:

  1. Are there any sound cards or USB audio interfaces that are confirmed by experience to offer good, reliable performance with PsychoPy (and any backend) under Windows 10? I am considering this PCIe card and this lower-cost USB audio interface.

In general, it seems like it would be really helpful to collect information from people about their OS, PsychoPy version, hardware, and whether they are happy with it. Searching the forums, I mostly only find people’s problems, rather than positive endorsements of specific hardware.

Looking through the methods sections of various papers, I am finding that people tend to use high-end PCIe cards on the order of $1k, but also cannot find documented cases of people being unable to achieve good performance on cheaper cards. Maybe I don’t need to spend so much? Happy to if it is worth it, though.

  1. I noticed that PTB PsychPortAudio has discontinued support for ASIO because of licensing issues. Going forward, will PsychoPy use (maybe it does already) these newer versions of PTB, and should I therefore be looking for audio interfaces that use WASAPI rather than ASIO if I want good performance on Windows? If I have an interface that supports ASIO but not WASAP, should I use an older version of PsychoPy that depends on an older version of PTB that supports ASIO?


Update: In case anyone in the future stumbles across this… I have been using the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 with a TDT ED1 electrostatic speaker driver to successfully deliver ultrasonic stimuli at 192 kHz using PsychoPy 2022.1.1 and the Pyo sound engine. I have not done systematic testing of latency or jitter, because it is not important for my experiment, but I can say that even with Windows Directsound latency is well below 100ms, probably even less than 10ms.

My only gripe with the Focusrite is that it doesn’t allow me to record exclusively from one of its mic inputs during simultaneous stimulus delivery at 192kHz (rather, it also records what is being played on the line outputs). But a more expensive model with software-configurable output routing, or an older model with S/P diff ouputs might not have this limitation. Also, at less than $200, they’re so dang cheap that you can just buy 2 if you really need simultaneous I/O.