WASAPI and ASIO are familiar terms for anyone who has worked with digital audio signals and are among the most used sound output drivers for Windows. The two are used with Roon to deliver bit-perfect audio playback in a user-friendly design.
WASAPI is considered a more modern and high-quality output mechanism. This driver is compatible with a range of features, including device identification and convenient volume controls. In most applications, WASAPI is the recommended style and the default for recording and storing music in Microsoft Windows applications.
On the other hand, ASIO is equally a great alternative, but unlike its younger sibling, it lacks a bit in terms of technological advancements. Nevertheless, ASIO is one of the most efficient sound output drivers that you’ll ever find, and like its WASAPI counterpart, it allows users to access audio devices directly. So, which is the best audio drive between ASIO vs WASAPI? Keep reading to learn more!
Overview of WASAPI
WASAPI is Microsoft’s default audio driver, and a requirement for most onboard sound applications. Generally, WASAPI is highly dependable and has a better reputation than ASIO. For this reason, Roon recommends their customers use WASAPI unless the device they’re using is equipped with a high-quality ASIO or an alternative driver.
WASAPI makes it easy to transmit audio streams without the need for signal processing, meaning the audio signal is sent to the audio adapter (sound card) directly. Simply put, this driver bypasses the mixer and ‘communicates’ with your sound adapter directly.
The latest version of modern Windows 10 is compatible with WASAPI, and it performs exceptionally well when running any onboard sound device. In addition, almost all DIY and professional audio applications are compatible with WASAPI.
WASAPI comes in handy in audio devices that do not include inbuilt ASIO capability. WASAPI is also the recommended audio driver for professional applications including audio recording programs. Furthermore, it accommodates all sample rates the DAC can handle, and it has no issues with DSD.
However, audiophiles with a trained ear argue that WASAPI has a high tendency of introducing issues/ distortion to the final sound output. For instance, WASAPI can introduce audible noise when converting different sampling rates or when playing audio in a system that uses this driver. In most cases, the issues do not affect the sound quality, and they are not often beyond the limitations of your operating system.
Advantages of WASAPI
- Simple to use
- High-quality interface
- The driver is up to date
- Compatible with multiple applications
- Includes convenient features for the ultimate listening experience
- Latency could be better
Overview of ASIO
ASIO is regarded as a third-party audio driver, but it is equipped with several technological advantages which make it efficient as well. The design of the ASIO driver allows it to bypass the normal signal path, meaning it connects directly to the sound card. This allows artists and sound engineers to gain access to any external device directly.
Bypassing some signal layers helps to significantly reduce latency (i.e. reduces the delay of audio signals being reproduced by the sound card). Furthermore, it provides a simple and convenient way to access multiple inputs and outputs simultaneously. Because of this, you can use this driver in a range of applications, including streaming songs/videos, making video calls as well as gaming applications.
Unlike WASAPI, ASIO is not the default Windows driver for Roon software. Instead, you’ll need to download from the company’s website and install it on your Windows. Once installed, this driver offers the interface you need to use with your audio applications.
One of the selling points of ASIO is that it is designed to support audio from both Dolby Atmos and DTS-encoded playback. For this reason, most Blu-ray and other 3-D audio content prefer to use this driver type.
ASIO is compatible with just about any audio application, and this can be attributed to its better recording latency. ASIO is also among the best audio drivers for professional applications, including audio recording programs
Perhaps the main downside of ASIO is the absence of a volume control feature. In addition, it does not offer universal compatibility with select Windows-based DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software and recording software.
However, Roon has made it possible to implement volume control and other related settings of an ASIO-enabled device using the WASAPI driver. To achieve this, you’ll only need to incorporate WASAPI volume control settings into your ASIO device, and you’re good to go.
Advantages of ASIO
- Much like WASAPI, ASIO is compatible with many applications
- Offers better latency
- You can use ASIO to access your sound card capability directly
- Stable output
- Lacks basic settings such as the volume control
- Compared to WASAPI, ASIO operating mechanism is a bit more complex
WASAPI vs ASIO – Differences Explained
Roon Windows applications support both ASIO and WASAPI interfaces, but the best choice between the two will vary depending on your application needs. The two functions in a similar manner, so ensure to check your PC settings to determine the driver that is best for your specific application.
Contrary to many people’s expectations, there is no noticeable difference between ASIO and WASAPI. As long as correct audio data is transmitted to the DAC within the recommended time frame, then the difference in terms of sound quality is negligible. In addition, since the quality of the driver varies from one application to another, it is quite challenging to make a blanket recommendation.
However, from our experience, Windows WASAPI is without a doubt one of the best audio drivers for Windows. This driver works flawlessly, plus it is the standard for Windows. In addition, WASAPI is the most preferred driver for serious audio professionals and novices alike.
On the other hand, ASIO is your best bet if you are looking to play or stream audio using the best latency level possible. Like WASAPI, it provides perfect playback, plus it has fewer latency-related issues. However, ASIO provides a more complex mechanism, but the sound it delivers is detailed, warm, and vibrant.
Both WASAPI and ASIO provide an easy way to bypass unnecessary layers of signal processing while allowing users to enjoy high-quality audio with low latency. They also allow you to access bit transparent audio output and multiple channels from your devices. However, you’ll need to pair them with some good software to make the most out of your music.