ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output), developed by Steinberg, is a cross-platform, multi-channel audio transfer protocol that is being adopted by many of the manufacturers of audio/MIDI sequencing applications. It allows software to have access to the multi-channel capabilities of a wide range of powerful sound cards.
ASIO expands on the basic capabilities of a standard computer sound card, most of which can only provide stereo (two-channel) audio input and output. The ASIO specification defines the interface that manufacturers of professional audio sound cards must use to create an ASIO driver for their hardware. This driver allows the host audio/MIDI application to "see" all of the inputs and outputs available on the sound card. The user can then assign these I/O ports as needed for recording or playback when using an ASIO-compatible software program. This allows the users to record more tracks simultaneously than the previous limitation of two channels imposed by a standard sound card.
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- Steinberg is the creator of the VST software plug-in format, and manufacturer of the popular MIDI sequencing package, Cubase. Their Web site provides more information about ASIO and its uses in audio production.