CI2 - Crackles within Cubase after a while: time to change the soundcard?

I never had this kind of problem until recently. I noticed that after roughly an hour working on a VST only project (a dozen tracks on Kontakt 5) Cubase will start playing static noise along with the playback, and emit crackles and noise peaks synchronised with the tempo beats. On normal playback, outside Cubase, this doesn’t happen. Verified in Windows 7, 16GB RAM and i5 6500 Intel CPU, on Cubase Artist 8 and Pro 10, although I’m not sure it always happens or happens with all projects. RAM and CPU are at normal levels (around 20-30%). Meddling with ASIO Guard (i.e. disabling it) removes the noise only for a few minutes, if at all.

Would it make sense to change the soundcard with another one? I’m not too savvy about what goes on inside it, so it may be unrelated, but if it’s something like “CI2 uses special section of circuitry to manage DAW playback and those may be corrupted somehow” it would make sense…

Thank you.