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Good USB sound card?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Joerg, Apr 13, 2013.

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  1. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Just had a situation where a software toolkit could not properly handle
    the sound chip in my Gammatech Durabook but it handled the one in the
    Samsung NC-10 just fine. Anyhow, this is not cool if I ever have to
    switch horses in the field because a laptop died or the battery ran low.

    So ... what can you guys recommend as a good USB sound card?

    It should:

    a. not require a separate wall wart.

    b. have a true stereo MIC input and if possible also LINE IN. But if no
    LINE IN that can be ok. Main thing is I absolutely need two input channels.

    c. be low in internal noise and not too suceptible to cell phones and
    other common RF disturbances.

    d. have an enclosure that's not too flimsy. Size doesn't matter.

    e. preferably use a cable to connect to USB because the stick versions
    break off easily.

    f. ideally not cost more than $100 but cost is not too critical. So if
    you know a really good one that is more I am still all ears.

    g. allow easy driver loading, ideally right from that sound card.
  2. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Aha, this one, looks quite impressive:

    Thanks, Vladimir. I am planning to do noise sensitive phase measurements
    with it, where one input channel is the reference and the other comes
    from the device under test. Excitation is also from the sound card.
  3. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

  4. miso

    miso Guest

    My only complaint about Creative cards is they have a lot of bloatware.
    You can avoid the bloat with a custom installation.

    Depending on what you are doing, those cheap ass Chinese cards on ebay
    with C-Media chips have the advantage that you can open the box and get
    to the guts, i.e. pull the PCB. Useful if you want a more direct
    connection to the data converters. Or if you want to incorporate it in a
    box with other electronics.

    There is no brand name, but they look like the photo in ebay item
    190490619104. The PCB slides out of the case for easy hacking. It might
    not be a bad idea to get one as Plan B.

    The C-Media chips work great under linux usb sound.
  5. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Right now the goal is to nuy the best quality that is reasonably
    available. Since Vladimir said this the "the" sound interface for USB I
    ordered it. Long term things may have to be integrated and then it'll
    either be full custom where we actually buy the sound chips or buy
    something as a module that has a high chance of being around for a few
    years as a product.
  6. miso

    miso Guest

    These C-media chip based cards have been around about 8 years. Like all
    manufacturers, they change the product as new chips come out. Of course,
    I have no clue who makes the cards.

    The advantage to the C-media board is you can easily clone the circuit.
    That would be harder to do with Creative. C-Media sells chips while
    Creative sells complete systems.

    I've been burnt by Creative. They used to make video cards. I gave a
    friend an old card, but it took me a while to find the driver because
    freakin' Creative pulled the drivers from their website. They have a
    habit of not supporting old gear. They must have been suing people who
    hosted the old driver since it was not to be found on the internet
    anywhere. Fortunately I found the CD.

    Anyway, at this point, Asus is making the best soundcards, but only a
    few dB better that Creative. But for what I consider basic
    instrumentation, the cheap C-media cards can't be beat, simply due to
    the linux support. Alsa has C-media down.
  7. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Longer term we won't need it, we'll design our own system. This is to
    get us over the first hurdles on the cheap, without shelling out a lot
    for NRE.

    Linux support isn't important to me. This will all be Windows-based
    since the underlying SW is. The main concern I have is noise, more so
    than the dynamic range.
  8. whit3rd

    whit3rd Guest

    Trying to buy quality, with unseen goods, is a perilous enterprise. Spec sheets
    for consumer items are ...unhelpful. Buy samples and test and/or dissect, works

    I'd recommend you try an iMic (product of Griffin Technology);
    it has a good long history, 16-bit input/output audio digitization,
    uses 24-bit converters, has a line/mic selector switch...
    and it's small and inexpensive.
    As for detailed specifications:

    (hey, I told you not to expect much information!).
  9. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Quote "So our engineers made the decision to keep the iMic within
    certain basic parameters and not release a detailed spec sheet".

    Hmm, yeah, well ... :)

    It's probably quite good but I've already ordered the Sound Blaster THX
    HD that Vladimir recommended. It arrived yesterday but I couldn't fire
    it up because another emergency came up. As they usually do on Fridays.
    The weekend is shot as well because SWMBO said it is time to paint the
    house. So we'll start power-washing shortly and there's buckets of
    Sherwin-Williams Duration waiting be transferred from bucket to wall.
    Fred Bloggs from our midst had recommended that brand, plus they had a
    40% off sale.
  10. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hey, Vladimir, do you know if the MIC input is monaural? Has 5.1V
    phantom supply on both pins but I get only one of the channels to work.
    For Line both work.

    The manual is in some CFM format, as in unreadable. Pretty stupid
    decision on their part not to ship PDF. I've asked for one but not sure
    if they'll respond. Their web site looks as if customer contact is not
    very desired. Had to email their inverstor relations guy.
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