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Topic: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard? (Read 1652 times) previous topic - next topic
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Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

I'm looking for a dirty cheap usb soundcard or dac&amp that will suffice these requirements:

at least 1 Vrms output.
output impedance of less than 10 Ohm.
Not noticeable hiss.

Basically my computers integrated soundcard doesn't have enough power to drive my headphones, and they are all easy to drive (Tascam TH02, Koss KSC75 and UR20, and superlux 668B which are a bit harder to drive).

At the price point I'm looking at (less than 20$) the products are usually:

Some decent card with headphone driver IC that has a integrated voltage inverter for the negative rail, and some decent power output) (Maxim Integrated makes several of those).

Or some crap using a opamp with extremely small coupling capacitors and a high output impedance. (I'm avoiding this).

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #1
Decent DAC for $20? No...
The cheapest DAC I can recommend is HiFimeDIY UAE23 for $30.
You can find it here: https://hifimediy.com/product/sabre-dac-uae23/
I bought one for my laptop because built in sound card is, well, shit.
It also has optical output. I bought 3.5mm to Toslink adapter from eBay and it works good.
Everything above 16/44 is scam.
Always download first release, never remastered/HD release.


Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #3
Apple's USB-C soundcard, maybe? (no volume pot, though) (edit: one poster is reporting lower Vrms than the reviewer.. it could be an EU thing)
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-apple-vs-google-usb-c-headphone-adapters.5541/

That looks good, is there a way that I can use it on usb 2.0?

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #4
It probably is USB 2.0, maybe you mean USB A. There are some USB A male to USB C female adapters. I don't know if they'd work for this, but I think they should.

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #5
It also depends on whether the particular phone/adapter were designed for the phone passing analog audio over specific pins of the connector, or if it's a genuine USB audio device. Unlike Lightning to headphone dongles, which are USB sound devices, many USB-C sound devices are just analog adapters for their respective phones.

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #6
Right, but this Apple thing is an actual audio device, there's a screenshot of it in the link above. Reading the thread, there are also people using it with an adapter on regular old USB A 2.0 ports.
But it looks like there are (at least) two different versions. One of them performs worse and tops at 0.5V:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-apple-vs-google-usb-c-headphone-adapters.5541/page-16#post-262481

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #7
Right, but this Apple thing is an actual audio device, there's a screenshot of it in the link above. Reading the thread, there are also people using it with an adapter on regular old USB A 2.0 ports.
But it looks like there are (at least) two different versions. One of them performs worse and tops at 0.5V:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-apple-vs-google-usb-c-headphone-adapters.5541/page-16#post-262481

Yes I meant regular old type A 2.0 ports. Thanks for the info.

0.5V seems to be what the EU limits smartphones at, I once had a nextbit robin, it originally outputted up to 1 Vrms with a 32 Ohm load no problems, but after a android update it was limited to 0.5V.

I found this as well:

https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/report/amp/apple-usb-c.php#gsc.tab=0

Definitely looks like a software limit.

 

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #8
Yeah, phones sold in the EU definitely have software limits and high volume warnings.
However, this is much less common on Windows PCs, although apparently it does exist. I read that people are bypassing this with different/older drivers and/or registry tweaks.

The Apple device apparently uses the built-in Windows class compliant audio driver, which might not be as easy to replace. Maybe this driver detects that you're using an "EU version" of Windows (maybe the N version, but that's rarely used). Or perhaps it works based on your region/location setting, which is easy to change.
So if it is a regional software limit in Windows, I think you should be able to find out and disable it.
But I still think it's more likely that the A2155 is just a different device with a different hard coded limit.

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #9
Yeah, phones sold in the EU definitely have software limits and high volume warnings.
However, this is much less common on Windows PCs, although apparently it does exist. I read that people are bypassing this with different/older drivers and/or registry tweaks.

The Apple device apparently uses the built-in Windows class compliant audio driver, which might not be as easy to replace. Maybe this driver detects that you're using an "EU version" of Windows (maybe the N version, but that's rarely used). Or perhaps it works based on your region/location setting, which is easy to change.
So if it is a regional software limit in Windows, I think you should be able to find out and disable it.
But I still think it's more likely that the A2155 is just a different device with a different hard coded limit.

I just got my apple usb c dac, and it works perfectly on my old windows PC using a USB adapter. (Yes it took 2 months to arrive where I live).

I measured the 0 dBFS output voltage and it was 0.975 Vrms, and a output impedance of 0.57 Ohm. What an incredible little device.


Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #10
Nice, good to know. Is it the A2049 (US version)?


Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #12
Nice, good to know. Is it the A2049 (US version)?

I tested the adapter on my smartphone, which is a cheap umidigi a3 pro, the dac works on the smartphone using a otg micro usb adapter, however the 0 dBFS output voltage is only 0.1 Vrms with the smartphone.

That is interesting, the phone was purchased in the US, and the phone itself has a 0 dBFS output voltage of 1 Vrms. No idea why the apple adapter is so limited when used with the smartphone.


Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #13
My recommendation goes to:

Shanling UA1
https://en.shanling.com/product/389

little over budget (list 45$) but:

Output power   80mW @ 32Ω (1.6V)
THD+N   0.001% @32Ω (A)
Dynamics   119 dB @32Ω (A)
SNR   119dB @32Ω (A)
Crosstalk   77dB @32Ω
Output impedance   ≤0.5Ω
USB-C & USB-A

I own it & very happy.

Re: Recommendations For A Cheap External USB Soundcard?

Reply #14
I don't have anything to recommend in detail (as I would assume what's mentioned in this topic is better (but does cost more)) but when my motherboards sound output died last year (lasted about 8 years+ and I leave my computer on pretty much all of the time) I just got one of those cheap $10-15 USB sound cards online (I actually got two of them (different brands but probably same general chip) in case one dies) and it works well enough to get decent sound out of my Klipsch Pro-Media speakers (these are above average PC speakers) on my desktop computer.

the cheap USB sound cards I got show up as "Unitek Y-247A" (works on Linux Mint v20.1-Cinnamon (and I would assume Windows to)). one of the devices I got, which is a little more compact in size (which I am using currently for some odd months now), has just the standard 3.5mm output jack (so one can plug in their computer speakers to it and the like using standard 3.5mm jack) and the other, which is a little bigger in size, has the same but also has a microphone input to (but I never tested that, just the sound output).

with all of that said... while I would imagine the recommendations in this topic are probably better, I doubt the common person would complain with what I bought (since it's cheap and works well enough (I can't say I notice any obvious difference between the onboard sound and this USB sound card)) since it will likely be 'good enough' for most people in my estimations.
For music I suggest (using Foobar2000)...
1)Opus @ 64kbps or 96kbps. NOTE: using 64kbps on Samsung J3 /w Foobar2k.
2)AAC (Apple or FhG(Winamp)) @ 96kbps.
3)MP3 (LAME) @ V5 (130kbps). NOTE: using on AGPTEK-U3 as of Mar 18th 2021. I use 'fatsort' (on Linux) so MP3's are listed in order on AGPTEK-U3.

 
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