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Cheap, decent USB soundcard

I'm currently using a Behringer UCA 202 soundcard to listen from a Windows laptop. I'm getting glitches with this on my work laptop, so I'd like to try an alternative USB soundcard in the hope this fixes the problem. I'd not want to have to install any addtional drivers, and just want something cheap that measures OK; phono outputs would be convenient, but not essential. It doesn't need to drive headphones, just give an audio output to go to my amp.

Any suggestions? Not a Behringer, I guess, in case that's more likely to replicate my current problems... I would just use the laptop's internal soundcard, but I get an annoyingly high level of hiss from this and then it distorts if I turn it loud. As it's a work laptop, I'm not able to look to change things to troubleshoot the UCA202 properly (IT understandably don't see my music listening as a priority :) ).

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #1
It's probably not the soundcard's "fault"...  It's related to multitasking.  Try to minimize the multitasking.   

You may be running another application or it could be a driver windows background process.    Windows is always multitasking, even if you're only running one application.    When you play audio (or video) the audio gets written to a buffer (memory) in a quick burst between other CPU/data bus operations.    Then the digital audio stream is sent from the buffer to the digital-to-analog converter at a smooth constant rate.    If something hogs the system for a few milliseconds too long you get buffer underflow and a glitch.    The other stuff doesn't have to be using a lot of CPU power, it just has to hog toe system for a few milliseconds too long.

When recording, the audio streams smoothly into a buffer, then the buffer is read from in a quick burst.    If the buffer isn't read in time you get buffer overflow and a glitch.

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #2
Thanks. I can't really do much about the multitasking, though - most things that are running are decided by my work. Would giving some processes (e.g. foobar?) priority in task manager help?

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #3
It's probably not the soundcard's "fault"...  It's related to multitasking.  Try to minimize the multitasking.   

That isn't going to make any difference.  This is just some hardware or driver bug.

When you play audio (or video) the audio gets written to a buffer (memory) in a quick burst between other CPU/data bus operations.    Then the digital audio stream is sent from the buffer to the digital-to-analog converter at a smooth constant rate.    If something hogs the system for a few milliseconds too long you get buffer underflow and a glitch.    The other stuff doesn't have to be using a lot of CPU power, it just has to hog toe system for a few milliseconds too long.

If the audio buffer size is set to a couple of milliseconds, that qualifies as a software bug.

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I'd probably try some other device and see if you get the same problem. 

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #4
Try using LatencyMon to see if you can narrow down the possible cause.
Who are you and how did you get in here ?
I'm a locksmith, I'm a locksmith.

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #5
Thanks - but sadly I can't install new non-work software on the laptop. I get the issue (though less often, I think) even if I use foobar and set the buffer to 7000ms - could it still be a multitasking issue?

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #6
I've attached a portable version of LatencyMon.

You should hopefully be able to unzip to the desktop and run it.
Who are you and how did you get in here ?
I'm a locksmith, I'm a locksmith.

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #7
Do you have other things plugged into USB?   Try temporaly unplugging everything USB except the Behringer interface.   I believe most laptops have a built-ion "USB hub chip" so all of the ports may be sharing the same data path.   You probably need whatever is plugged-in, but that might explain things.

I did say it's probably not the interface but you might just try a cheap USB soundcard.   I have a couple of these that I use for "troubleshooting purposes".    It's not super-cheap but not expensive either. A cheaper USB soundcard may work just as well.  (You generally need something better for recording, but playback is usually "easy".)   I can't hear any hiss (or other noise) with headphones.    (You may hear noise with an amplifier and sometimes you can get "computer noise" into the soundcard/interface from the USB power.)

I don't know how much effort you want to put into this, but you can checkout Glitch Free.

Or, maybe use your smart phone as an audio player, or get an iPod, or bring-in your own computer...   I have my own (tower) computer at work on a KVM switch and that's what I'm typing-on right now!  Unfortunately, my "work environment" has changed and I can't play music anymore. :(

Re: Cheap, decent USB soundcard

Reply #8
Wifi driver problem...

Music is my first love.

 
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