Author Topic: Advice on external USB sound device.  (Read 2589 times)

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Offline Ampera

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Advice on external USB sound device.
« on: June 21, 2019, 02:01:38 am »
Currently looking for a decent quality high versatility DAC/ADC (sound card) for use in a low key music computer (instruments, not listening, needs a decent line level input).

Requirements:

Price is between 50-100 USD.
Connects via USB (or IEEE 1394, but I don't imagine that's gonna come up)
Low latency
FreeBSD support (JACK support, but it uses system drivers intended to mimic OSS, or plain OSS)
Amplified output.

Would be nice:
Is available Amazon Prime.
ALSA/Linux support (although this is likely not an issue if it has BSD support)


It doesn't need to be studio quality, my only intentions are to throw some guitars on it and get a nice output. I have a Z97 Gigabyte board with decent onboard sound I use for this purpose, but I'm arranging a more dedicated machine for this due to sound server stupidity, among other things.

Suggestions appreciated, thank you.
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Offline MrMobodies

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« Last Edit: June 21, 2019, 02:52:53 am by MrMobodies »
 
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Offline Ampera

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2019, 03:01:37 am »
Woah that's what I call a sound card.

It looks like a good bit of kit, I might be able to go up to there, but I might want to entertain a few more contemporary options. It's likely above the concept of someone who is just going to be tinkering around with some instruments casually.

Thanks for that link though, that really does look like an interesting device. MIDI too, which is great by me.

EDIT: Just looked on Amazon and the UMC202HD is within my price range, and would meet all my needs (though I'd have to put some money down on converters to connect audio plebian gear to). I'd still be interested in more options if anybody has any.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2019, 03:07:17 am by Ampera »
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Online oPossum

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2019, 04:10:25 am »
Focusrite Scarlett are excellent.

https://focusrite.com/scarlett

Avoid Behringer and M-Audio if you want something of good quality.
 
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Offline Ampera

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2019, 04:17:58 am »
Focusrite Scarlett are excellent.

https://focusrite.com/scarlett

Avoid Behringer and M-Audio if you want something of good quality.

You see the issue here is that what is and is not quality will change from person to person. So long as it can beat what one would have on their motherboard, I'm happy as far as quality goes. What is important to me, as I don't have a lot of money, is price. Those sound devices are /very/ expensive, and I'd need to have some layman's manner of understanding the significant difference I would get for giving up features and money in exchange for one of those units.

I'm not saying it's a bad suggestion, and I genuinely do not need audiophile gear. I do thank you very much for the suggestion though, another person made the same one, so you're not crazy. :P

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Online oPossum

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2019, 04:58:18 am »
In my current collection of USB audio interfaces is...
  • Behringer 302USB
  • Behringer UM2
  • Behringer UMC202HD
  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd gen)
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (1st gen)
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd gen)
  • Shure X2u
  • Heil USBQ

Currenly looking for a Steinberg UR22 to add to the collection.


The Behringer stuff was purchased for applications where quality didn't matter and low price was desirable. For example one of them is used with vintage computers to load programs from 'tape'. Another is used as a general purpose audio source.

The Focusrite stuff is used when better performance is needed. For example the preamp noise is much higher on Behringer than Focusrite. You don't need golden ears to hear that hiss. This matters to me because I prefer to use dynamic mics rather than condenser, so higher preamp gain is required. Focusrite also has a larger range of preamp gain, level indicators that are really usefull, and a solid 48V switchable phantom power. These are very tangible differences that really have nothing to do with sound 'quality' or something being 'audiophile grade'. There are also some differences in build quality. Metal vs. plastic, higher quality pots, higher quality XLR.

I understand the desire to get the job done with minimal cost - I really do. I do the same myself. I just wanted to give some explanation of why I recommend Focusrite over some of the less expensive alternatives.

Regarding my sanity - that is questionable to say the least.
 
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Offline Ampera

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2019, 06:21:56 am »
Maybe audiophile wasn't the right word.

From a purely idiot's standpoint, my 70 dollar motherboard has perfectly acceptable input quality, I just need something external. When I said I don't need quality, I genuinely don't need it, I have ISA sound cards from the 90's that would work fine, they're just not usable on USB.
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Offline JPortici

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2019, 07:18:10 am »
Meh, the scarlett has bland, shitty preamps with next to zero headroom.. and the outputs are very weak. Seriously, you're going to get more volume for your headphones from your computer's audio output.
I won't comment on behringer other than the fact that as a customer i try to boycott any product from the "MUSIC Group Macao Commercial Offshore Limited": instruments, equipment, software, silicon.

below the 100 mark just grab anything, they're all the same.
 

Offline OwO

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2019, 09:16:49 am »
I don't understand why these low output level mics don't have a builtin preamp. From a system design point of view it is incredibly suboptimal to route weak signals onto long wires and then amplify it with stupidly high gain at the receiver, while using ex🅱ensive shielded cables. With ordinary cables I don't think the input noise of your sound card is going to be a limiting factor. A 4 wire mic interface would be far better, with 2 wires for power (5 or 12V) and a twisted pair for differential, line-level audio (+/-3V).
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Offline Ampera

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2019, 07:43:43 pm »
Meh, the scarlett has bland, shitty preamps with next to zero headroom.. and the outputs are very weak. Seriously, you're going to get more volume for your headphones from your computer's audio output.
I won't comment on behringer other than the fact that as a customer i try to boycott any product from the "MUSIC Group Macao Commercial Offshore Limited": instruments, equipment, software, silicon.

below the 100 mark just grab anything, they're all the same.

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about, everyone has a different opinion. Just works is fine for me, and the first suggestion genuinely looks like it would be perfect for what I need.
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Offline tooki

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2019, 02:09:43 pm »
Focusrite Scarlett are excellent.

https://focusrite.com/scarlett

Avoid Behringer and M-Audio if you want something of good quality.

You see the issue here is that what is and is not quality will change from person to person.
That doesn't mean that general consensus doesn't exist, nor that differences don't exist.

Fact is, Behringer and M-Audio are entry level gear, for musicians on a budget. They're not bad, but they aren't great either. You won't see them in professional studios for anything critical.
 

Offline Ampera

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2019, 04:55:47 pm »
Aye, and that's why I'd buy them, since I want functionality at a price point where the quality isn't important to me. I'm not a studio, I'm a hobbyist who will be using this gear for fun, not profit.
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Offline Halcyon

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2019, 07:34:21 pm »
In my current collection of USB audio interfaces is...
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (1st gen)
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd gen)

I have a 1st Gen 2i2 which has been great. How do you find it in comparison with the 2nd gen? Have they fixed that horrible issue where the rubbery knobs go sticky after a few years?
 

Offline Ampera

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Re: Advice on external USB sound device.
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2019, 10:28:47 pm »
Thought I should hop back in here to say what I've bought and my experiences:

I bought the Behringer UMC404HD, and I am very happy with it. It works perfectly for instruments like guitars and my theremin, even with a specific setting for them. It's simple to set up, having just plugged in and been detected as an ALSA device, and then worked perfectly fine within JACK. It has plenty of features to keep me entertained, and while I might not be using all the channels to their full potential, not having to so much dick around with physical cables to play a different instrument is definitely nice. Looking neat doesn't hurt it either.

I'd offer some examples, but I am a very beginner player in everything, and my examples aren't great ones of how good it sounds. I'll have something some day when I improve, so if you for whatever reason /need/ to know, hmu.

To be more specific of the sound quality, it sound excellent for my ears. I run it through a studio monitor, which isn't the best for hearing the minute details, but it's well above my PC's sound card, which would have still been acceptable. It works very well with my Mac Mini DAW running Arch Linux, and I've done all sorts of neat things, like DSP guitar effects, analog synth, recordings, playback, etc. This is truly now the DAW of my hobbyist dreams, and I've had loads of fun with it (which was the point).

Thanks everyone for suggesting different options, honestly all of the suggestions would probably have worked fine enough, but I liked the Behringer for looks and name.
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