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  • Pretty good!

    posted by sunspot on 05/25/2011
    1

    Involvement:Expert (understands the inner workings) - Ownership:1 week to 1 month

    Pros:

    - No driver in modern OSs

    - Supports Linux (with caveats, see below)

    - Cheap!

    - Sound quality is quite acceptable, even with relatively good earphones (VSonic GR07, which are near top-tier in-ear earphones)

    Cons:

    - Build quality is meh, don't drop it or dump it at the bottom of the bag. Then again, you could just buy another one...

    - At least under Linux, the default sound level is very, very loud on moderately efficient earphones. The lowest you can get (3%--anything below cuts off the sound completely...) is still loud to my ears. Above? Forget about it.

    - Probably violates a bunch of EU regulations given the loudness :)

    OtherThoughts:

    I bought this mainly because I wanted to listen to music on my work laptop, but every time the hard drive was spinning, some annoying hiss would present itself in my beautiful music. Knowing that the motherboard sound cards tend to have poor isolation from the rest of the innards, I decided a USB sound card would do the trick, and looked for a cheap one that didn't make my ears bleed. This one fits the deal well.

    The high volume is annoying; presumably under Windows, the driver controls it using software. Under Linux, the buttons on the dongle don't do anything.

    Thus you must resort to trickery. For those using Linux and ALSA, use the following /etc/asound.conf:

    pcm.softvol {

    type softvol

    slave {

    pcm "hw:0,0"

    }

    control {

    name "Master"

    card 0

    }

    }

    pcm.!default {

    type plug

    slave.pcm "softvol"

    }

    This assumes you don't have another sound card (including built-in); if you do, you'll need to replace hw:0,0 with hw:1,0 or something similar if you have 2 or more additional sound cards. See the ALSA docs for more details on how to disable your built-in sound card.

    Bottomline:

    I think it's quite hard to get better for the money. Of course, it's not a USB DAC or an earphone amplifier, but it does the job as well as the Intel HDA soundcards integrated on motherboards, without the hisses from various electronics in the computer.

    The chipset on this dongle is listed as "USB-Audio - C-Media USB Headphone Set" by ALSA.

    Once you fix the ALSA settings to use softvol, it's an awesome Linux USB sound card.

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