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39240ESI UGM96 soundcard mini-review

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  • Rob
    Jan 2, 2010
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      Hi Group,

      Now I have two working SR systems, and an understanding of PowerSDR-IQ, thought I would try different sound cards. Here's a look at the UGM96, using an Edirol FA66 as a yardstick.

      The advantage of the UGM96 hits you when you realise how small and cheap it is, see http://www.esi-audio.com/products/ugm96/

      The test system was:
      Samsung Q320 laptop with Windows XP SP3
      PowerSDR-IQ V1.12.20
      Softrock RxTx V6.3 with MoBo V4.3 beta
      Alinco DM330 power supply (switch mode)

      Unlike the multi channel Edirol, the UGM96 has only a stereo in and out. So I had to use my PC for the sound output/input and have the VAC tab active in PSDRIQ.

      It took some fiddling with settings to get the UGM96 working smoothly. I am using the V2.3 windows driver from ESI, which is newer than the one on the install CD. The buffer size in the ESI system-tray panel needs to be increased to 256. In PSDRIQ the latency was set to 1024, with the ASIO driver.

      PSDRIQ gives a stern warning about not using an approved card, but apart from having to fiddle with VAC, it's not a show stopper.

      The patchbay software supplied by ESI is confusing. There is still no documentation on how to use it. Leaving it "unpatched" seemed to work.

      I noted no big difference on Rx or Tx performance between the two cards. Both cards give spurious spikes in the panadaptor. The zero spike of the UGM96 was bigger, but the wideband spikes smaller. I usually strap the FA66 to the Softrock chassis to reduce the zero spike anyway. The Alinco power supply causes some spurious "humps" but not too bad.

      The input op-amps on the UGM96 are JRC4580, which are not really high performance chips. They could be replaced by alternatives.

      The CPU load with the UGM96 was higher, but shouldn't be a problem on a reasonably specced PC. The main operational issue is the buffer size. When tuning, there's a slight delay between hitting a frequency and the audio coming through.

      There's a picture of my SR Mk.2 with the UGM96 attached in the photos section.

      Conclusion: UGM96 plays well with PSDRIQ, within the limitations of a two channel, unsupported card. For base station use, the FA66 has the edge. For portable use... I will fit the UGM96 inside my SR, making an integrated USB-in, antenna-out box.

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