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ESI UGM96 soundcard mini-review

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  • Rob
    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
    Message 1 of 7 , 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.

      73s,
      M0RZF
    • Sid Boyce
      ... Reviews elsewhere suggests that it would only do 24-bits @ 48K, or 16-bits @ 96K. Which of those 2 are you using? 73 ... Sid. -- Sid Boyce ... Hamradio
      Message 2 of 7 , Jan 2, 2010
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        On 02/01/10 16:53, Rob wrote:
        >
        >
        > 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/
        > <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.
        >
        > 73s,
        > M0RZF
        >

        Reviews elsewhere suggests that it would only do 24-bits @ 48K, or
        16-bits @ 96K.
        Which of those 2 are you using?
        73 ... Sid.
        --
        Sid Boyce ... Hamradio License G3VBV, Licensed Private Pilot
        Emeritus IBM/Amdahl Mainframes and Sun/Fujitsu Servers Tech Support
        Specialist, Cricket Coach
        Microsoft Windows Free Zone - Linux used for all Computing Tasks
      • Rob
        Hi Sid, I m running it at 96k using the latest windows driver, and the dynamic range looks the same as the FA66 which is 24 bits. The Mac OSX core audio
        Message 3 of 7 , Jan 2, 2010
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          Hi Sid,

          I'm running it at 96k using the latest windows driver, and the dynamic range looks the same as the FA66 which is 24 bits.

          The Mac OSX core audio control panel indeed says 16 bits at 96k, the manual says "24bits/96kHz". Maybe they're doing some kind of interpolation.

          Where did you see a review?

          -Rob


          > Reviews elsewhere suggests that it would only do 24-bits @ 48K, or
          > 16-bits @ 96K.
          > Which of those 2 are you using?
          > 73 ... Sid.
          > --
        • Graeme
          Hi Rob, Interesting post. A cheap soundcard like that to go with a netbook etc. is rea;;y great. I see you strap your FA-66 to your Softrock/Mobo case. Is the
          Message 4 of 7 , Jan 2, 2010
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            Hi Rob,

            Interesting post. A cheap soundcard like that to go with a netbook etc. is rea;;y great.

            I see you strap your FA-66 to your Softrock/Mobo case. Is the FA-66 case fully isolated from the firewire and audio in/out? If not the point of the digital ground on the Mobo and isolating transformers would be lost. If it is the case (no pun intended) do you get any rediction of the FA-66 noise spikes? I have them show up here but am not in a case yet and am still trying to decide to integrate a 25 Watt amplifier and audio amplifier for the FA-66 audio out. That lovely linear you are kitting really needs to be done stand alone I think.

            73 Graeme ZL2APV

            --- In softrock40@yahoogroups.com, "Rob" <robbrown@...> wrote:
            >
            > 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.
            >
            > 73s,
            > M0RZF
            >
          • Sid Boyce
            ... http://groups.google.si/group/comp.os.linux.hardware/browse_thread/thread/acc7fecc0b8fd66e Not properly a review, just a posting of others findings. 73
            Message 5 of 7 , Jan 2, 2010
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              On 02/01/10 20:54, Rob wrote:
              >
              >
              > Hi Sid,
              >
              > I'm running it at 96k using the latest windows driver, and the dynamic
              > range looks the same as the FA66 which is 24 bits.
              >
              > The Mac OSX core audio control panel indeed says 16 bits at 96k, the
              > manual says "24bits/96kHz". Maybe they're doing some kind of interpolation.
              >
              > Where did you see a review?
              >
              > -Rob
              >
              http://groups.google.si/group/comp.os.linux.hardware/browse_thread/thread/acc7fecc0b8fd66e
              Not properly a review, just a posting of others' findings.
              73 ... Sid.

              >> Reviews elsewhere suggests that it would only do 24-bits @ 48K, or
              >> 16-bits @ 96K.
              >> Which of those 2 are you using?
              >> 73 ... Sid.
              >> --

              --
              Sid Boyce ... Hamradio License G3VBV, Licensed Private Pilot
              Emeritus IBM/Amdahl Mainframes and Sun/Fujitsu Servers Tech Support
              Specialist, Cricket Coach
              Microsoft Windows Free Zone - Linux used for all Computing Tasks
            • drmail377
              I agree, I remember reading somewhere that this thing can t do 24 bits at 96kHz due to USB bandwidth. Also, it costs $90 USD, the lowest I can find at the
              Message 6 of 7 , Jan 2, 2010
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                I agree, I remember reading somewhere that this thing can't do 24 bits at 96kHz due to USB bandwidth. Also, it costs $90 USD, the lowest I can find at the moment.

                Have you been able to take in 24-bit at 96kHz in WinXP?

                73's David

                --- In softrock40@yahoogroups.com, Sid Boyce <sboyce@...> wrote:
                >
                > On 02/01/10 16:53, Rob wrote:
                > >
                > >
                > > 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/
                > > <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.
                > >
                > > 73s,
                > > M0RZF
                > >
                >
                > Reviews elsewhere suggests that it would only do 24-bits @ 48K, or
                > 16-bits @ 96K.
                > Which of those 2 are you using?
                > 73 ... Sid.
                > --
                > Sid Boyce ... Hamradio License G3VBV, Licensed Private Pilot
                > Emeritus IBM/Amdahl Mainframes and Sun/Fujitsu Servers Tech Support
                > Specialist, Cricket Coach
                > Microsoft Windows Free Zone - Linux used for all Computing Tasks
                >
              • Rob
                Hi Gents, My result was rather unscientific, based on comparing the highest and lowest signals, and overall listening perfomance against the FA66. Since few
                Message 7 of 7 , Jan 3, 2010
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                  Hi Gents,

                  My result was rather unscientific, based on comparing the highest and lowest signals, and overall listening perfomance against the FA66. Since few musicians use Linux, it's hardly a surprise that the makers target their soundcards at Mac/Windows.

                  I can't see much difference in the noise floor when using 48k sampling, yet the USB can't quite handle duplex at 96k/24 bits.

                  The ESI ASIO driver works as well with PSDR as the Edirol one. But I have no way to verify the bit depth, apart from looking at the noise levels. Even with 48k@24bit it still would use useful. Please don't quote US $ prices, they make us jealous!!

                  Graeme, on the FA66 comment - most of the sockets on the FA66 aren't grounded to the metalwork. The zero spike drops dramatically if I strap the case (grounding screw provided) to the Softrock case. BUT the broadband spikes increase.

                  I need to look again at the area of soundcard spurious. The spikes are below noise on 40/30m but will be a problem on the higher bands.

                  -Rob


                  > I agree, I remember reading somewhere that this thing can't do 24 bits at 96kHz due to USB bandwidth. Also, it costs $90 USD, the lowest I can find at the moment.
                  >
                  > Have you been able to take in 24-bit at 96kHz in WinXP?
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