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9295Re: [wsjtgroup] USB stand-alone sound cards

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  • Jim Brown
    Nov 30, 2012
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      On 11/28/2012 12:44 PM, w9rm wrote:
      > The Dell Dimension E520 machine which I use as my shack computer is more then sufficient to multitask as a logger, monitor of the various chats and other busy work. But, it's built-in sound card leaves a lot to be desired when running WSJT. It works but is far from optimum.
      >
      > I've been wanting to change to an outboard card for some time and actually bought a bells-and-whistles unit a year or so ago that ended up having a firmware update bug which caused it to brick and get returned. It's time to try again and I'm looking for any insight other WSJT users have on capable, cost effective USB sound boxes. Besides running WSJT, I won't be using it immediately for any other high-end task (MIDI, music editing, ect), BUT, it would be a plus if the unit was also a capable back-end to some of the simple SDR cards out there, for future use.
      >
      > Thanks for your input !

      Sorry for the delayed response -- just saw your post. About a year ago,
      I studied the market for low cost USB sound cards aimed at musicians and
      small recording studios, and, based on my experience in pro audio,
      bought two from B&H Photo. One was a Numark, for about $35, the other a
      Tascam for about $70. I tested them extensively with JT65-HF, which has
      multi-decoder capability. My first comparison was with the stock sound
      card in my T43 Thinkpad, which I've used occasionally for audio
      measurements, and which is a bit better than average for laptop sound
      cards.

      Results -- both USB sound cards decoded an average of twice as many
      signals on each pass as compared to the laptop internal sound card, and
      often produced decodes in the -20 - -22 dB range. Next, I compared the
      two USB units to each other, running on two different laptops, but being
      fed in parallel by the same output of my K3. In that series of tests,
      the two units performed equally well. On any given pass, one computer
      would decode one signal that the other would not, and vice versa, but
      neither did so more than the other.

      I've subsequently used both sound cards for RTTY contesting, and both
      significantly outperform the laptop sound card for that mode as well.

      The Tascam unit is a Model US-100. Some vendors list it as discontinued,
      but some are still selling it for $100. The Numark unit is listed on
      the B&H website as a "Stereo IO"

      Both units have line level inputs and outputs on RCA connectors, and
      both have RIAA inputs with equalization for use with an LP turntable and
      cartridge. The Tascam unit is much more flexible, with inputs for a
      microphone and a guitar pickup, a front panel input gain control, a
      headphone jack, and an output level control and selector.

      Both units get power from the USB bus, and both work with generic
      Windoze drivers. I tested them with XP Pro. These units are plain and
      simple -- 48 kHz sampling rate, 16 bit only. Both units are pretty well
      built, both have a chassis grounding screw, and seem to be free of Pin
      One problems.

      73, Jim K9YC
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