Cheap Audio Adaptors for Linux

Introduction

I need some cheap, Linux compatible USB DACs (Audio Adaptors) for a project I’m working on and I wanted to avoid $50+ name brand options for something so simple.

The ones here were the most common cheap ones I saw come up on Ebay and Ali Express. They’re easy to find if you search for USB audio and get the cheap ones … that’s why I included pictures, everyone calls them something slightly different.

I tested them by listening to a FLAC recording of Jay-Z & Kanye, ‘N****rs in Paris’ at various volumes. Not lab quality but my ears are ok having done a bit of live audio mixing in the past.

3D Sound Plastic Dongle

This has a “GeneralPlus” Chipset under a blob of goo. I don’t know why but this was the adaptor I had the highest hopes for out of the 3 I bought. It seemed pretty cool for the price so I thought it’d at least be able to play music? Nope. It had zero bass and N****rs in Paris never sounded worse.

Cost: AU$4.45 Delivered from Ebay.AU, $1 from AliExpress

Summary: Really disappointing, not worth buying ever.

dmesg output from linux:

[101856.895348] usb 1-1: new full-speed USB device number 8 using xhci_hcd
[101857.046484] usb 1-1: New USB device found, idVendor=1b3f, idProduct=2008, bcdDevice= 1.00
[101857.046490] usb 1-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
[101857.046493] usb 1-1: Product: USB Audio Device
[101857.046496] usb 1-1: Manufacturer: GeneralPlus
[101857.057521] input: GeneralPlus USB Audio Device as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:14.0/usb1/1-1/1-1:1.3/0003:1B3F:2008.0009/input/input36
[101857.116033] hid-generic 0003:1B3F:2008.0009: input,hidraw0: USB HID v2.01 Device [GeneralPlus USB Audio Device] on usb-0000:00:14.0-1/input3

Aluminium Dongle

This was the priciest dongle and I stupidly thought it’d be the best! Nope! It’s the same terrible GeneralPlus chipset. It had identical USB identifiers and output in dmesg when plugged in.

Cost: AU$6.49 from Ebay.AU

Summary: Terrible, just as bad as the previous given the identical electronics

White Cabled Dongle

I actually had the lowest expectations for this. The build quality seemed the worst of the bunch and it was just as cheap, more or less, as the cheapest one. Given it’s the last review, you know where this is going …

I was wrong. Plugged it in and after a few pops and hisses while it initialised it played the sample music beautifully! Lots of rich bass and clear across the spectrum. I compared it to my Scarlett 2i4 external USB DAC and I was hard pressed to tell the difference.

Respect to C-Media Electronics Inc., you’ve done an amazing job of creating a budget USB Audio adaptor! I haven’t tested latency or anything else through it but for the price, it’s the definite pick of the bunch.

Cost: AU$4.95 from Ebay.AU, $1 from Ali Express

Summary: Amazing value! Cheap electronics are hit and miss. This is a definite hit!

dmesg output

[101928.266936] usb 1-1: new full-speed USB device number 9 using xhci_hcd
[101928.424829] usb 1-1: New USB device found, idVendor=8086, idProduct=0808, bcdDevice= 1.00
[101928.424830] usb 1-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
[101928.424831] usb 1-1: Product: USB PnP Sound Device
[101928.424831] usb 1-1: Manufacturer: C-Media Electronics Inc.      
[101928.432320] input: C-Media Electronics Inc.       USB PnP Sound Device as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:14.0/usb1/1-1/1-1:1.3/0003:8086:0808.000A/input/input37

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