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Chinese $10 USB Audio Controller Review (I'm serious)

post #1 of 129
Thread Starter 
I have a problem. This problem being that I'm in school (make that schools) and am as such, not terribly wealthy. I used to have a nice setup complete with tube amp and full size open headphones. That.... went away to a better place. I used to have an awesome gaming rig with a nice Maudio soundcard in it. That.... also went to a better place. And as such you have me as I am now, an audiophile with no money to spend.

I have a laptop for schools with integrated audio. Realtek AC97 laptop sound, with spdif out! Originally I thought that because it had integrated spdif that I would be able to get myself a decent DAC and enjoy all my K81DJ had to offer. Unfortunately my budget bombed when I got my booklist and had bank problems. (Student lines of credit are murder) So I reached my dilemma, how do I improve on this audio without spending any money? Enter... The Solution

I'm not advertising for the company, but I'm adding the link so you can see how much I ended up spending. The postage came to about $3 (all the way from Hong Kong direct) so all told it was about $13US. That blew my budget by about $13, but I had hope! I ended up translating the review they link to at the bottom, and it essentially said according to babelfish that it had too much packaging and had "strong outs". Taking this as a positive sign, I decided to purchase it.

I got the package (less than a week from HK ) and it had features listed on it. It also had features listed for the software that came with it.... but no software. One of the features was "External PowerNO NEED". Ecstatic that it had external powernoneed (how many of your fancy maudio cards have THAT?) I plugged it in and held my breath.

It was detected! Windows had on its hands a "C-Media USB Headphone Set". Headphone! Right in the name of the device! YES! I screamed, happy beyond words. (Except for yes, I guess thats technically a word) After another couple of breathless and wordless minutes, the red LED turned on! I had read from the review that this happened when "audio goes the in" so I was confused. Was I recording? There was a mic port but no mic was plugged in. I looked on the back of the box, but found only the assurance that the "Software Value-added for game" included "SPEAKER SHIETER" I was now happy that I had no software value-added.

I plugged in my K81DJ and hit play. My ears exploded.

After a minute of ringing I realized what had happened. Because the integrated audio is SO weak I had it cranked to 100% to get any kind of sound out of it. Full of crackles and pops perhaps, but sound was coming out. The headphone out of this thing is STRONG and was at 100%. Ow.

In terms of a review? I'm happy with this purchase. The bass recieved an odd boost and the SQ still isn't on par with my H120, but as I lost the adaptor for my european H120 (I live in Canada. Not part of Europe.) I have no way of charging the very dead battery or even doing a direct comparison. I hope to get a power adaptor so I can do a review of this thing, but I'll tell you what it's like compared to the integrated.

The sound floor is lowered considerably. With the integrated, the 81DJ buzzed like a mad hatter, with pops and clicks when I wasnt playing music. The sound would stop, stutter and freeze when I was trying to connect to a wireless network. If I ejected my wireless card the laptop would have to be rebooted before any sound would work again. If I closed VLC and opened it again, the soundsystem would crash. Sound like a software issue? I used every driver I could find, it's a hardware issue. The issue? the hardware sucks. This chinese usb soundstick is amazing. I can listen to music with some degree of clarity and enjoyment.

CONCLUSION : If you have integrated audio that crashes your computer and $13US in your paypal account... GET THIS NOW!!! If you have more than $13US you probably have a laptop that doesnt crash when you try and play music, so this conclusion isn't for you.
post #2 of 129
Great review for those with older laptops, and limited budgets......

I had a laptop allot like yours it was a used Compaq Armada M700, the sound was snap crackle and pop, and was even worse with my wireless card. Thankfully or un-thankfully how ever you want to look at it, it died a horrible death I couldn't fix (a/c modulator on the mobo) last year, So with little to no money I purchased yet another beater used laptop as I don't think I will ever be able to afford a new one, thankfully the used IBM T23 has passable sound and no snap, crackle and pop
post #3 of 129
Well, I don't think I need that $13 whatever-it-is. But I certainly enjoyed reading about it. Maybe you can find other oddities to tell us about. If you come across an All-Purpose Machine for, say, less than $100, I'd be very interested in one of those ;-)
post #4 of 129
That beats TBAAM which is $25 plus tax.
post #5 of 129
Thread Starter 
see, I've never heard the TBAAM, though I'd like to. I tried to order one, but their shipping was $70US o_O Also, I just discovered this thing has SPDIF out as well. For $10 + shipping how can you go wrong?
post #6 of 129
I don't like it because of it's too heavy bass ...

Q1: How long your laptop stays on top of the table ?
Q2: Does jumping produce extra noises?

post #7 of 129
This thing sounds just like the Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro, they both use C-Media USB chips (i'm not sure if they're the exact same chips). The only external difference seems to be the generic usb device has analog in/out and the TBAAM has analog/digital out.

I used to have a TBAAM that sounded pretty good for its price. If this sounds the same, at $10 its an amazing value for PC audio.
post #8 of 129
Originally Posted by jiiteepee
Is that the same device as in the review? If so, I'm sure I've seen this since one or two years back! Never bothered trying it out though and quite surprised RedLeader actually took the trouble to 'review' it.

post #9 of 129
Originally Posted by Zorander
Is that the same device as in the review? If so, I'm sure I've seen this since one or two years back! Never bothered trying it out though and quite surprised RedLeader actually took the trouble to 'review' it.
You're surprised he reviewed it because you saw it a year or 2 ago? Or because you never tried it? Or because it's not $100+?

What don't you like about his review (you put the word "review" in single-quotes)? I thought it was entertaining...
post #10 of 129


C-media is a chinese company that supports usb soundcards. softrading uses them, for example www.icemat.com and www.steelseries.com. the usb soundcards in the gaming headphones use this tweaked chip. I think the sound is mediocre but if you have an amp its ok. details lack, but for 10 bucks its a steal.
post #11 of 129
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Zorander
Is that the same device as in the review? If so, I'm sure I've seen this since one or two years back! Never bothered trying it out though and quite surprised RedLeader actually took the trouble to 'review' it.

It sure is! And I thought people might get a kick out of a mildly tongue-in-cheek review of a cheapo chinese product, seems I was right
post #12 of 129
on ebay there's a usb soundcard that looks like the TBAAM and has the exact same product specs and description, but instead of turtle beach audio advantage micro it says "usb sound controller"

from my observations on my dell latitude D610 it matches your description exactly. normally, moving my trackstick/nipple/josystick causes hiss and hum on the onboard sound, but with usb it's all cleaned up and yikes! these things go LOUD it even has spdif just like the TBAAM

iirc they all use the c-media chip only so i imagine the only difference is the casing =D i picked mine up locally for AUS$15 pretty sweet
post #13 of 129
I'm also a fan of the cheapo usb sound card. I bought a TBAAM from the TB ebay store for $26 shipped, and haven't looked back. Is it a fine piece of equipment? No, but it's a good half of the way from stock to proper external dac, and produces passable amplification by itself. Pretty much what Redleader is reporting from his. Adding an amp into the line does improve SQ for better headphones, but no surprise there. My original mid-fi rig of TBAAM>K240M/SR-60 was actually pretty satisfying, and held me over until I got on board the A250 craze, then came back to Germany and saw the prices on old high-end headphones...
post #14 of 129
How does $8 with free shipping sound?

post #15 of 129
I liked the OP's review. I wouldn't buy one because I'm not in the market for a cheap usb solution - yet. It is rediculus that you can spend $1000 on a laptop and have the sound bettered by a $10 device, but, that seems to be the case. I'd rather spend $1020 and have decent sound built in, but that does not seem to be a priority to most buyers. . .
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