USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 66 Old 04-17-08, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

I recently bought a new HP laptop 17" (dv9730) that uses VISTA as its operating system. (I have finally retired my old K6-350MHz system )

The on-board soundcard isn't suffice for the many requirements I have, so I needed an external USB soundcard that would serve multiple purposes.

The reasoning and required duties behind the purchase of this laptop are many. It will have a home in my HT systems' equipment rack, where it will be connected wireless to my back room office main computer for access to all my Pictures, MP3 Music and Documents.

Origonally, I had envisioned an Xbox 360 or PS3 for this job, but a laptop simply does so much more. Fairly hard to run REW on an Xbox, or travel to a hotel room and use a PS3 to access your e-mail..........

Anyway, I require a digital optical connection to my processor for playing music (both CD and MP3) using stereo PCM. I also require Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS to be passed unaltered for the odd DVD movie I might stick in there before the disc finds a home in my jukebox.
The video from this laptop is HDMI up to 1080p. It happens to have an HD DVD player in it, but I don't really want it for that purpose. If I want 1080p, I'll get a blu-ray player. (I did try an HD-DVD disk and it is extremely good).

I also want to use the laptop for REW duties on my HT system, so any external soundcard that I consider needs analog line-out and line-in ports, and the ability to work properly with VISTA (32 bit).

There are occasions where I may want to record some digital data, so the external soundcard also needs an optical SPDIF input port.

And of course, if I plan to travel anywhere, I want to be able to unplug the HT cables and take the laptop off the shelf, and use the on-board audio.

My minimum requirements for the external USB soundcard were:

Line-in and Line-out analog.
Line-in and Line-out optical digital.
Must pass DTS and Dolby Digital AC-3 out the digital port.
Vista supported drivers (32 bit).
Small footprint.
Under $100 (and not from e-bay).
Must run REW properly.
Minimum 16 bit / 48K sampling ADC/DAC. I know a lot of people will say, why not 24 bit. Well, most of these 24 bit systems are that in name only. I'd much rather a 16 bit system done properly than a crummy 24 bit system (which many are I'm afraid).

You'd think this was a fairly easy shopping list, but not so.

There are lots of soundcards that output analog and digital, but not so many that will input the same for under $100 that are VISTA compatible.

Recently, it appears the Sound Blaster Live 24 bit external may be working with VISTA (not confirmed as yet). I was indeed considering it, but it is rather dated and I wanted something a bit smaller in its footprint.
The M-Audio Transit is nice, but it has a shared dual-purpose mic-in and line-in jack that has DC bias voltage present at all times, and this pegs the analog Radio Shack meter needle. I'm not fussed about having that DC there whenever I plug in a device, so I pass on that one.
The ADS RDX-150 seemed a possibility, but there were too many reports of low sound quality. I want good sound quality.
There were a few others that just didn't measure up for various reasons.

Anyway, the winner was the Turtle Beach - Audio Advantage SRM - USB external soundcard.

It meets all my requirements and works very well. It has a very small profile, great sound in analog and digital, great price, good web site support and works well with VISTA 32 bit. The PDF manual has sections for all the Windows operating system including VISTA. The VISTA driver loads and provides a nice control panel application that works very nicely with REW.

I made up a couple analog cables for it, using 3.5 mm stereo plugs with long audio cables feeding RCA plugs. The analog line-in and line-out jacks also accept (supplied) adapters that plug in and then accept digital optical cables. The adapters mate very well into the standard 3.5 mm jacks and the optical cable snaps in tightly.

Here's a picture of my new REW setup with the laptop and audio card plugged into it with the two line-in and line-out audio cables I made up. It shows the cards small size.
USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-laptop-srm-rew-setup-800.jpg



Here's a pic of the card and its profiles and plugs.
USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-turtle-beach-audio-advantage-srm.jpg



Loading the driver is typical. The software exe file is loaded without the card plugged in, then it asks you to plug it in and you continue the load. When finished you have to reboot and then the card is recognized by VISTA. The cards control panel application is accessed from the system tray icon.

I didn't bother with the supplied CD (they're usually full of unwanted software), and more often than not, the device web site always seems to have newer version drivers, I just went directly to the site and downloaded the latest driver which also includes the control panel software. It was located here at the bottom of the FAQ page and was called srm_vist.exe

The laptop normally has its on-board soundcard (by Conexant) in digital and analog showing in the VISTA Playback and Record mixer screens. When the USB card is plugged in, two new additional soundcard analog and digital outputs are available and three new inputs are available (the USB card also has a on-board stereo mic) as shown below. When you unplug the USB, the normal laptop playback and record on-board soundcards selections remain and the USB card selections are gone. So, it's easy to switch between on-board and external soundcard.



Here's the VISTA playback mixer with the USB card plugged in and analog selected.
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Here's the VISTA recording mixer with the USB card plugged in and analog selected.
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REW recognizes the card and is selectable in the REW settings page. The control of the input and output levels in REW (as it has no access to Vista levels) is easily done either through the VISTA Playback and Record Devices properties levels or through the USB soundcards Control panel software (the latter being the easiest and preferred method as shown below).

Below I show the Audio Advantage SRM USB soundcard Control panel and the interaction with the VISTA mixer / properties settings. I placed them side by side for easy viewing.

Here's the Playback adjustments on the Mixer panel.
Note in the Playback panel, that the microphone and line-in are shut off (just like in XP) and the line-out output control level is shown as Master volume.
USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-srm-playback-setup.jpg



Here's the Record adjustments on the Mixer panel.
Note in the Record panel that you select analog Line-in with a pull down, then there is a standard line-in volume control.
There's also a handy Pan control in case you are using the optional REW "Use Left Channel as Calibration Reference" and you want to balance the the two channels.
USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-srm-record-setup.jpg



Here's what the REW settings panel looks like.
The card is selectable in the Settings Output and Input device pulldowns, and then you leave it in Default (as shown below) and adjust as I mention above.
Note that in the example below I'm using the optional "Use Left Channel as Calibration Reference" instead of the standard soundcard calibration file method, and so both the Input VU meters are operating. Alternatively, if the standard (and recommended) soundcard calibration file method is used, then only the right channel input VU meter will be operational.
USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-srm-rew-settings.jpg



The Effects and Equalizer tabs have all the features disabled (of course) and on the Main screen tab (as shown below), the SPDIF digital output is shut off and stereo two speakers selected.
The Master volume slider shown is a clone of the one on the Playback adjustments on the Mixer panel.
USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-srm-mixer-main.jpg



You can see at the top of the Control panel jpgs where it says REW setup. This is a nice feature where you can save multiple sets of Control panel setups, so you can just load that config file the next time you use it. Kinda convenient. I made one for REW use, another for analog music, and digital stereo music, digital movie 5.1 output, etc.

The soundcard also passes DTS and Dolby digital, so it can be hooked to your receiver for DVD's etc. It also has headphone output and will encode 7.1 analog surround output for external speaker systems (not that I want to use those features, but they are there). All the cables come with the soundcard to hook all this up (except of course for the line-in and line-out cables needed for REW ).

I played with this soundcard in REW using the Left Channel calibrate and also the soundcard cal file method, and it performed fine (I prefer the soundcard cal file method myself as it offered a better signal to noise ratio and less cabling). The high frequency response (above 15KHz) isn't that great (although the low end response is amazing), but it's fine, especially for REW. (it's important to be sure the wireless on a laptop is turned off before doing a soundcard cal file creation).

Below is the soundcard cal file. You can see it's down about -3dB by about 17KHz and so doesn't do justice to the 20KHz region too well, but I have no problems with that since REW compensates to make the response flat, and also I will use the digital SPDIF output for listening to music etc. The analog connections will only serve REW.
USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-srm-soundcard-cal-file.jpg




OverClockers did a review when the card was first released and they thought it was pretty good. I mention this because they claim in their tests that the card was only down -3dB at 19KHz.....

I have to agree with their conclusions, for the price, it's a pretty good soundcard that works with VISTA and REW. I paid $79.95

Anyway, I thought this might be useful info for those looking for VISTA compatible USB soundcards....

brucek
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post #2 of 66 Old 05-10-08, 02:27 PM
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

Hey BruceK,

Great write-up on the Turtle Beach card!

I only wish I'd seen this before I ordered my SB Live! external card a week ago. As it is, I have opened but haven't used the SB Live! card and am now concerned that I won't be able to use it with my i-Mac (bootcamped) Vista laptop.

Any help appreciated!

Thanks,
Phil

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post #3 of 66 Old 05-11-08, 06:14 AM
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/produ...2.0?sku=705624

Why have a middle man, when this has better mic pre's then the the behringer mixer.

Just a thought.
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post #4 of 66 Old 06-04-08, 06:52 PM
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

How does this compare the SoundBlaster Live! 24-bit External USB card?
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post #5 of 66 Old 06-04-08, 07:34 PM Thread Starter
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

I suppose since the SoundBlaster doesn't appear to work with Vista, the Audio Advantage would be a better bet.

For use with REW, most any soundcard will work, as long as it has a line-in and line-out..

brucek
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post #6 of 66 Old 07-22-08, 08:49 PM
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

brucek

I ran into trouble installing the Turtle Beach SRM sound card purchased on your recommendation. Please try to help.

1. Installation: I downloaded the srm_vist.exe file at the TB website and used that instead of the supplied CD.

2. Sound Card Calibration: both channels L & R lit up whether I used the "Use the left channel as calibration" or the L channel loop. Is that normal? Does the REW Setting Screen picture you posted show the correct working (i.e., is it normal to see both L & R channels lit up with bars when the Use Left Channel as calibration box is checked)?

2a. The REW setup screen looked like the one you posted with all the SC controls grayed out. And so it was impossible to increase the input or output level to match up the level within 3 dB as instructed because everything was maxed out. What should I do here?

2b. Even if I cheated on to the Check Level step, the seemed to be super low output. Example, with the Sound Blaster External on XP, this step means that my PRE/PRE volume was roughly 18; it was over 40 last night and the RS SPL still only registered 50 something decibles. There was simply no output at all. What did I do wrong here? Or is it the installation?

I couldn't get past this step. And so tried to uninstall SRM SC driver. Reinstalled and got this messge "catatrophic failure" or the like. My Vista is 32-bit.

Thank you in advance for your help.
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post #7 of 66 Old 07-22-08, 09:21 PM Thread Starter
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

Quote:
Does the REW Setting Screen picture you posted show the correct working (i.e., is it normal to see both L & R channels lit up with bars when the Use Left Channel as calibration box is checked)?
Yes, since there is a loopback cable always present on the left channel from line-out to line-in and the SPL meter is feeding the right channel line-in, receiving sound from the speakers fed from the right channel line-out.

Quote:
And so it was impossible to increase the input or output level to match up the level within 3 dB as instructed because everything was maxed out. What should I do here?
If you can't get a match between left and right channel (and it doesn't have to be that close really), simply use the balance control.
To tell you the truth, I don't really like to use "Use Left Channel as Reference" feature. It adds a bit of noise. I like to use the soundcard calibration file method. It's much easier and more efficient.


Quote:
What did I do wrong here?
Don't really know what you did wrong here. I have tons of level on mine - no problem. Hopefully you are actually using line-in and line-out jacks and not the mic-in and headphone-out jacks?

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post #8 of 66 Old 08-09-08, 01:53 PM
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

I finally got REW up and running. I went with the TurtleBeach SRM card based on the recommendation here. I had a few troubles getting things set-up, but after fiddling with all of the available volume controls got the levels right. I'm happy to report that my FR measurement of the card is nearly identical to the one that Bruce posted. . This has the double good effect of confirming the card will work and that I somehow got things set-up right!

USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible-srm-fr.jpg
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post #9 of 66 Old 08-09-08, 02:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

Looks good..................
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post #10 of 66 Old 08-13-08, 12:34 AM
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Re: USB SoundCard - VISTA compatible

Quote:
Ricci wrote: View Post
I finally got REW up and running. I went with the TurtleBeach SRM card based on the recommendation here. I had a few troubles getting things set-up, but after fiddling with all of the available volume controls got the levels right. I'm happy to report that my FR measurement of the card is nearly identical to the one that Bruce posted. . This has the double good effect of confirming the card will work and that I somehow got things set-up right!

Attachment 8827
Good for you--I've really enjoyed using the Turtle Beach card and REW. My Ultra now sits in the best spot in the room and is happily munching away at my home's structural integrity--fascinatingly I'm grinning all along this destructive path...



Enjoy and thanks Brucek!!!

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