Sunday, February 16, 2020

SoundBlaster X G1

I'm always on the lookout for good USB sound cards. I've found a few. Some were expensive, like the M-Audio Transit. Others were cheaper, like the Startech ICUSBAUDIOMH. Both of these are 96 kHz, 24-bit, stereo input and output sound cards.

And neither of them work any more. You see, these devices, although the hardware is perfectly capable, are no longer supported with current drivers. As such, they no longer function with the latest operating systems. It's a very disappointing situation.

So, I continue my search to find good sound cards. I look for 48 or 96 kHz, 24-bit devices, preferably with stereo input. Sadly, this last function is hard to find.

The SoundBlaster X G1 seemed promising. It was advertised as 96 kHz, 24-bit, stereo device. It was only about $30, so it fit my criteria as inexpensive. I received one at Christmas time and checked it out.

The SoundBlaster X G1 comes with a TRRS mini phone jack, which should have been a clue that it didn't have stereo input. It comes with an adapter that exposes the connections as a separate headphone and microphone jack. The microphone input is connected to the ring terminal, the tip having no connection. This is apparently pretty standard for PC microphones.

When I first tested the device, I was disappointed that it only had 44.1 kHz, 16-bit input and output. At least, that's the only function it would perform out of the box. While the input appeared on the computer as stereo, both channels are hooked to the single input channel -- giving you two copies of the same input signal.

Turns out, the SoundBlaster people have created a device that has multiple "profiles" and can appear as a device with different capabilities. The default profile is intended to be compatible with the Sony Playstation, and has minimal capabilities. Using a special Windows program, I reconfigured the profile to the Generic profile.

On the Generic profile, the device conforms more closely to it's specifications. 96 kHz operation is restricted to output-only. Input maxes out at 48 kHz. But both input and output are 24-bit.

Once configured, the SoundBlaster X G1 makes a decent sound card, although it is restricted to a single input signal.

SoundBlaster also makes the SoundBlaster Play!, which appears to have similar capabilities 96/48 kHz, 24-bit, stereo out, mono in. The Play! is about 20% cheaper, but both are inexpensive.