Wednesday, June 09, 2010

USB Audio Adapters in Linux

Hey look, a technical/Linux related blog post! I haven't done one of these in a while!

Some time back I hastily left my laptop while still wearing my headphones to go to the bathroom, and subsequently broke the headphone jack on my laptop. Now, fortunately I was able to eventually buy a replacement used daughter card for my Lenovo Thinkpad SL400 for $50 and install it myself, thanks to Lenovo's excellent online video tutorials and technicians handbook, but before finding the daughter card for that price (others were selling it for around $100) I discovered USB Audio Adapters. I knew they existed in the periphery of my memory, but I always assumed they did not work in Linux for whatever reason. Still, they were relatively cheap so I bought a couple.
The cheapest one was this "5.1CH USB 2.0 3D Audio Sound Card Adapter Headphone/MIC" on ebay that was .99 cents + .50 cents shipping. I bought two because a Windows running friend was having trouble running Skype and figured this could do the trick (it did, Skype recognized it right away and requested to use it) .. it arrived pretty quickly too. Sound quality is reasonable. Serviceable. Unless you're an audiophile you're not going to complain. Got the job done, anyways. I'll paste the dmesg for those who like that sort of thing:
usb 7-2: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 3
usb 7-2: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
input: USB AUDIO as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1d.1/usb7/7-2/7-2:1.3/input/input14
generic-usb 0003:1130:F211.0002: input,hidraw0: USB HID v1.10 Device [USB AUDIO ] on usb-0000:00:1d.1-2/input3
input: USB AUDIO as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1d.1/usb7/7-2/7-2:1.4/input/input15
generic-usb 0003:1130:F211.0003: input,hidraw1: USB HID v1.10 Device [USB AUDIO ] on usb-0000:00:1d.1-2/input4
one thing I forgot to mention is this has a little light inside it that lights up when powered. If you like to know your USB sound card is working by showing you a light, then great. But it might annoy some people. Plus its orange, and thats not the favourite colour of most people. Still, for $1.50 its pretty good. Better at least than no sound.

here's a screenshot of audio card output selection in Ubuntu Lucid.

The other one I purchased is a Logitech A-5572A (according to its label), which I got for about $10.00 including shipping. I like it cause it has a cable so it sticks out a bit from the laptop and seems less likely to break for no reason. Using dmesg in Ubuntu Lucid shows the following:
usb 7-2: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 2
usb 7-2: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
usbcore: registered new interface driver hiddev
usbcore: registered new interface driver snd-usb-audio
input: SCEA Inc. Logitech USB Headset as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1d.1
generic-usb 0003:046D:0A0B.0001: input,hidraw0: USB HID v1.10 Device [SCEA Inc. Logitech USB Headset ] on usb-0000:00:1d.1-2/input3
usbcore: registered new interface driver usbhid
usbhid: v2.6:USB HID core driver
Ubuntu shows it in sound preferences, select audio output as logitech, and voila. Works beautifully.

I also realized internal HDMI Audio worked with no issues as selected on this laptop and used that occasionally as well.

That said, I just bought a T510 with switchable graphics so its all moot. Bought a Displayport to HDMI adapter from DealExtreme we'll see how that works. Hopefully the T510 can withstand the punishment I give laptops better than the SL400. I miss the keyboard style of a true thinkpad as well, though the keyboard on this one was useable. That's neither here nor there though. The main thing is USB sound works pretty good in Linux, or at least in Ubuntu Lucid, so hurray!


John said...

Hey boss. Nice write up. Although I'm running Ubuntu 11.xx on a (former Win7) Acer netbook, I'm actually wondering if the Logitech a5572a might work on a PS3. Gets cold in Edmonton once in a while :). Might have missed where you found it as Best Buy, Future Shop, The Source, Memory Express etc list nothing... You can hit me back at exmilitary at gmail dot com. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

so are these usb sound cards? or just a plug for your headphones?..i need one for my laptop to run a dj program and be able to listen one song that will go to my headphone and not to the computer sound...

reedsolomon.matr1x at said...

They're USB sound cards that have headphone plugs. Basically an alternate sound output.