Reliability of USB audio devices

Having just read another post about an unreliable USB turntable, I was wondering to what extent reliability problems are inherent to USB audio devices.

My own experience is with using a Behringer UCA202, with Windows XP SP2, on a 500 MHz Pentium II with USB 1 and both Audacity 1.2.6 and 1.3.4
Considering the low spec. (and low price) of this equipment, it may be surprising to hear that this set up is completely reliable.

So is it that the UCA202 is a more reliable USB interface, or am I just lucky?

My Edirol UA-1EX USB sound card works like a dream too - and excellent techsupport/advice availiable from the Edirol/Roland helpline when I was setting it up.

My ION that preceded it also worked fine with no USB transfer problems - just a lot of wow&flutter.

Environment: Dell Dimension 2400 Windows XP-HE-SP2


There are few inherent problems with USB devices. USB 1.1 wasn’t designed with audio in mind, but it works well enough for a few channels at a time as long as there aren’t other USB devices hogging all the resources. USB 2.0 also wasn’t designed with audio in mind, but it is prone to fewer bandwidth issues than 1.1. It is perfectly possible to make a USB device to record and playback 2 channels of audio at once. I can’t really speculate about more than 2 channels though, I haven’t ever used a USB audio device.

That said, not all USB chipsets or drivers are created equally. I know you recently posted about the NVidia chipset, so you’re aware of that. I think this sort of thing is the root of most of the problems people have with USB audio. USB wasn’t designed with constant data streaming in mind, so not all chipsets and drivers support that kind of data flow (which is very important for audio, but not so important for moving files around or sending keystrokes back and forth). I think the NVidia chipset (or drivers) just aren’t too concerned with moving data back and forth constantly. The NVidia chips would rather move it all in large bunches. This is just speculation, but it would explain the problem. It’s also odd considering that NVidia is primarily a video company, they should know how to handle stuff like that. Perhaps the problem really does lie elsewhere.

Further compounding the problem is that the market is now flooded with cheap USB audio devices (especially turntables) of varying quality. Some of them just don’t seem to behave very well. Again, it’s not strictly a problem with USB, it’s with the way the USB port is being used.

Some details about my setup that I missed out:
The USB is with an Intel chipset USB 1.1 and I use 2 channels in + 2 channels out (I may be playing many more tracks than that, but the UCA202 is just 2 in / 2 out. There are no other USB devices in use at the same time. Also my PC is regularly defragmented (only a small hard drive) and runs pretty lean (not much in the background apart from AVG free {anti-virus only}, Zone Alarm free, and KX Manager).

Hi! My first post here.
Just disappointed with the Sigma Tel audio card on my Dell Inspiron 1420 laptop.
I can get playback from Audacity from Headphones Out after recording a track in Line In, but not at any other time.
When I’m playing my Motif plugged into the Line In, with my headphones in the Headphones Out, there is only distorted sound coming out of the laptop speakers, but zilch in my headphones! There is only sound from the computer’s internal sounds and the playback of already recorded tracks in my headphones, but NOT through the laptop speakers! Weird.
Can someone help me solve this problem?
Or, should I get a UCA202? :slight_smile:
The UCA202 should be assignable for Audacity audio In and Out, right?

If you have a question regarding your setup, start a new topic.
As far as the suitability of a UCA202, this topic is discussing the reliability of USB audio, so you may want to visit this thread again when there are a few more responses.