USB sound card with decent Stereo Mix?

Hi everyone,

I need to record snippets of audio via stereo mix for studying German (e.g. from podcasts, websites). Unfortunately, my laptop’s onboard sound is very noisy.

What’s a good, inexpensive USB sound card that will let me record clean audio via stereo mix? Good overall sound for my Audiotechnica headphones would also be nice. 5.1 sound is not an absolute requirement.


I don’t know of any USB sound cards that directly support recording “Stereo Mix”. However, recording sounds from your computer with a USB sound card is easy to achieve by using a “loopback” connector. What that means is that you need to use an audio lead to connect the output of the USB sound card to the input of the USB sound card.

In order to be able to hear the sound while you are recording it, you will preferably want a USB sound card that also has a headphone socket.

In order for the output level and the input level of the sound card to be at suitable levels, you will want a USB sound card that has “line level” inputs and outputs.

The inexpensive Behriger UCA 202 will do the job quite nicely, as will many other more expensive devices. For a bit more flexibility it could be useful to have a sound card that also has playback and/or record level controls (Edirol and M-audio make suitable devices, as do many other manufacturers.

I use the Edirol UA-1EX to do a similar task, works a treat. As Steve says: more expensive that the Behringer - but has more features/functionality. You can view the specs of both devices on the companies’ websites.


And I presume that you have to use a loop-back lead with the Edirol UA-1EX ?

Indeed I do, that is when I want to record streaming audio - otherwise it is configured with the RCA input fed from whatever devive I am recording from (FM tuner, tapedeck - or TT&pre-amp)


Thanks for the replies. I’ve had a look online and can get the Behringer UCA 202 for $AU 57 (~$US 40) which is pretty reasonable. So this would be better than some comparatively priced Sound Blaster for my needs? The inputs aren’t really important to me, I just need to record what the computer is playing and also have nice output to my stereo.

I regularly use WireTap for the Mac and Total Recorder for the PC to capture anything either machine is playing. No external hardware required.

Total Recorder is up to “World Domination Edition,” but you can find older versions of Pro and Studio and they work just fine. VersionTracker is your friend.


Thanks for the tip with Total Recorder. I’ve downloaded it and giving it a test run. It has some nice features for sure and is designed to do exactly what I need.

At the moment, however, my flash card program (where I’d like to use the quiet TR microphone as the recording device) is still recording noise from my sound card. This is despite the fact that I have all recording devices except the TR mic disabled in Control Panel → Sound. It’s a bit puzzling… Neither Vista’s default sound recorder nor Audacity seem to have this problem. Any clues?