You are here

Cheap Laptop Audio Output

For anything relating to music-making on Windows computers, with lots of FAQs. Moderated by Martin Walker.

Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Mowens800 » Fri May 06, 2011 8:29 pm

In the near future I'm going to need to do some portable critical listening via a laptop which is not high spec. It is purely playback (.wav files via media player). I don't want to carry my larger soundcard with me or spend a large amount of money on this short project.

So... would something like this give me a good improvement in the audio output from a basic laptop rather than using the default out.

http://www.dv247.com/computer-hardware/behringer-ufo202-high-quality-usb-audio-interface-with-built-in-phono-preamp--61722

USB powered, no drivers is a bonus. But I'd still need an adapter 1/8 to 1/4. What I'd ideally like is just a little USB adapter that takes care of the audio driver and splits it out down a 1/4 jack with volume control for a compact portable playback improvement option... anything out there?

Cheers
Mowens800
Regular
Posts: 235
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:00 pm

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Martin Walker » Sat May 07, 2011 11:51 am

If your budget would stretch to it this CEntrance DACport would be perfect - excellent audio quality, rugged, yet tiny. I reviewed it in SOS June 2010, and plenty of professionals use it!

Image

www.soundonsound.com/sos/jun10/articles ... acport.htm

If on the other hand you’re on a strict budget, take a look at M Audio’s Transit, which offers bit-transparent USB-powered audio recording/playback in a very small package with a 3.5mm headphone output. EDIT: ON further investigation the Transit has been discontinued

You might look at the Digidesign M Box 2 Micro if that’s till available

Just found another one that would certainly be worth looking into - ESI’s Dr. DAC nano:

Image

www.esi-audio.com/products/drdacnano

At around £60 I think this has to be your best bet!


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 9575
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Mowens800 » Sat May 07, 2011 12:06 pm

ouch, that's quite a big stretch. Especially since this is for about 3-5 days tops as I won't need to be portable after that. At that price I'd be more inclined to have the hassle of putting my Pro40 under my arm and carrying that along with me... which is ofcourse an option, but one I'd prefer to avoid this time.

Is there nothing in the £30 or so price range then which is simply an improved headphone output for laptop users. I'd have thought it would have a broad appeal to those listening to music on the go but care a bit more about quality and don't want a USB soundcard along with them.

or a small headphone out from the laptop socket, but I guess the laptop socket may pre-compromise the quality?

Thanks

ETA: Just seen your edit. I'll check that out now
Mowens800
Regular
Posts: 235
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:00 pm

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Martin Walker » Sat May 07, 2011 12:08 pm

Just edited my original post Mowens800 - you mind find my new recommendation more palatable


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 9575
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Mowens800 » Sat May 07, 2011 12:12 pm

That looks spot on. Now if only they could half the price we'd be on to a winner

I won't be ordering until June if anyone else reading this has something similar or wants to review it before hand...

Thanks again, bookmarked and put on the shopping list.
Mowens800
Regular
Posts: 235
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:00 pm

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat May 07, 2011 12:25 pm

Mowens800 wrote:In the near future I'm going to need to do some portable critical listening via a laptop which is not high spec. It is purely playback (.wav files via media player). I don't want to carry my larger soundcard with me or spend a large amount of money on this short project.

So... would something like this give me a good improvement in the audio output from a basic laptop rather than using the default out.

http://www.dv247.com/computer-hardware/behringer-ufo202-high-quality-usb-audio-interface-with-built-in-phono-preamp--61722

USB powered, no drivers is a bonus. But I'd still need an adapter 1/8 to 1/4. What I'd ideally like is just a little USB adapter that takes care of the audio driver and splits it out down a 1/4 jack with volume control for a compact portable playback improvement option... anything out there?

Cheers

What's actually wrong with the headphone output on the laptop? What will you be feeding it to, powered speakers or headphones?

If you're unlucky enough to have a laptop with a really crap, noisy audio output, fair enough. But today's computers are often a lot better than that. You may find yourself spending money on an interface that does no better than the internal audio.
Exalted Wombat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5643
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:00 am
Location: London UK

You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Mowens800 » Sat May 07, 2011 12:28 pm

Yes that's my worry, or that it doesn't have enough power to drive the headphones properly. It's only for headphones.

I'll be able to check it in a few weeks but until then, I thought better to have a safety net thought out incase it is terrible. We are talking a sub £400 from a few years ago ACER laptop here, so the headphone output quality won't be high up on the agenda.
Mowens800
Regular
Posts: 235
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:00 pm

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat May 07, 2011 4:00 pm

Mowens800 wrote:Yes that's my worry, or that it doesn't have enough power to drive the headphones properly. It's only for headphones.

I'll be able to check it in a few weeks but until then, I thought better to have a safety net thought out incase it is terrible. We are talking a sub £400 from a few years ago ACER laptop here, so the headphone output quality won't be high up on the agenda.


Well, it's probably got the same chip running audio as every other Acer ov that vintage. And quite likely of any one bought today :-)

One thing to check. If you're worried about level, anything that is going to drive a given pair of cans louder than the laptop directly is going to need an external power supply. And that can open a whole new can of worms with noisy ground-loops. Better to look for a more efficient set of headphones.
Exalted Wombat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5643
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:00 am
Location: London UK

You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Mowens800 » Sat May 07, 2011 4:13 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
One thing to check. If you're worried about level, anything that is going to drive a given pair of cans louder than the laptop directly is going to need an external power supply. And that can open a whole new can of worms with noisy ground-loops. Better to look for a more efficient set of headphones.

The devices above are pitched as bus-powered so hopefully that won't be an issue. If that was the case, the usb device wouldn't be fit for purpose and I'd have to return it.

I'll be able to get my hands on the laptop with my headphones and do a 'suck it and see' test at the end of the month. Fingers crossed I'm just being overly cautious and the normal output alone does just fine.
Mowens800
Regular
Posts: 235
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:00 pm

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby twotoedsloth » Sat May 07, 2011 7:17 pm

The original mbox is bus powered and sounds (relatively) great. You can get one used for $50. The only thing is that it won't work with Pro Tools 8.x but I think it will work in PT9 with the ASIO driver.
twotoedsloth
Frequent Poster
Posts: 701
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:00 am

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby James Perrett » Mon May 09, 2011 3:26 pm

The audio output from my old Acer isn't brilliant. Good enough for the occasional DJ gig perhaps but I'd want something better for critical listening. I used to have access to an old M-Audio Mobile Pre which had a much better headphone output than the built-in one.

I've tried the headphone outputs on one or two newer laptops and they were even worse than the Acer.

James.
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 5763
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: The wilds of Hampshire

JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.co.uk


Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Exalted Wombat » Tue May 10, 2011 2:07 pm

Mowens800 wrote:
Exalted Wombat wrote:
One thing to check. If you're worried about level, anything that is going to drive a given pair of cans louder than the laptop directly is going to need an external power supply. And that can open a whole new can of worms with noisy ground-loops. Better to look for a more efficient set of headphones.

The devices above are pitched as bus-powered so hopefully that won't be an issue. If that was the case, the usb device wouldn't be fit for purpose and I'd have to return it.
Well.. your laptop headphone output is "fit for purpose", but may not be very loud with some headphones. Ditto a USB-powered external device. Volume takes power. A bus-powered device has a certain amount available. This doesn't make it "unfit".
Exalted Wombat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5643
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:00 am
Location: London UK

You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont. Go fishing instead.


Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Martin Walker » Wed May 11, 2011 3:44 pm

Looking forward to your findings at the end of this month Mowens800


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 9575
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Cheap Laptop Audio Output

Postby Mowens800 » Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:59 pm

Currently listening to music straight from headphone out via HD650s. No major problems on commercial music. Loudness is sufficient. As the music I will be auditioning won't be at the same average level as commercial stuff, I am tempted to purchase the device as recommended above to assist further and give me that extra clean output and volume. I will listen further.

But again, using VLC player it does seem relatively clean at suitable volume. Not sure how much noticeable improvement the ESI would offer especially considering this is only really for a week or two then I'm off the laptop.
Mowens800
Regular
Posts: 235
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:00 pm


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest