|Mac user reports on Cheap USB Audio Cards/Adapters
Reports last Updated: Nov. 7th, 2008
This page is a "catch-all" for past news page posts on cheap USB Audio adapters with OS X. (IIRC OS X 10.3.x was first
used with these as Core Audio had basic support for many USB audio devices, although often some advanced features may not be supported
Note: There's a separate page here with mac owner reports on the (higher priced) M-Audio USB Transit, which has OS X drivers (although many have had various problems with them.)
Reader Reports on USB Audio Cards/Adapters: (later reports first)
If you've used a low-cost USB Audio card/adapter/device with your Mac that's not mentioned here, let me know the details. (Include device info, Mac model/OS X version used, etc.) Thanks.
Toshiba Multimedia Center (Audio/USB Hub):
(added Nov. 7th, 2008)
Hey there, I finally found this page after much searching, although I'm familiar with your site anyways. (it's linked also on the Audio topics page) I just bought a Toshiba Multimedia Center (Audio/USB Hub) from Morgan Computers in the UK. It's only £10 (£12.99 on UK amazon page now) and given it's credentials not a bad buy. This is the page Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Toshiba-Multimedia-Center-Audio-USB/dp/B0007728JM
It's got a four port USB hub and ethernet port (it registers in the System info) and also headphone and 5.1 3.5mm jacks. Also a mic/line in. It appears to use a Creative chip from my research.
It also has an infrared remote that I've not bothered trying. Anyway, after getting the settings right in the Audio Midi App in the Utilities folder she seems good as gold.
Reasonable sound too. Seems they're not compatible with Windows Vista and Toshiba are off-loading them quick-smart. It's a pity the buttons don't work on the unit or the remote, but for all I need it is quite fine. Also, the extra USB ports are always appreciated.
(Just for the record I asked what OS X version and Mac model was used.)
OS X 10.5.5 and a PowerBook 12in 1.33GHz w/1.25GB ram.
Also tested on a G5 Tower Dual 1.8mhz w/OS X10.4.9.
both were fine. Now I have to figure if it's possible to get the IR remote to work!
As mentioned in earlier reports, although there's often basic core audio support for things like this, any advanced features that require windows software/driver installs won't work.
(added Nov. 16th, 2006)
I have been using the Behringer UCA202 USB adaptor. It works well
with a G4 Cube, and G4 Quicksilver. It has RCA input/outputs, Optical
output, headphone input jack, monitor and volume control. I paid
about $29 for it.
Griffin iMic Clearance at Radio Shack:
(added Nov. 16th, 2006)
Radio Shack is clearing out their in-store stock of the Griffin
Technology iMic (version 2) for $9.97
The iMic is the original USB audio interface introduced for the Mac and
I've used one for years with my PowerMac G4. The iMic has audio line in
and out jacks. No drivers required - plug it in and it works. The
version 2 iMic ships with a 3.5 mm stereo plug to RCA stereo jack cable,
so you can easily connect it to a stereo by attaching a stereo patch
(added Nov. 15th, 2006)
Not sure if others have already tried this or not, but I think I
found a very inexpensive way to connect standard speakers to a G4 Cube.
There are currently a number of off-brand USB audio devices coming
from Hong Kong, being sold on eBay for under $9 (US).
I noticed that although many auctions for them only mentioned Windows
compatibility, a few also mentioned such things as "OS X 10.1 support".
I suspected that might mean these had native OS X support - so I
risked my $9 and purchased one to experiment.
A sample of what I'm referring to would be at this link (ebay auction link)
It arrived in today's mail, and sure enough! Upon plugging it in, OS
X 10.4.8 showed it in the system profiler as a "C-Media USB audio
headphone device", and I was able to select it as my default for
audio output in the Sound portion of the System Prefs panel. I
attached a regular analog pair of amplified speakers to its headphone
out jack, and it sounds just fine.
Soundmax Technology SD-102 (Follow-up to earlier report below)
(added Feb 27th, 2006)
Mike, I reported awhile ago about the 12$ USB dongle that worked well with my QuickSilver 2002, I just wanted to let you know that I Installed iLife '06 today and GarageBand 3 now works with the 48khz output provided by the SoundMax SD-102.
(added Feb. 27th, 2006)
i recently bought a Creative (Soundblaster) MP3+ usb audio card to hook my powermac g4 up to a set of logitech z-680 speakers. I read a few comments on your site about the creative working with the generic apple drivers (basic feature support with OS X core audio) so thought i'd give it a go. all was going well until today when i discovered that the creative box doesnt support multichannel audio over the optical out. i hadn't realised this when i bought it but on further reading on your site people do mention this not being supported. perhaps you could make more mention of this so that others don't make the same mistake.
I'm off to buy a M-audio transit to replace it (unless you've got a better idea). Lets hope i don't have as many problems as other readers have had with it.
(added Feb. 7th, 2006)
I just want to add my impressions to your report on SoundBlaster USB MP3+ device, regarding compatibility with OSX 10.4 "Tiger" core audio platform.
I plain works. All analog input/output options (microphone, speaker,
stereo in/out) do work flawlessly and can be set up through the sound
preference panel or the audio/midi utility. You can capture audio
with either 44.1 or 48khz.
I don't have a digital surround receiver to try on the digital input/
output connections. At least the digital output laser diode is on,
when the device is connected to the usb port. It is not recognized by
DVD player to be used as digital output, though.
I utilize it together with Logic Express, Sound Studio, and (via a
small hack of the preference file) you can make it run with
My system is a iBook G3 500Mhz (80GB HD, Toshiba SD-R6472
Supderdrive, OSX 10.4.4). It must be connected to the first USB port
neighbouring the firewire port - it won't work on the second one,
unfortunately, on this particular machine.
I bought the MP3+ two years ago via eBay for US$20,- and it performed perfect ever since. Way cheaper and more versatile than the iMic.
I am strongly convinced that any creative USB device will work with
the audio framework of OSX, like e.g. the audigy and live series. (Other brands of USB Audio cards also have been reported to have basic Core Audio support in 10.3.x and 10.4.x-Mike)
Only special functions on those cards (hardware equalizing, MP3
encoding) can't be accessed, as there is no OS X port of the software
creative bundles for windows systems only. OS X seems to be able to
support the generic usb based features of recording and sound output. (basic core audio support in 10.3.x and later I think-Mike)
You only would need USB2 to fulfill bandwidth needs of 24bit audio
capturing devices, of course.
Best regards, Ralph
(added Feb. 7th, 2006)
I bought a no-name PC-only USB-to-optical audio device at Fry's a
year or so ago and plugged it in and it worked perfectly for 2-
channel (stereo) output. However, I could not get it to output 5.1
surround from the DVD player, which led me to buy an M-audio Transit. The Transit works fine for this purpose, but I have to restart my powerbook every time I plug it in or the machine freezes trying to
load the driver (10.4.4). (there's a previous page here with M-Audio (USB) Transit user reports)
I would be very interested to know if any of these low-cost USB
devices support 5.1 passthrough from Apple's DVD player. There's no point for me in outputting 2-channel digital audio since when I'm not watching movies I listen to MP3s (192kbps), whose compression has already degraded the audio quality sufficiently that there will be no perceptible difference between an analog out and a digital out.
(added Feb. 3rd, 2006)
I also wanted to mention the Creative Soundblaster MP3 as an option. I bought mine used off ebay for $3. I am not sure how much they are new, but there are always a lot of used Soundblasters floating around ebay.
It has mic, headphones, optical in, optical out, as well as Red
& White in and out. I bought it to replace my Onkyo USB audio device
because the Onkyo did not have optical connections. One interesting
quirk on both of my USB devices is that whenever I restart the
computer or wake from sleep, the sound always come from the internal speaker.
Even when I manually switch to USB audio in the sound pane,
no sound comes from my USB connected speakers. The only way I have found to resolve this is to click the mute button in sound, then
raise or lower the volume from my keyboard. Since this bug can be
duplicated on my creative and onkyo, I wonder if this is not an OS X
USB audio issue. I wonder if other users with different brands have
had this problem as well. Overall, I am extremely pleased with the
(Just for the record I asked what OS version he's using.-Mike)
I use 10 4.4 on an upgraded Quicksilver with a dual 1.2. In my case I
had no choice since the sound port on my Mac doesn't work. The audio
from this Soundblaster MP3+ is far superior to the internal sound.
Since I only have Klipsch 2.1 speakers, I didn't bother with the
extigy or other Creative USB that provide surround sound. All the
ports including the mic port work. It is a 16 bit and not 24 bit card
though, not that I can tell the difference. The Audio Midi Setup
Utility in the utility folder also recognizes it.
Back when 10.3.x was first released I think there were some reader reports on using USB Soundblasters (Creative Labs) with basic Core Audio support.
Soundmax Technology SD-102
(added Feb 1st, 2006)
I recently picked up one of those Soundmax SD-102's previously mentioned on your site. (see Jan 16th news page Quicksilver owner report on Low-Cost USB Audio out dongle-Mike) For 12$ I am extremely pleased with it. For others to note it is
sold as "ALPHA OME USB EXT SOUND CARD 5" at microcenter.com online.
It is pretty nice, the only thing I have noticed is that since it does not seem to support 44.1khz audio out, both garage band, and some games seem to have problems getting audio out. Garage band refuses to select the output saying that it is not 44.1, although I still haven't upgraded to garage band 3, so maybe that will help. The only game I have tried so far is quake 3, and it was doing storage things, all the sound seemed to be sped up (at least 3x as
fast). Microcenter claimed that it has "limited availability" so hopefully
that doesn't end up being a problem for anyone. Looks like it will be great for doing anything else with audio, but I cant say I would recommend it for garage band or gaming.
(I asked if the OS X Audio/Midi utility showed other rates for it-Mike)
The Audio midi utility shows 48khz(only) as the rate, I tried manually
entering 44100hz, but it just defaults back to 48000hz every time.
Soundmax Technology SD-102
(added Jan. 16th, 2006)
After I broke my headphone jack on my 733 Quicksilver 10.4.3, I looked at audio cards.
The problems listed (on xlr8yourmac) (assume he's thinking of the Audio topics page articles with reports on M-Audio USB Transit, and Revolution 5.1 and 7.1 cards) and the cost made me hesitate.
Instead I found a USB Audio dongle (USB to mini-stereo connector)
from Soundmax technology part SD-102. $12.99 at Microcenter. The package doesn't list mac OS but inside instructions do.
No drivers, just change the audio out to USB in Sys Prefs. Sound is
great, seems much less distortion than
the headphone jack.
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