By now, the sound coming out from a computer should be a trivial issue. Ever since soundcards integrated on PC motherboards appeared, all you had to do was to plug in your speakers or headphone in the green stereo audio-out port and everything worked like magic. At least that is how it should work.
Sadly, this is often not the case. I ran into several problems and to my surprise, a tiny USB Soundcard solved them all.
Problem #1: Static noise
My media center PC was put together to run Kodi, Transmission and a web server in a nice compact package. The motherboard has an integrated CPU with passive cooling and an external laptop power supply. The only part that makes any noise is the HDD, which thankfully is barely noticeable.
The PC is hooked up on the TV as we are watching movies and TV series on it, but instead of the godawful TV speakers, stereo Logitech computer speakers are used.
Unfortunately, there is an audible static coming out of the speakers and the more volume I add the more noticeable it is.
I was looking into solutions that mostly involved buying better speakers for more money than I wanted to spend. Even though about buying a Bluetooth-enabled soundbar, as it would have no direct connection with the motherboard.
Thankfully I first gave a chance to the AXAGON ADA-17 MINI HQ external soundcard. Just plugged in and the static noise disappeared even on the highest setting on the speakers. Sound quality is also perfectly good for my needs.
Problem #2: Unreliable output on desktop PC
My main computer is a Desktop PC that I put together about 4 years ago. It is still quite snappy, I use it to develop and play games most of the time. The only thing I often had problems was sound output.
In Linux around the time of Ubuntu 16.04, the integrated sound worked okay, but if restarted the computer to play games without powering down first, there was no sound in Windows 10.
To remedy the situation and maybe upgrade the audio experience I bought an ASUS XONAR DG soundcard. The sound problems weren’t an issue anymore, but depending on the room’s temperature, upon boot, the soundcard slightly touched the GPU fans and made a worrying crunching noise. As this did not pop up immediately after installing the card, I couldn’t figure out for the longest time where this sound is coming from. Thankfully my GPU survived, it seems I removed the card in time.
I also got a new monitor that connects to the PC via HDMI. As there is an audio-out port on the monitor I can connect my speakers to it, but probably due to energy saving considerations if there is no audio output for a few seconds the monitor mutes the port and it takes about 2 seconds until the sound volume is raised to the previous levels again. Of course, I will not use the monitor’s built-in speakers as they are even worse than the TV’s.
I tried plugging the speakers into the motherboard’s audio-out port again, but in Linux, the sound volume started to randomly fidget and after 2 days of googling I just give up on it. Surprisingly, if I plugged in the speakers into the PC’s front panel, the sound was perfectly fine in Linux, but not in Windows.
So, with the speakers plugged into the front panel sound was working in Windows, youtube playback was perfectly adequate. However when I started a game, no matter what sound output source I chose, the sound came from the monitor’s built-in speakers through HDMI.
As with the media center PC before, plugging in the Axagon USB soundcard solved all my problems like magic. Everything works fine both in Linux and Windows.
Problem #3: Clean desk at work
I’m a big fan of minimalistic and inspirational workspaces like the ones you can see on Deskhunt and when I got a laptop that had a thunderbolt port I knew that finally, my time has come.
With the help of a USB-C thunderbird extension cable, I have only one cable that runs from my laptop under the table where I have a USB-C hub. From there a single HDMI cable goes to my monitor. With the additional monitor power cable, there are only 3 cables visible on my desk… except if I’m using headphones.
Plugging in the Axagon USB soundcard into the USB-C hub under the table I can avoid having one more cable on my desk and if I go to a meeting I have to unplug only one from the laptop.