Budget Usb Soundcards?

I’m looking for a budget soundcard to run between my monitors and laptop, I don’t need to record anything so don’t need a mic input. I found that the NI Audio 2 DJ has great reviews as a DJing soundcard but I’m just wondering if it will work in the home studio as well.

The two points that I’m concerned about are that it says it has two outputs that can either be run to a mixer or as an out and a headphone. So will I need an additional mixer or can I run them straight to my monitors? Also it says that the outs are boosted, will this colour the sound at all?

Also I’d welcome any suggestions for budget external soundcards. Thanks.

I’ve been wondering how good/bad this one is later for people with not too dissimilar requirements as yourself.


Cheap, has headphone amp (does have mic and instrument input too, which you don’t need.) Know Lexicon have done some alright effects in the past but audio interface by them is an unknown.

M-Audio Fast Track and Emu 0202 are others that get regular mention for 2 channel output.

On that note there have been a few discussions of problems with the Emu 0202 conflicting with other drivers on this board lately…

Do you not want 4 (2 stereo pair) outputs? I thought you did live stuff from the lappy… Guess if it’s not actual DJing (Traktor etc) you can still get away with one though. If you do there is the Enu 0204 with second output configured similar to the NI Audio 2 (as a headphone socket) or the Fast Track Pro with 4x4 and MIDI.

Guess good drivers and low latency may be fairly high on your list, no?

If your monitors are active, you can connect monitors directly to soundcard / audio interface. If they are passive, you need an amplifier in between.

I recently purchaced M-audio Fast track II. It have stereo rca output and headphone output. If you connect headphones, it will mute rca output.
Maybe it’s not the most optimal solution for you but based on what you wrote, should work for your needs. One thing to concider is that it doesn’t have
line-in input at all. Just one for mic and one for instrument input. Sound of Fast track II is very clean and clear. When i was doing research about audiointerfaces
before buying this one, i found out that you can get earlier version of Fast track way cheaper (60-70€) but sound quality of it isn’t that good either. Other difference
between these models is that Fast track II have phantom power for mic input. One think that i really like about this interface is that volume knobs are on top of the
device for easy access.

I got this one with 92€ which is isn’t cheap in my opinion for this set of features, espeacially because there is not line-in. Small amout of features it has it handles them very well.
Orginally i was planning to get cheaper interface but decided to play it safe. I’m happy that i did. Sound quality is great.

I don’t play out on our rig yet but when it does come to that I have a bank of decent soundcards that I can borrow for live use, and I’m more interested in live mashups rather than DJing so it will all be coming out of Ableton, not Traktor etc.,

I don’t really know what I’m looking for because I’m not that massively clued up on soundcard latency. I was splitting from my laptop soundcard into a stereo attenuator which worked okay but my laptop soundcard has now massively failed on me so I need something else.

I’m just looking for something for use at home really. I looked at the Lexicon but it kind of looks flimsy if you get me, and I can’t find many reviews for it from actual reputable sources, just amazon reviews from people who sound like they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing (like me).

@TMT, the fast track seems very geared towards recording inputs for the amateur, and I fear that the designers have focused more on the quality of transferring the input quality to your DAW as opposed to the output quality to the monitors.

Yeah I’ve buggered the ports on my laptop so I went for this (but you said has to be USB.)


Agree I would worry about the Lexicon for that price and seems they don’t get many reviews and were initially know for DSPs (hardware then software) so the audio interface step seems a weird one. For people on a serious budget thought it might be worth trying over the £20-30 complete cheapos though…

I didn’t realise you could get something like that, does it have a stereo out? What’s the sound quality like on it?

Sound quality is excellent. Stability seems good. So far very happy with it (although getting use again to having to match bitrate of sound card and applications, especially if you are wanting to mix DirectSound and ASIO in the same session.) The four virtual outs are a godsend though. I have Renoise ASIO on 1/2 (need to limit to stereo otherwise it will steal the lot!) Soundforge ASIO on 3/4 and DirectSound/Windows Mapper on 7/8, leaving 5/6 for future…)

IO(x) = stereo in, stereo out.
DJ(x) = 2x stereo out, no in.

All only on unbalanced mini-jack sockets, which is a slight shame but something I can live with as long as I’m not doing huge cable runs or laying them near mains. Sound out from my laptop by my bed up to the mixer does pick up a little noise but then is inescapable with a long run unbalanced.

But presumably that would be fine just running from my laptop straight into a pair of monitors?

So do you have to map each application that runs sound to one of the outs on the software mixer? So Renoise on one, then all the other sound apps that run in windows (VLC, MPC, etc.,) through another and then Ableton on yet another? Do you have to manually switch between?

Anything through the Windows driver will use the same virtual output, same as they will all work at the same time.

ASIO on the whole will never share an output and if you have your soundcard (output) using ASIO you can’t get it to WDM (eg stream from web or default output on most media players) without closing your ASIO application. Unsure how ASIO4All seems to get around this but the couple of onboard soundcards I’ve tried it with have. With good cards and their own ASIO driver I’ve always had to assign them to their own (virtual) output and then it will work. Have heard many people say that often you can’t get two ASIO applications working at the same time with a lot of cards but not sure if this is only because they don’t incorporate a mixer to send them down different channels and mix into one stream at the end.

Should be fine running straight into a pair of monitors. Most active monitors have balanced inputs so it will be a shame it’s unbalanced and it will be 6dB lower (and thus slightly noisier for a given volume) in level due to it but apart from that you should be fine.

I’ll cross the ASIO bridge when it comes.

I imagine I could just buy/make a DI box to balance the signal into my speakers.

Thank you Kazakore, didn’t even realise I could even get an express card AI.

As far as I know the only other one is the RME HDSP card, which you can then connect to the majority of their external boxes, but that costs a damned sight more and has much more functionality. If I was serious about things and thought I could spend the money would like to get one of them and a Multiface II :)

Think I’ll for the DJx, I was troubled with running out of USB slots as my hard drive won’t run from a splitter so express slot AI seems like a great alternative.

Cool. I very nearly did but I want to be able to record standard DJ sets nice and cleanly on my laptop (desktop has been in pieces for months and have a lot of other projects and work to do!) so went from the IOx in the end :)

Let me know what you think of it when you get it.

It would be strange if Lexicon started producing crap i think, as it’s a company known for good quality equipment, but i don’t know.