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  • USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

    I have an Asus 1000HE netbook with the Intel Atom N280 processor and I love it.

    However, the audio leaves something to be desired, both in power and in quality. This isn't an issue for personal listening, but there are occasions when I need to connect it to a sound system at various events to provide recorded music (various church services, small weddings, etc). I'm not a DJ, nor do I profess to be.

    So the question is this: Does anyone have any experience with using an external USB audio adapter with a netbook based on an Intel Atom processor? Does anyone know where it's been discussed on the internet? I've done some searching, but found very little. It's possible that the subject is fairly new, or just rare.

    I'm considering purchasing either the Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! or the Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1.

    Any suggestions or advice on the matter would be appreciated.

    "Everytime I read your posts I do it with Morgan Freeman's voice in my head as if he is narrating your life" - Aimed

  • #2
    Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

    ( Damonte didn't use third-person ;))

    I just read a review on the Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! yesterday at TechSpot. Overall, it provided more-or-less the quality and effects of the full-blown card, but limited to 2.1 audio.

    As for the Surround 5.1, here's a review on it from PC World.

    If you're playing back for a medium to large congregation of churchgoers, I think either would suffice. The issue lies in finding the right speakers that would carry the sound to the back while maintain a level of clarity so the backrow can still understand the broadcast without having to move forward.
    |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
    TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
    Former 9th & 13th

    Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
    Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





    SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

    TG Primer and Rules

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    • #3
      Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

      My questions really come down to the capacity of the Intel Atom CPU to handle an external USB audio card.

      In every circumstance where I would bring my netbook, someone else would have a full sound system in place. I would connecting the netbook to an audio mixer.

      "Everytime I read your posts I do it with Morgan Freeman's voice in my head as if he is narrating your life" - Aimed

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      • #4
        Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

        I've used my old USB 2.0 SB Live! 24 bit external box successfully with Optical output set to 92Khz, on my stereo receiver, with the Acer Aspire One. Doesn't miss a beat.

        http://cgi.ebay.com/Sound-Blaster-Li...3%3A1|294%3A50

        Also has SPDIF Out.
        "But way back where I come from, we never mean to bother. We don't like to make our passions other peoples' concern." -Dar Williams
        Former Captain of the 55th Infantry Division

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        • #5
          Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

          Thanks Spulat! That's just what I was hoping to hear.

          "Everytime I read your posts I do it with Morgan Freeman's voice in my head as if he is narrating your life" - Aimed

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          • #6
            Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

            USB based audio solutions use a lot of CPU, due to the USB protocol. A FW based solution will have significantly less overhead in terms of system resources.

            I'm coming at this from an actual pro-level perspective though. The most bang for your buck is probably from M-Audio. Decent sound quality for a decent price. Creative bought E-MU a long time ago, so their cards have some legitimacy as far as sound quality goes, I just don't have much experience with their USB based stuff.
            Do or do not, there is no try....
            -- Yoda, Dagobah

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            • #7
              Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

              Originally posted by gunjunkie View Post
              USB based audio solutions use a lot of CPU, due to the USB protocol. A FW based solution will have significantly less overhead in terms of system resources.
              Why do you think that? USB and Firewire are similar architectures, the main difference being that FW is multi-master while USB is single-master.

              Both use a PCI-to-bus interface chip that DMA's packets to and from system memory (using PCI bus mastering) and then interrupts the CPU when a transfer is done.

              I've not done low-level chip programming for these, but I would imagine the amount of CPU work to transfer data is comparable. My day job involves FW programming and the API I use lets me set up a chain of packets to send (or buffers to receive into), so there's not a lot of CPU overhead for long transfers.
              Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

              snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

              Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

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              • #8
                Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                Originally posted by ScratchMonkey View Post
                Why do you think that? USB and Firewire are similar architectures, the main difference being that FW is multi-master while USB is single-master.

                Both use a PCI-to-bus interface chip that DMA's packets to and from system memory (using PCI bus mastering) and then interrupts the CPU when a transfer is done.

                I've not done low-level chip programming for these, but I would imagine the amount of CPU work to transfer data is comparable. My day job involves FW programming and the API I use lets me set up a chain of packets to send (or buffers to receive into), so there's not a lot of CPU overhead for long transfers.
                Well, you answered your own question really. Most FW audio interfaces place control for the transfer in the interface. Anecdotally, I've seen differences as high as 5% CPU utilization on a MBP 2.4GHz streaming 4 channels of 24bit 96KHz audio (DJing, 2 stereo sends). If you tax the CPU on the puter with USB, bad things will happen too. I don't know of a USB interface that will handle more than 8 channels. I regularly do 16 channels of recording with my Metric Halo, which is FW400. As well as being far more stable, it does use less CPU.
                Do or do not, there is no try....
                -- Yoda, Dagobah

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                • #9
                  Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                  I assume FW = firewire? That's the only abbreviation that threw me off when I was reading your replies 'junkie.

                  As for Scratch's post, quite a few terms I don't understand. Some other things I kind of wrap my head around.
                  |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
                  TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
                  Former 9th & 13th

                  Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
                  Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





                  SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

                  TG Primer and Rules

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                    Yeah, FireWire. Most interfaces will be FW400, but there are a few that run FW800 but those are definitely higher end. We're talking a little more than a SoundBlaster here though. Kind of stuff you would use to either DJ with, or possibly record yourself and a guitar, up to real deal pro level recording with > 12 channels. My rig, for example, does 16 channels of 24 bit 96k.

                    Its really all based on what you need. In some cases, that is USB. Works fine for playback. If you need to record anything with any kind of reliability, I'd definitely recommend FW.
                    Do or do not, there is no try....
                    -- Yoda, Dagobah

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                      To those interested, I acquired the Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1. With my 1000HE running in super performance mode (AC connected), the CPU runs at roughly 20% during playback.

                      "Everytime I read your posts I do it with Morgan Freeman's voice in my head as if he is narrating your life" - Aimed

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                        How do you find the sound quality?
                        Do or do not, there is no try....
                        -- Yoda, Dagobah

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                          Originally posted by Acreo Aeneas View Post
                          As for Scratch's post, quite a few terms I don't understand. Some other things I kind of wrap my head around.
                          I'm happy to clarify what I can. Which terms are alien?
                          Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

                          snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

                          Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                            Originally posted by gunjunkie View Post
                            Yeah, FireWire. Most interfaces will be FW400, but there are a few that run FW800 but those are definitely higher end. We're talking a little more than a SoundBlaster here though. Kind of stuff you would use to either DJ with, or possibly record yourself and a guitar, up to real deal pro level recording with > 12 channels. My rig, for example, does 16 channels of 24 bit 96k.

                            Its really all based on what you need. In some cases, that is USB. Works fine for playback. If you need to record anything with any kind of reliability, I'd definitely recommend FW.
                            I'd blame the remote end, then. The host end should be capable of moving the traffic. The remote end is where the audio stuff is, and I'd guess FW audio devices tend to be better integrated with their transport interface than comparable USB devices. Or they have better firmware.
                            Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

                            snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

                            Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: USB External Audio on Intel Atom Netbook Questions

                              Originally posted by ScratchMonkey View Post
                              I'd blame the remote end, then. The host end should be capable of moving the traffic. The remote end is where the audio stuff is, and I'd guess FW audio devices tend to be better integrated with their transport interface than comparable USB devices. Or they have better firmware.
                              I think it's a little bit of both. Most FW interfaces have better components than the USB equivalent.
                              Do or do not, there is no try....
                              -- Yoda, Dagobah

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