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Best Audiophile USB Card ?


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As a manufacturer, I tested a lot of these cards. Let's go a little technical.

It seems there are 3 variations of USB cards:

1) a real PCI express card, where the card acts as a xHCI, so a usb host controller which is a real separate device visible in the OS

with 2 main variations:

- xHCI is not bus powered so does not work when inserting in a PCIe slot, but needs 12V or 9V (e.g. SOtM)
- xHCI is bus powered, 5V for USB output can be taken from a molex or external input (e.g. JCAT)

and with or without superclock
superclock on the card, or separate board
and with or without seperate power for the superclock


2) a USB hub card, which basically connects to the USB headers on the motherboard

- there's a SOtM card doing this

This shows up as a HUB to an existing xHCI on the motherboard, e.g. visible with lsusb
Also has similar variations like (1) but it's a usb hub instead of an xHCI and therefore does not connect to the PCIe bus.

3) a USB card without HUB, which is like a USB breakout cable going from the header to the chassis, with some extra power cleanup going on or replacing the power from an external source and cleaning it up, and they can be had very cheap:

https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/pc-htpc-modules/elfidelity-axf-100-pro-iii-internal-usb-power-filter-for-pc-p-9056.html

Dutch based Alpha Audio really liked this card, we never tried them. But for the price it's a bargain.

The third variation is invisible to the host OS.

Designer of the 432 EVO music server and Linux specialist

Discoverer of the independent open source sox based mqa playback method with optional one cycle postringing.

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10 hours ago, Marcin_gps said:

 

Correction: JCAT USB Card is not bus powered IF a PSU is connected to the card. 

 

Regards,

Marcin

 

For DAC's that don't need 5V, this card always works with the xHCI being bus powered (e.g. connected to the motherboard, and no external or molex power applied).

So you are saying when you connect a 5V supply, the Renesas chip is using the same 5V?

Designer of the 432 EVO music server and Linux specialist

Discoverer of the independent open source sox based mqa playback method with optional one cycle postringing.

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