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Combined interface for music, gaming, headphones, speakers

Blueface

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May 27, 2024
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I'm trying to work out what products are on the market that will provide a great experience for the combination in the title. So I'd like to have:

  • Good DAC
  • Good headphone amp (currently using HD600)
  • Balanced outputs for studio monitors
  • USB and optical inputs
  • Mic input
I would go for something like the Topping DX7 Pro+ but of course, it doesn't have a mic input/ADC. Looking at audio interfaces which do, it seems like there's products which are quite simple (e.g. Schiit Hel, lacking balanced preamp outs) or geared more towards studio use, meaning they're either large, ugly for a normal desktop, or a lot more expensive (e.g. some stuff from RMI).

Is there anything that fits in the middle and will give me the combination of features while also being something nice to have on the desk, ideally with screen and remote etc.?

Thanks for your advice!
 
If RCA out then the Schiit Hel2 has good mic input. The Soundblaster AE-9 is excellent also. If you get a USB mic like the Beyerdynamic Fox, AKG, even the Bumblebee II is really good for $20 on woot.com Then the world is your oyster for choices if you do a separate mic. You'll save a lot of money too just from having so much to pick from.
 
Hi @Blueface!

-Screen+Remote
-Inexpensive
-Microphone input

Choose two :)
Ha, classic. Well, the screen and remote is only a nice to have feature as long as I can control the mic level and switch between headphone and monitor/preamp output (though even if this is just by unplugging the headphones, that's fine). For inexpensive... it depends what counts as expensive, what are the cheapest options that give me all of these things?
If RCA out then the Schiit Hel2 has good mic input. The Soundblaster AE-9 is excellent also. If you get a USB mic like the Beyerdynamic Fox, AKG, even the Bumblebee II is really good for $20 on woot.com Then the world is your oyster for choices if you do a separate mic. You'll save a lot of money too just from having so much to pick from.
I think the main issue with the Hel2 is I'd like to have balanced outputs for the monitors, otherwise it could be good, simple, and cheap. It looks like the AE-9 is a kit with a PCIe card? Unfortunately I don't have space for any more in my PC setup. But yeah, maybe keeping a separate USB mic is an option worth considering too. I just thought, if I get a good interface, I can use whatever mic I want in the future and have everything flexible but in one box. Just thought I'd do some research before admitting defeat with that idea!
 
I'd go with an SMSL C200 or DL200 and the Bumblebee II mic on woot.com I have the C200 and the mic and they sound great without melting down a credit card. I've had a few DL200s also and more power but takes up a lot more space.
 
If you can do without the optical input, Toppings E2x2 audio interface was well-reviewed here. They also have a new E1x2 OTG that's a few bucks cheaper and supports USB OTG.
 
what are the cheapest options that give me all of these things?
Actually, I found no single device which ticks all of your boxes.

The closest I could find is an RME ADI-2 Pro with an external Mic Pre.

Without mic input, you can get an SMSL C200 or DL200 for <$200.

Without a remote, you can get the Antelope Zen Go/Q/Quadro or Motu mk5 for about $400-800.
 
Actually, I found no single device which ticks all of your boxes.

The closest I could find is an RME ADI-2 Pro with an external Mic Pre.

Without mic input, you can get an SMSL C200 or DL200 for <$200.

Without a remote, you can get the Antelope Zen Go/Q/Quadro or Motu mk5 for about $400-800.
The RME or the Antelope is what I would recommend too.
The latter has also a really premium feeling (for those who care about it and not far from the RME of course) .
 
Thanks for a lot of great suggestions! Does seem like I will probably just end up getting a DAC/amp like an SMSL or Topping and then sticking to onboard mic input or USB mic and seeing how I go.

I'd go with an SMSL C200 or DL200 and the Bumblebee II mic on woot.com I have the C200 and the mic and they sound great without melting down a credit card. I've had a few DL200s also and more power but takes up a lot more space.
C200 looks like it could be an option, looks like excellent value for money.
If you can do without the optical input, Toppings E2x2 audio interface was well-reviewed here. They also have a new E1x2 OTG that's a few bucks cheaper and supports USB OTG.
Yeah the problem is I would like to connect both a Mac with USB and a PC with optical as I've had issues with noise over USB from it before (basically graphics card coil whine being transmitted through the speakers) - although it might be that a new device would solve that, I'd still rather have multiple inputs with switching rather than having to add some extra USB switch box or something. Otherwise the Topping devices look good.
Actually, I found no single device which ticks all of your boxes.

The closest I could find is an RME ADI-2 Pro with an external Mic Pre.

Without mic input, you can get an SMSL C200 or DL200 for <$200.

Without a remote, you can get the Antelope Zen Go/Q/Quadro or Motu mk5 for about $400-800.
The RME looks amazing, it's just a shame that particular product doesn't have a mic input and doesn't seem like they have anything else which quite matches up.

But maybe one of the Antelope Zen products could fit the bill? It has mic inputs, a nice looking design with display, there is a version with optical in, it has TRS outputs for monitors... will look for some reviews!
 
Thanks for a lot of great suggestions! Does seem like I will probably just end up getting a DAC/amp like an SMSL or Topping and then sticking to onboard mic input or USB mic and seeing how I go.

C200 looks like it could be an option, looks like excellent value for money.

The C200/DL200 may not be ideal if you're frequently switching inputs, as this can only be done by going into the menu.

In contrast, the Topping DX5 Lite and EX5 can be switched with a single button press on the remote
 
The Topping DX5 is on Drop for $249
The remote is more convenient, using an EX5 like StaticV3 said, just a one button press to switch instead of menus.

The tradeoff is the SMSL C200 is available used with 1 year warranty from Aoshida-US for $131 and it's a huge savings. I have two C200's and would recommend them to anyone if the power and connectivity is what you need. They do USB 1.0/2.0 so if you don't need more than 24 bit 9600hz then drivers aren't needed in 1.0 mode for stuff like gaming consoles.
$131 is hard to beat.

Get a Bumblebee II USB mic new for $19.99 with free shipping and you're set
I have the mic also, bought three of them when I heard the sound quality was as good as the Beyerdynamic Fox and AKG Lrya I've got.
 
Thanks for a lot of great suggestions! Does seem like I will probably just end up getting a DAC/amp like an SMSL or Topping and then sticking to onboard mic input or USB mic and seeing how I go.


C200 looks like it could be an option, looks like excellent value for money.

Yeah the problem is I would like to connect both a Mac with USB and a PC with optical as I've had issues with noise over USB from it before (basically graphics card coil whine being transmitted through the speakers) - although it might be that a new device would solve that, I'd still rather have multiple inputs with switching rather than having to add some extra USB switch box or something. Otherwise the Topping devices look good.

The RME looks amazing, it's just a shame that particular product doesn't have a mic input and doesn't seem like they have anything else which quite matches up.

But maybe one of the Antelope Zen products could fit the bill? It has mic inputs, a nice looking design with display, there is a version with optical in, it has TRS outputs for monitors... will look for some reviews!
It looks like the E2x2-OTG might work for you: https://topping.pro/e2x2-otg/

Unfortunately, the toslink port is optical out, but it has 3 usb-c ports (2 inputs, 1 power) which should let you flip between sources and isolate the power source. The only listing I can find for it is on audiophonics, but it looks like it's coming elsewhere very soon.

Edit: It's unclear if you can easily switch between the 2 USB inputs.
 
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The C200/DL200 may not be ideal if you're frequently switching inputs, as this can only be done by going into the menu.

In contrast, the Topping DX5 Lite and EX5 can be switched with a single button press on the remote
Ah thanks, good to know.
The Topping DX5 is on Drop for $249
The remote is more convenient, using an EX5 like StaticV3 said, just a one button press to switch instead of menus.

The tradeoff is the SMSL C200 is available used with 1 year warranty from Aoshida-US for $131 and it's a huge savings. I have two C200's and would recommend them to anyone if the power and connectivity is what you need. They do USB 1.0/2.0 so if you don't need more than 24 bit 9600hz then drivers aren't needed in 1.0 mode for stuff like gaming consoles.
$131 is hard to beat.

Get a Bumblebee II USB mic new for $19.99 with free shipping and you're set
I have the mic also, bought three of them when I heard the sound quality was as good as the Beyerdynamic Fox and AKG Lrya I've got.
Definitely good prices, I'm in the UK though so would have to look at what's available here. DX5 does seem like it could be a very good option and then just stick to USB or even motherboard audio for the mic.
It looks like the E2x2-OTG might work for you: https://topping.pro/e2x2-otg/

Unfortunately, the toslink port is optical out, but it has 3 usb-c ports (2 inputs, 1 power) which should let you flip between sources and isolate the power source. The only listing I can find for it is on audiophonics, but it looks like it's coming elsewhere very soon.

Edit: It's unclear if you can easily switch between the 2 USB inputs.
Thanks, will look into this more as well. It doesn't have to be optical input, it's just that I would like to have the two inputs and with my current setup (Schiit Modi 2 Uber / Magni 2 Uber) I found the USB output from my PC to introduce a lot more noise through the speakers (from the GPU, or even just when moving the mouse) when using the preamp outputs than when using optical.
 
I use an optical USB cable to solve that problem. I run it into a USB powered hub that accepts USB-C into it and silent noise floor even with a gaming computer. The earlier versions of the SMSL M500 had two optical inputs instead of the new MKII with BT and one optical. I'd really recommend doing the optical USB and hub route, since you can plug anything into it for an inky black noise floor, and use short USB cables for even better performance. I got a 16ft and 30 foot ones, and locate the powered hub well away from other electronics. You can't use adapters on it though, I tried and it causes timeouts. Have to have a powered USB hub that has a C input, or micro-b for the earlier Corning USB cables.
 
I use an optical USB cable to solve that problem. I run it into a USB powered hub that accepts USB-C into it and silent noise floor even with a gaming computer. The earlier versions of the SMSL M500 had two optical inputs instead of the new MKII with BT and one optical. I'd really recommend doing the optical USB and hub route, since you can plug anything into it for an inky black noise floor, and use short USB cables for even better performance. I got a 16ft and 30 foot ones, and locate the powered hub well away from other electronics. You can't use adapters on it though, I tried and it causes timeouts. Have to have a powered USB hub that has a C input, or micro-b for the earlier Corning USB cables.
Ah thanks, hadn't thought about that option. What do you need the hub for in that situation though? Or are you meaning more of a switch to change between two computers inputting to the same port on the DAC?
 
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