USB Sound Card with ASIO driver and volume control
I know this is somewhat of a software thing, but a lot of people are using USB sound cards. I did a search for ASIO and it appears it hasn't been discussed here at all.
Let me explain what ASIO does for those who don't know. It bypasses the kmixer part of Windows (the part that lets the operating system control the sound). So, it reduces latency, and improves sound quality. The best part is, the master volume control no longer does anything. I'm using it right now on a CMI8738 onboard soundcard through SPDIF to a receiver and it works great. I know USB has a lot of issues with latency so it will help in that area (although it's not as important as say for an HTPC).
The main benefit I see with this is one unamplified, unmodified line output to connect to an amplifier. There is a USB ASIO driver available on download.com and it works with several solutions. However, it costs $55 to get the full version.
I was thinking of getting the Edirol UA-1A. It has two RCA inputs and two RCA outputs. It also works with the USB ASIO driver. I was wondering how these USB soundcards handle volume control. Does the master volume affect the sound or is it only the wave?
Basically, I want one volume control. If the USB audio devices ignore the master volume, then it's not a problem. But if they do, it is. I know with the ASIO driver that I'm using, the master volume was completely ignored (I know some sound cards do this with SPDIF ports anyway but with analog out that would be even better). So if it's the same with the USB one, that would create incredible sound quality.
Another thing (just rambling here) is that the ASIO driver doesn't use as many resources. It's currently compatible with a lot of USB soundcards. The iMic works with it and it's only around $35. Let me know what you guys think.