I'm trying to get a sound card that will plug into a really new Mini-ITX board. That leaves me with PCIe or USB, and PCIe cards seem to be expensive, crappy, and they required expensive riser and extension cards for Mini-ITX boards. I have an old Sound Blaster Live 5.1 that sounds great, but new Mini-ITX boards don't have any PCI slots.

Here are some options I've found, and why they won't work:

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    I have to admit that I had to read the title of this question twice... at first I just saw "USB 5.1" and I'm thinking "I thought USB 3 just came out!" – Nathan Osman Apr 15 '11 at 0:20

X-Fis (even the USB ones) work. They didn't used to but ALSA added drivers for them over a year ago and most people now don't seem to have an issue with them. I know the first review of one on Newegg complains about Linux support but seriously, there used to be threads complaining about them every day, that's fizzled off into nothing.

You'll find with most of the better consumer audio devices that a lot of the special hardware (read: CMSS-3D, EAX, etc) requires special Windows-only software. You'll be able to hear sound and you'll be able to hear it in 5.1 setups with DTS (if that applies) but you won't get some of the fancier effects.

Alternatively, you can use something as simple as a HDMI connection (if your Mini-ATX board has one, or through a graphics card) and port that into an AV receiver. Lots more money but much better sound and equaliser options (IMO).

  • Do you think the Newegg complaints about the X-Fi USB drivers in Windows eating a lot of CPU are just bad drivers? So it should be fine with Alsa, right? Does the card to hardware mixing like the Sound Blaster Live 5.1 with the emu10k1 chip did? – Neil Oct 19 '10 at 3:45

that is dificult to find but a give you some places to start to find :

community wiki :


alsa page


  • Creative Labs drivers still have some issues w/ PulseAudio as of this comment. If you're doing a lot of real-time stuff you might have stuttering. – Broam Nov 11 '10 at 15:02

ASUS Xonar series includes USB hi-fi 7.1 soundcards!

The U1 and U3 are acclaimed USB solutions, the rest of them (from the screenshot) are new to me. Since you'd use optical output (SPDIF) to feed the sound signal e.g. Card > Amplituner > speakers there should be no problems common with 3xanalog output (3xmini-jack) found in Creative Notebook series. ASUS Xonar series USB soundcards


This Virtual 5.1 USB Sound Card and Virtual 7.1 USB Sound Card are not bad and pretty inexpensive compared to some other sound cards. I was using a more expensive external sound blaster card before and I'm not able to tell the difference.

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    How is the 5.1 adapter supposed to be 5.1 when it only has two holes? – Neil Apr 15 '11 at 4:02

You may want to look into recording interfaces with multiple output channels. I for example use a Behringer FCA610 to connect a 5.1 speaker system. It has 8 output channels, so 7.1 is also possible. Recent versions of PulseAudio should offer 5.1 and 7.1 profiles for this device.

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