Q&A: Can I add a sound card to a mini PC?

usbsoundQ: Can I add a sound card to a mini PC?

A: Physically, you can but whether or not it’s recognised with driver software is another story. Because there are so many different USB sound cards available and many different mini PCs, the problem is knowing whether the mini PC’s Android firmware supports your sound card with device drivers baked into the Linux/Android kernel.

We have a cheap $2 USB sound module we purchased from eBay (you can buy them buy the truckload) and plugged it into a couple of mini PCs including the MK802 with no luck. We also tried the dual-core MK808 and again no dice. Using the USB Host Controller app from Google Play, the sound card enumerates on the USB, even lights up the internal LED but no sound ever comes out. (Just to be sure, we tested the sound card on a PC and it worked perfectly).

One thing we did find out, although its only marginally useful, was that plugging the USB sound card/module into Samsung’s Galaxy S3 smartphone via a USB OTG cable worked a treat. Not only did the phone recognise and have a generic driver for the sound module, it also re-routed the sound from the internal sound module to the USB one.

So that means it is possible to get a USB sound module working on a mini PC – they’re both Android-based afterall – but if the mini PC’s ROM doesn’t include the device driver, you’ll need to get them from somewhere and baked them into the ROM.

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