It’s not just the best things that come in small packages. As it turns out, so do bargain basement, cheap looking, fairly functional things. That’s certainly a description that fits this innocuous looking USB 7.1 Sound Adapter, a small and economical product that aims to provide half-decent sound to a desktop or laptop machine that’s bereft of it.
It’s a fairly typical unbranded product, and it’s only by examining the sticker on the back of the unit itself – which is just a little bigger than a standard flash drive – that we were able to track it down at all. Its origins are Chinese, and it’s manufactured by Shenzhen Zhongtiancheng Technology Co. That said, you’ll find no instructions and no mention of that name in the sparse packaging.
So what do you get? In the blister pack itself, just the product and a CD-ROM with some 3D sound simulation software on it. Sadly, said software is provided on a mini CD, which we’ve constantly found to be a pain. We’ve found that many optical drives – particularly slot loaders – struggle with these discs, but the advantage here for the product’s makers is it keeps the physical size of the packaging down. When shipping en masse from across the other side of the world, that’s an understandable consideration.
As for the product itself? Its target market isn’t huge, given that pretty much every motherboard now has on-board audio support build-in. Traditionally, this would have been aimed at a laptop with poor to non-existent sound support, but even then, if you’re that fussed that you’re investing in an external audio solution, it probably pays not to do it quite so cheaply.
As it stands, the Shenzhen Zhongtiancheng Technology Co product does feel cheap, and is functional at best. It has a headphone and microphone jack at the end edge (you won’t be plugging a set of 7.1 speakers into these), and on the flat face of the device is a mute button for the speaker and microphone (one each), a volume control and some lights. That’s your lot.
Does it work? Yes, it does, and as a basic device for simple and niche needs, it perhaps has a purpose when bringing old machines to life. The software is functional, the product is picked up by Windows fairly easily when connected to a USB port, and it knocks out decent enough sound.
The 7.1 billing is perhaps ambitious – we really couldn’t see too many people wanting to use this with any kind of surround sound, and if you are hunting for an external sound device then Creative is still the more potent direction in which to turn – but the greater problem is perhaps finding a use for the product itself in modern times. Quite possibly a piece of hardware that’s the proverbial solution hunting for a problem.