First of all, it ain't life or death. The issue, such as it is, is that I'm putting together a "mini-system" that I can use for portable DJ work. I already have the cutest widdle EeePC with enough power to run my DJ software, and enough disk space to hold my music library. Basically, I've built myself a large iPod with a keyboard, and no DRM.
And, with the cabling I've got, and its headphone jack, it's likely just fine for what I got it for, which is playing processional and recessional music at a wedding.
However, it occurred to me that if I have two sound connections instead of the built-in one, I can use it for actual DJ work, like, say, the 80s dance on Sunday at BayCon, and have someone else (timenchanter) use the main system for karaoke at KoC that night.
And, well, there are cheap and reasonably good quality USB dongles.
How-ev-er, as I was reminded by a quick glance from chiendarrendor the other night (whether he meant it or not), unbalanced sound connections into a system from a machine with an independent power supply (like a netbook) have a real danger of causing major 60Hz hum. The ground loop possibilities are endless.
So of course, shopaholic that I am, I've been looking at USB interfaces with balanced outputs. And I'll probably buy one in the next day or two. The question is, which one?
In one corner, there's the Lexicon alpha, which is largely oriented at portable recording, but also has two balanced outputs. It in many ways can do everything I need for a mini-system, including mono output for a single speaker, and mixing in an external microphone.
In other words, it duplicates a lot of functionality of the mono mixer I've already purchased.
But then, it has mostly great reviews, comes from a very reputable manufacturer, and has really good specs.
And costs $78 bucks. Plus, since I use XLR cables, I'd need to get a couple of ¼" to XLR adaptors.
In the other corner is the Nady UIC-81XX (it's at the bottom of the page). It has hardly any specs at all, and comes from a company than I personally know for meh quality wireless microphones. It also has no reviews anywhere that I can find.
It does no mixing, though I already have a device for that (though it also would require a couple of XLR to ¼" adaptors - just different XLR gender). It would cost extra time for setup, since said setup would take more pieces, but, and this is a relatively big one, it "only" costs about $49.
And I really need to reign in spending. Really, really.