Beware of bargains?

One of the less-trumpeted features of the Synology DS110j (our home network server), is its ability to make use of USB audio adapters and speakers, to play music from its AudioStation application. As it is now easy to find very cheap (less than £5) USB audio “dongles” on sites such as Amazon, I thought I had nothing to lose by buying one and giving it a try.

Well, that’s true, but as it turned out, only up to a point. The dongle—an unbranded, translucent “Bondi blue” unit about two inches in length—arrived from the Amazon “partner” while we were away, so when I next had a chance, I plugged it into the DS110j and tried playing a track through it. Result well, it sounded like the track I was testing it with, only heavily distorted and basically unlistenable.

It turns out the chipset—a Tenx one, USB ID 1130:f211—is notorious for poor performance in Linux (the DS110j’s operating software is Linux-based); specifically, insofar as its default output level is set far too high, and it is difficult to reduce this.

I’m currently looking into whether it’s possible to correct the problem on our DS110j, but in the meantime, let this be a cautionary tale, that the “it’s cheap, so if things don’t work out, I haven’t lost much” gamble, doesn’t always pay off…

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