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I am asking this for a friend. He loves his voice recognition software and dictates a lot of text using a headset. Now he has a new laptop, which only has a combined mic/headphones output, and wanted to buy an adapter.

I told him to get an external USB sound interface instead, as the better sound quality will probably increase the hit rate of the voice recognition. He agreed, but when he saw a picture of the SoundBlaster X-Fi, he said that it is way too big, because he wants to carry the thing everywhere. He'd rather have one of these small things which are the size of a flash memory stick, with only one mic and one phones output, period.

Now I am not sure whether these mini interfaces would produce a sound better than onboard sound. They all seem to come not from established audio interface manufacturers, but from electronic accessories manufacturers like Speedlink, or just noname brands.

Is there a compact audio interface with good A/D quality (it is OK if the price is comparable to that of the bigger interfaces, even if there is no additional functionality like Chinch in-/output etc)?. And if there isn't, will the noname soundcardsticks offer any advantage over a simple adaptor for the onboard sound?

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+1! I've always wondered about that too! Also, your question looks like a shopping recommendation question, until you read it carefully. – AndrejaKo Jan 13 '11 at 19:30
Of course he needs a shopping recommendation too, but right now I am just trying to find out whether the desired product class exists. If it does, we will look somewhere else for detailled information on specific brands and models. – rumtscho Jan 13 '11 at 20:44

Not exactly an answer to the question, but I think I would just get a USB headset. I have had several and even the inexpensive ones offer very good sound quality. This is assuming that he is just using it for general purpose dictation and communication and is not going for a super high fidelity music experience.
Are USB headphones/headsets inferior to regular ones?

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Thank you for pointing this solution out, it is definitely an option. But while a $50 USB headset is probably better than onboard sound, I am not sure whether it will be better than the combination of a $15 USB mini sound interface and an existing headset. – rumtscho Jan 13 '11 at 20:54

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