SignaLink USB vs. my old RigBlaster Pro
For many years I used a RigBlaster Pro for my HF Digital modes work, and though it performed very well the serial port control was becoming a big hindrance as I had heavily invested in Radio Shack branded serial to USB adapters which had no Mac or Win7 drivers available. In the past I kept an XP PC for digital work in the shack and a XP Laptop for portable work in addition to my normal computers, but this was becoming a major pain and I wanted to simplify my setup.
When I started the hunt for a new Audio Interface I decided to look at the SignaLink USB since I saw a large number of Hams reporting it in their “Brag” macro on PSK. Well I liked what I saw, and the price was much better then a RigBlaster so I decided to get one.
First of I want to admit the RigBlasters do have some additional features over the SignaLink USB, but in the 5 years I owned one I never used a single one of those features so they really have no value to me.
There are a few things things I really do like about the SignaLink USB:
1. Much simpler to wire up. This thing has 1 USB cable to go to your PC (or Mac) and 1 cable to the Radio… 2 cables, thats it. As a bonus it will plug into the data port on the back of your radio if you have one so no funny wiring of your microphone through another box and an overall cleaner look.
2. The built in sound card is great, not only does it save you 2 cables but there are no controls on your computer, only the hardware controls on the front of the device. This means you don’t have to endlessly play with the PCs volume settings, just adjust the knobs on the front of the box. Also this frees up your built in sound card for regular use… and no need to turn your default sounds off.
3. It is powered via USB Cable, while not a big deal on normal use it can be a great help if you operate away from home in a mobile or field conditions. With many solutions you would need a separate power supply to your Audio Interface, and that isn’t easy if you Rig has self contained batteries, with the SignaLink the batteries in your laptop will power the interface.
4. It uses the Data Port instead of the microphone jack, depending on your radio this can give a number of advantages such as fixed level audio so turning the radio volume knob does not change the input volume. Your radio may also allow you to set the gain on the data port independently of the gain on your microphone, one of the biggest problems I see when helping others set up their devices is too much gain distorts the digital audio so independent controls are very convenient.
There are other options that include some or all of the above features, but not for the same price. The second closest I have found is the RigBlaster Plug & Play for about $10 more, It does have CAT control abilities which is nice, but it does not have a built in sound card so no easy volume dials and a lot more cables. The closest I could find to all of the capabilities is the RigBlaster Advantage, only difference I see is it does not offer the option to attach to the data port on a radio, oh and it is almost twice as much.
The Signalink USB is available on Amazon.com and most major Ham Radio Dealers.