I wanted to share with the group my experiences with a new USB External sound board I just installed for my laptop.
The device is the Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Amigo, a full duplex USB soundboard/card, that comes in a package just a bit larger than a typical USB memory stick.
First, a little background. I had been having real issues with my laptop's soundcard. It was a decent enough card (Realtec AC47), but one of the channels was out and the volume level on the remaining channel was terribly low. I knew enough to stay away from opening the laptop for a partial lobotomy and, upon discovering the minimum cost to pay someone to do so was $50.00, I shopped around until I found the Amigo at the local Frys for $39.99.
The Amigo has an on-board volume and mute control, along with two jacks (mike/line input and headphones/speakers output). Packed along with it are a short USB extension cable and a mono earpiece/mike combination. The device can drive phones directly but cannot drive unpowered speakers.
Of real interest to CQ100 digital mode users is the ability of the Amigo's control panel to save/load preset files. I hate the exercize of setting up for digital (stereo mix, mike muted, etc.) and then, when I want to go to voice, resetting to select Mike-in vs stereo mix, and different volume levels. With the Amigo, the control panel icon stays down in the windows system tray. A single click and you can select "Presets", load the desired preset, and off you go.
I have successfully used the device in CQ100 voice, CW, PSK, Olivia, and Hellschreiber modes. Works like a champ.
Installation can be a bit dicey, however. My first installation try was on my desktop - which really didn't need another sound card. Everything seemed to come up OK, but I never got any sound at the output. Turns out the device is quite picky concerning where it is plugged in. I had plugged it into an empty USB slot on my trusty hub. Not a good choice. You have to be plugged into an "original" USB port. Furthermore, once you have installed the device, you want to always put it into the same physical port. Otherwise, you'll be prompted to reinstall the software for the new port!
All in all, I give this device a 4.5 out of 5. For the amateur who is cursed with a defective duplex card or a simplex card, this is an answer (especially for portable operation). If your computer is 800 mhz or better and 128 MB or better, it should work fine for you. There is a full array of details about this device at the turtle beach website: http://www.turtlebeach.com/products/amigo/home.aspx.