USB By Josh Blagden | JB - Mac Help | JBlagden

USB By Josh Blagden

USB is the most ubiquitous data interface and a useful one as well. By the way, USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It was intended to replace many of the strange connections on PCs such as serial, parallel and PS/2 ports. 

USB 1.0 was extremely slow at 1.5 megabits/second. USB 1.1 transferred data at 12 megabits/second, which is still very slow. USB 2.0, which is the most common revision of the standard, was significantly faster, though limited to 480 megabits/second. USB 3 is a big breakthrough for USB because it transfers data at a rate of 5 gigabits/second.

USB is rather useful for connecting peripherals such as mice, keyboards, digital cameras, gamepads and even as a digital connection for speakers. It has been used by MSI in its original GUS as a means of connecting an external graphics card. Some speakers use a digital connection such as USB or Toslink to allow a very clear transmission of audio to speakers without needing a good DAC(Digital to Analog Converter) in a computer. An external DAC can be purchased for laptops, but they tend to be rather expensive, usually costing upwards of $150. Though, USB is the better choice because USB speakers tend to be roughly $100 less expensive than their optical/Toslink equipped counterparts. The other advantage of USB speakers is that they can be plugged into a hub, which will be one less thing you need to plug into your MacBook when you get home. Though, it’s very difficult to find USB speakers, particularly ones that have AC power and good sound quality. However, the problem with digital audio transmission mediums - such as Bluetooth, USB, optical/Toslink and Lighting - is that while the transmitting device (i.e. computer) doesn’t need to have a good DAC, you’re making the receiving device (headphones, speakers, receiver) do the digital-to-analog conversion. This means the receiving device needs to have a good DAC. This causes three problems: 1. Good-sounding headphones/speakers will be ridiculously expensive 2. Inexpensive (i.e. ($30) headphones will sound terrible 3. You won’t be able to get a pair of headphones or speakers that sound decent for $30. $200 might not sound too bad for headphones, since you only need to replace them every 5-10 years, but only if you’re just going to use them at home and are confident they won’t be damaged. What if you want to use them somewhere else? Or what if you have rambunctious children? Or pets?

© Joshua Blagden & Justin Barczak 2013-2015