in case someone is looking for a similar problem solver:
i just received an esi gigaport hd+, which is a usb1 class-compliant,
bus powered audio interface that provides 8 discrete unbalanced audio
outs. at 135€, it's not quite a steal, but it solves one problem: to be
able to listen to 5.1/7.1 content with a laptop.
it works with jack out of the box and comes with two headphone outs, one
of which plays outs1/2, the other plays a pair-wise mix of all eight
outs. there is a row of flashing blue leds as "signal present"
indicators, although their threshold is a bit on the high side.
sound quality is appropriate, i gave it a quick listen and there is
nothing obviously wrong.
i bought it for use with a raspberry pi, which is the next thing i have
to try - will report back. for now & on my laptop, it runs fine at
124x4, haven't tried to push the latency down more, but since it only
has outputs, what's the point anyways?
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