Monday (2 days ago) the same kourier driver who gifted my vocal mic to me, gave me a Creative Labs SB0490 “Sound Blaster Live!” external USB sound card to try out; if I liked it he was going to sell it to me “at cost” (eight dollars).
I tried it out that night, plugging in not just the mic but also the Chapman Stick and recording into Audacity. It seems to be okay; I was able to leave the input level higher in the software and adjust on the external box – unfortunately the headphone output didn’t seem to work. I never bothered to connect speakers to it.
So I’m going to pass on this, even for eight dollars; it’s probably fine for somebody who wants to digitize their LP or tape collection, or to improve gaming sound or music playback, but pro audio gear it isn’t.
I’m still holding out for the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface, which goes for a buck and a half everywhere I can find it. Hopefully around the end of the year I can have that much saved up.