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  • Adveser
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Windows Control Panel
Hello everyone.

I have a theory that I was wondering if anyone had any experience in, but first some technical details of what I am running because this may or may not be Hardware and Driver dependent.

Sony Vaio VGN-NS135E (Built for Vista)
Running Windows XP Pro BE
Using the XP-specific drivers from Sony
Intel Realtek HD 192Khz/32-bit Audio

Anyway. I used to have good luck messing with the "Speaker setup" in the audio devices back in the SB 128PCI, then SB 24-Bit era and felt like messing around with it some more and seeing what works because of the wimpy Bass output. After confirming a 50Hz notch filter was going through the sound card with the http://HigherFi.org software I tested out some of the speaker options.

There are only three that will work with headphones and speakers in my mind. Stereo Speakers, Stereo Headphones and No Speakers.

I don't want to write like i'm writing an article that would appear in the mailbag of stereophile, but the "No Speakers" option yielded very "revealing" results when I compared the way it sounded with my Sony MDR-7506's. The notch filter was also gone. Basically the good mixes sounded far better and the bad mixes sounded a little worse.

Would it be safe to assume that selecting "no speakers" turns off DirectSound filtering? The tone of every recording had this "rounded-off" quality to it before and I was honestly getting better results from an old Toshiba laptop with a 16-bit 48Khz card before this fix. So what is going on here?

The quality is far superior now. The only bug I have found is that MS wants to label the channels as "Channel 1" and "Center" now, which obviously has no audible effect. I am convinced that anyone running XP with a Realtek HD chip should at least check to see if it improves things on their end. This may be one of those things that people simply don't do because they didn't consider it and it may be harming the quality if not implemented. I use the only output it has, which is analogue, so ASIO or bypassing the K-Mixer in favor of digital is not happening without a new Sound Card.

Any help understanding what is going on in more detail would be appreciated.

  • [JAZ]
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Windows Control Panel
Reply #1
There's no way to know if you are actually doing something wrong with what you say.
But be sure of one thing: You are either imagining it, or indicating a defect (not a feature) that may only happen in your concrete setup. That's why one of the first things to do to verify audio quality is disabling any postprocessing that the soundcard may be doing (equalizing, surround, reverb, downmixing...)


Also, at the end, you talk about ASIO or k-mixer.  Both things can be done with any type of soundcard. Definitely it is not limited to digital output. The only limitation would be that the software you use for audio didn't support these drivers.

http://www.asio4all.com/  (An ASIO driver emulator that actually is implemented with Kernel streaming, which means bypassing k-mixer)

  • Adveser
  • [*]
Windows Control Panel
Reply #2
I have tried the ASIO4all option and basically there were no differences in audio from the "no speakers" option. It was real resource hog as I remember as well.

I have read from numerous sources that the speaker setup in Control Panel are direct sound filters (MS tech papers on writing drivers seem to describe it that way) and wondered if the "no speakers" was bypassing this filtering. It would appear so if various notch filters are missing. If that is the case, one could hardly be imagining things.

In any event. This setup has no features. The sound card was built for Vista and all the bells and whistles are bypassed because there are no XP drivers for them, just basic functionality. It strictly takes DS and sends it to the K-Mixer which applies the speaker settings. The audio card basically works like the built in card would for windows 98 in appearance and features (none) which is what I wanted.

I guess I am alone on this one, I'm just suggesting anyone using the K-Mixer to bypass it's filtering. After doing what was probably at least 100 hours of windows audio research, these are my conclusions. I have never seen this as a viable "tweak" though on any website claiming to help people make audio in windows as good as it gets.

So I guess, in conclusion, that anyone that cares about bypassing the KM is using ASIO anyway

Thank you for your comments.

  • [JAZ]
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Windows Control Panel
Reply #3
ASIO4All a resource hog? I really don't know what you do, but that's completely opposed to my experience. In fact, there's no logic to think that it can be more cpu intensive than using directsound, more like the opposite.

Also, I would like you to be careful when talking about filters. "Directshow filters" are not necessarily frequency filters. The term "filter" just means a converter. For example, an AC3 decoder is a directshow filter.

About playing above 96Khz with Directsound, seems at least XP SP2 is needed (You didn't say which SP do you have, but I guess you probably have SP3)  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee...v=vs.85%29.aspx  . Although it says that Directshow filters don't support frequencies over 96Khz...

Btw, I've also seen sony's webpage for the audio drivers, and I belive that they simply don't provide the integration with the OS for XP, but the driver probably is the usual one. This means there may be a soundcard configuration panel, without having to resort to XP's default one. (Side note, the soundcard would not work in Win98. Windows 98 doesn't know many AC97 cards, and none of HD cards)


The last point that bugs me of your post is insisting that a 50Khz (I guess 48Khz, as in 96Khz sampling rate) notch filter annoys you**. The problem, if any, would be for whatever defect the resampling, lack of precision or other effects may be done on the signal. Not for the frequency cutoff. As an example, CD audio has a 22Khz lowpass filter (and actually was designed originally for 20Khz with the other 2Khz as rolloff).
In fact, I am more concerned on what content do you have where you can clearly see a 50Khz lowpass filter on it.



I guess your post may help other people that has your same or similar setup, but in general, I believe that your experience is not common.



** btw, don't you mean lowpass filter instead of notch filter? a notchband filter is more like an equalizer band

  • Adveser
  • [*]
Windows Control Panel
Reply #4

ASIO4All a resource hog? I really don't know what you do, but that's completely opposed to my experience. In fact, there's no logic to think that it can be more cpu intensive than using directsound, more like the opposite.

Also, I would like you to be careful when talking about filters. "Directshow filters" are not necessarily frequency filters. The term "filter" just means a converter. For example, an AC3 decoder is a directshow filter.

About playing above 96Khz with Directsound, seems at least XP SP2 is needed (You didn't say which SP do you have, but I guess you probably have SP3)  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee...v=vs.85%29.aspx  . Although it says that Directshow filters don't support frequencies over 96Khz...

Btw, I've also seen sony's webpage for the audio drivers, and I belive that they simply don't provide the integration with the OS for XP, but the driver probably is the usual one. This means there may be a soundcard configuration panel, without having to resort to XP's default one. (Side note, the soundcard would not work in Win98. Windows 98 doesn't know many AC97 cards, and none of HD cards)


The last point that bugs me of your post is insisting that a 50Khz (I guess 48Khz, as in 96Khz sampling rate) notch filter annoys you**. The problem, if any, would be for whatever defect the resampling, lack of precision or other effects may be done on the signal. Not for the frequency cutoff. As an example, CD audio has a 22Khz lowpass filter (and actually was designed originally for 20Khz with the other 2Khz as rolloff).
In fact, I am more concerned on what content do you have where you can clearly see a 50Khz lowpass filter on it.



I guess your post may help other people that has your same or similar setup, but in general, I believe that your experience is not common.



** btw, don't you mean lowpass filter instead of notch filter? a notchband filter is more like an equalizer band


I had a 500Mhz 128Meg Asus Toshiba that couldn't even run ASIO4all clean, but could deal with DS with 6 DSP's (some 32-bit) much more quickly and efficiently. Since then I've not worried about it until I can use real digital transport.

There is no sound card control panel at all, just MS's control panel for audio.

I believe I typed 50Hz notch filter, and I mean notch filter, if I accidently typed Khz, sorry about the confusion.

This is all becoming a moot point though, since said computer's mobo decided to die almnost immediatelyu after posting this thread. I'm doing the same scheme on another system and will report back the results if the filters have an effect. I think the one I'm going to use will have another Intel Realtel HD audio, so we shall see if this was vendor specific.

It is definitely an audible effect. Anyone that's used the Speaker Settings in windows can probably remember the first time they changed them when using headphones and it either sounding better or worse.

I believe you are talking about DS codecs that go through the K-Mixer and get turned into analog sound. I'm talking about the filters that tailor the audio signal to what kind and how many channels the output has.

  • nagual
  • [*]
Windows Control Panel
Reply #5
Hello everyone.
........

I don't want to write like i'm writing an article that would appear in the mailbag of stereophile, but the "No Speakers" option yielded very "revealing" results when I compared the way it sounded with my Sony MDR-7506's. The notch filter was also gone. Basically the good mixes sounded far better and the bad mixes sounded a little worse.

Would it be safe to assume that selecting "no speakers" turns off DirectSound filtering? The tone of every recording had this "rounded-off" quality to it before and I was honestly getting better results from an old Toshiba laptop with a 16-bit 48Khz card before this fix. So what is going on here?

The quality is far superior now. The only bug I have found is that MS wants to label the channels as "Channel 1" and "Center" now, which obviously has no audible effect. I am convinced that anyone running XP with a Realtek HD chip should at least check to see if it improves things on their end. This may be one of those things that people simply don't do because they didn't consider it and it may be harming the quality if not implemented. I use the only output it has, which is analogue, so ASIO or bypassing the K-Mixer in favor of digital is not happening without a new Sound Card.

Any help understanding what is going on in more detail would be appreciated.



I´ve got some improvement myself in sq,  or at least I think so, enabling "Do not map through this device", in  Control Panel/ Sounds and Audio Devices/ Hardware/ SB X-Fi E Audio/ Properties/ Properties/ SB X-Fi/ Properties.  This kind of tweak belongs to what I call the "dark side" of WinXP, since I couldn´t find an explanation of its behavior, or even someone else that knew it.  Your post is the closest I´ve come to,  as I belive both settings, in some way and degree, bypass kmixer.


  • mjb2006
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Windows Control Panel
Reply #6
I once did quite a lot of searching to find out exactly what Speaker Setup does, and eventually ended up deep in a Microsoft driver development guide which explained that all it's doing is making note of what you selected, and this info is passed on to the audio hardware drivers. In other words, you use the control panel to tell Windows what kind of speaker/headphone arrangement you have, and it's up to each audio device driver to make use of that info as it sees fit. Your soundcard might also have its own control panel where you can make similar selections.

So the actual effect of each setting is entirely up to your soundcard driver. What works for you may be specific to your hardware.

As for "Do not map through this device", the tooltip for that explains what it does. Click on the "?" in the upper-right corner and then click in the vicinity of the checkbox. Basically that particular dialog allows you to say whether the driver gets loaded or not, and the "Do not map through this device" is for when it is loaded, whether to use it as one of the DirectSound devices. If you check that box, it won't be used by DirectSound; an app would have to call the driver directly. So for example, in foobar2000, under Preferences > Playback > Output > Device, the choices include DirectSound ("Primary Sound Driver"), or a specific soundcard driver, or nothing. Note that DirectSound is very poorly named; it's really indirect.
  • Last Edit: 26 April, 2011, 10:30:22 PM by mjb2006

  • Adveser
  • [*]
Windows Control Panel
Reply #7
Well, the computer works fine now.

After a fresh install of XP, I tried a couple drivers out. The one issued by Sony Support (which checks the MoBo) and the one issued by Realtek. They report being written by Realtek in both cases.

Some more observations:

The Sony driver is louder than the generic driver. I've noticed this several times during various installs, even reinstalling the OS the first time I got the quiet drive.

The Sony driver has a massive amount of gain on the input channel. It will begin to clip after more than about 4-5 "arrows" away from zero. In contrast the generic must be maxed out to get close to zero (and doesn't really clip). The booster in Control Panel for input does not make any difference in either case. There are only two options for record in either case: Loopback (labeled "Stereo Mix") and "Microphone" which will use the built in mic or the input jack.

The generic sounds worse. It sounds just like the other computer with a Realtek HD chipset we have.


If I had to take a guess, it is that Sony put something on the chipset that needs to be resolved by the driver, which the generic one does not address. It could just be that the Sony asks for more gain somehow or it has a customized chipset with a higher S/N ratio and won't drive them hard without being told to explicitly overdrive the hardware. This sort of thing happens all the time. I fooled around with y old computer and got the same driver by different manuf. doing different things based on hardware expectations.

Whoever said always use updated drivers was wrong. Use the best drivers written for your exact hardware, no matter how old they are.

This is a big problem since Windows wanted everything to work off the same interfaces and drivers, basically.

  • googlebot
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Windows Control Panel
Reply #8

ASIO4All a resource hog? I really don't know what you do, but that's completely opposed to my experience. In fact, there's no logic to think that it can be more cpu intensive than using directsound, more like the opposite.


Low latency => smaller buffers => higher number of buffer flushhes per time => less cpu time spent in idle mode & waiting for buffer to fill.

Increasing ASIO4ALL's buffer size could help. It is well-written and mature software and anything else than resource intensive.

I do not believe that there is a difference between "speakers" and "no speakers" in XP.
  • Last Edit: 30 April, 2011, 03:46:59 PM by googlebot