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Distorted sound at analog Audio CD playback

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Distorted sound at analog Audio CD playback

Postby Han on Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:05 am

I have a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L rev. 1.0 motherboard with the onboard Realtek 8 channel ALC888 audio controller. BIOS is up to date. Other components are:

- Intel E2180 @ 2 GHz (it works @ 3 GHz, but currently I don't need the extra speed)
- Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4 KIT (2×1024 MB)
- ATI Radeon HD 3850 by Sapphire
- ATI Theatrix 550 Pro by Sapphire
- Initio SCSI PCI card
- USB 2.0 / FireWire PCI card

The system is not overclocked in any way!

While playing an Audio CD, sound is totally distorted, i.e. you can hear multiple echoes all the time. Furthermore, every few minutes I hear a static pop in the speakers.

Toshiba DVD-ROM (SD-M1712) is connected via CD audio cable to the motherboard's AUX connector. I've disabled digital playback thru Windows' XP Device Manager. I've also configured Windows Media Player 10 to analog audio playback via Toshiba DVD-ROM.

I've upgraded Realtek's drivers from v1.80 to the recent v1.83, which made the problem even worse. :evil:

I guess I'll just disable the onboard audio controller, pop out the USB/FW card, and pop in my trusted SB Live!, which worked flawlessly on my old configuration. :roll:
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Postby Han on Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:00 am

Ok, how about Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCI Express sound card? Is it worth buying? Any known drivers/sound issues?
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Re: Distorted sound at analog Audio CD playback

Postby redk9258 on Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:00 am

Han wrote:
SNIP
Toshiba DVD-ROM (SD-M1712) is connected via CD audio cable to the motherboard's AUX connector. I've disabled digital playback thru Windows' XP Device Manager. I've also configured Windows Media Player 10 to analog audio playback via Toshiba DVD-ROM.
SNIP


You should get rid of that cable and use digital audio extraction. Otherwise, you are relying on the cheap D/A converters in your DVD drive. How is the sound if playing a wav file (or a known decent sounding mp3 file)? If the sound is good from the harddrive, it is your DVD drive. I would check the ribbon cables and make sure the drive is performing properly.
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Postby jacktheripper on Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:38 am

As for your X-Fi Question...

I have the X-Fi Elite and the card is incredible if you are a gamer/usual user. For playback, games, theatre/TV, and anything the normal uses, the sound is amazing. It enhances all sound and makes games amazing.

Any X-Fi will work with those things, just make sure you look into it....they have now a x-fi extreme audio that is a PCI-X (for using those ports you'd never thought you'd use) and it has full ranged ports (including opticals). The x-fi with ram, i dunno about the 'gamer ram'...lots of debate around that as far as I'm concerned no game has used it yet so its not really worth the extra money to shell out for it. They all cover the same features, the game edition just has 'x-fi ram'.
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Postby Han on Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:45 am

Cables are fine, trust me. Analog playback from Toshiba was flawless on my previous configuration. I've been using the same CD audio cable for years on many CD/DVD drives without a single hassle... Besides, by such playback Toshiba is absolutely silent. If you use digital playback, drive spins like crazy.

Oh well, looks like the new SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCI Express doesn't have a CD or AUX connector so I'm stuck with either the digital audio extraction or with my old SB Live! #-o
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Postby redk9258 on Tue Dec 18, 2007 7:49 pm

Han wrote:Cables are fine, trust me. Analog playback from Toshiba was flawless on my previous configuration. I've been using the same CD audio cable for years on many CD/DVD drives without a single hassle... Besides, by such playback Toshiba is absolutely silent. If you use digital playback, drive spins like crazy.

Oh well, looks like the new SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCI Express doesn't have a CD or AUX connector so I'm stuck with either the digital audio extraction or with my old SB Live! #-o


Why not use Nero Drive Speed (www.cdspeed2000.com/files/NeroDriveSpeed_300.zip) to slow the drive down? And I still say get rid of the analog connector! ](*,)
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Postby Han on Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:09 am

I purchased SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCI Express yesterday. Now I'll have to get rid of CD audio cable anyway, because this card doesn't have CD/AUX connector... I'm looking forward hearing the sound of this card - today I'll put it into operation...

I prefer AnyDVD to slow down the drive. :wink:
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Postby Han on Thu Dec 20, 2007 3:45 am

SB X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCIe is stunning. What a difference in comparison to Realtek's poor HD Audio controller. The sound is absolutely fantastic. It's like you're in a professional sound studio where you can hear every single detail. The X-Fi Crystalizer really does restore the details and vibrancy lost during MP3 and DivX compression, breathing life back into any audio. Well done Creative! =D>
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Postby jacktheripper on Thu Dec 20, 2007 10:26 am

Isnt it though?

I was simply amazed. Now boot up Call of Duty 4 or UT3 or Bioshock and really hear a difference.
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Postby Han on Sat Dec 29, 2007 7:30 am

Here we go: after a week of testing and figuring out what's going on I got sick, grrrrrrrr. :evil: I even tried out Windows Vista which convinced me that this is one of the worst PC operating systems.

Epilogue:

- I hear static and popping sounds when my speakers or headphones are connected to SB X-Fi Xtreme. This sound card is VERY sensitive to EMI (Electro-Magnetic Interference)!

- Looks like static/crackling/popping sound issues are a common factor of Creative Sound Blaster audio cards. Check it out.

- Integrated Realtek's audio codec on Gigabyte GA-P35-DSL3 does not produce static pops when the Realtek's HD audio drivers are installed on a clean Windows XP installation. Make sure to install only the necessary video and other drivers made by the genuine manufacturer.

- CD-IN connector now works as it should, i.e. analog audio CD playback is flawless!

- By the way: latest ATI Catalyst 7.12 distorts a certain blue pattern into a red color! For the time being I recommend version 7.11.

- And the cream of the crop: M$ didn't include the HD audio support into its latest SP3 (RC1) for Windows XP. #-o
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Postby jacktheripper on Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:22 pm

Interesting Han, thanks for the update.

I'm honestly surprised that X-Fi boards are so sensitive since I have a very large amount of equipment in and around my box...with quite a bit of power and I have yet to see an issue with EMI's. Perhaps there has to be extremely well grounded to avoid it?
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Postby Han on Mon Dec 31, 2007 6:52 am

I, too, am surprised that X-Fi is popping like crazy while playing WAVs or MP3s. I had a similar problem with the SB Live! card on a P3 system with a i440BX chipset, but this was a known issue. When I replaced the motherboard with the one with i915 chipset, playback was flawless.

I just got a reply from Creative technical support. While it doesn't suggest anything drastic about my hardware setup and bios settings, I'm going to remove all three classic PCI cards (SCSI, USB/FW, TV), disable also the onboard's Realtek network controller, and install SB software immediately after a fresh Windows XP SP2 setup completes. If that won't solve the issue, then all I can think of is the EMI of the ATI Radeon HD 3850, EMI of the two Seagate hard drives, motherboard or BIOS issue or a bad X-Fi card. :-?
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Postby jacktheripper on Mon Dec 31, 2007 9:31 am

Hmmm...have you checked to make sure that everything is well grounded and screwed solid together?

I have 3 Sata HDD's, 3 Burners, a 7950 GT in there with a pile of external power zipping by w/o problems. I have an nforce 500 MCP chipset but I've never known for that to be a problem. It might be some of your old PCI cards that would causing problems. I've also heard that if you put your soundcard as the first PCI slot to get the first band of power out of the chain that it will perform better....*shrugs* its worth a shot...though I don't know how applicable that is for new age cards...
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Postby Han on Mon Dec 31, 2007 11:28 am

Yes, I'm confident everything is well screwed and well grounded. A few days ago I had everything in pieces because I replaced Intel's stock CPU cooler with the Scythe Katana II...

These newer PCI Express 1x slots are positioned quite terrible on this board. Two of them are next the only PCIe 16x slot in which sits the graphic card. Preferred setup looks like this:

PCIe 1x (empty - tried X-Fi, but there was no difference in sound quality)
PCIe 16x (ATI Radeon HD 3850)
PCIe 1x (empty)
PCIe 1x (X-Fi)
PCI (Initio SCSI)
PCI (USB/FW)
PCI (ATI Theatrix 550 Pro)

In the case there are also 3 CD/DVD drives, 2 SATA HDDs, floppy drive, USB multi card reader, and a quality 420 W PSU (Enermax Noisetaker).

Other components around the case are: Labtec LCS-3210 shielded speakers, HP LaserJet 5L, Samsung SyncMaster 214T and a Canon 4200F flatbed scanner.

I'll open the case tomorrow when I'm finished with copying old VHS tapes to DVDs. If the X-Fi won't work without pops, I'll try the old SB Live!...
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Postby Han on Tue Jan 01, 2008 12:15 pm

I've got rid of all three PCI cards and put the X-Fi right below the graphic card into the first PCIe 1× slot. Before I closed the PC case I cleared the CMOS data just in case...

At the moment I'm listening to Enya's Watermark track which has a beautiful piano single. I've tried it on the Labtec's speakers and it sounded good, without static pops. Then I put on my brand new AGK earphones K 314 P that I bought for the iPod. All I can say is WOW! :o At the beginning of the track you can hear a sound of one particular piano's key when it's pressed down. Amazing!

So far it looks like one of the old PCI cards is to blame for the EMI. Will put back one at a time and test the sound quality again...
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Postby jacktheripper on Tue Jan 01, 2008 1:12 pm

Ah...I am suspicious of your SCSI card actually...so we'll see soon...
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Postby Han on Tue Jan 01, 2008 2:01 pm

Indeed, it's the oldest PCI, i.e. SCSI controller which is the trouble maker! Now I understand why Windows Vista doesn't support it. :-k Oh well, I guess I'll have to retire my trusty TEAC CD-R58S (made in Japan, in April 1999). :(

Current setup looks like this:

PCIe 1x (empty)
PCIe 16x (ATI Radeon HD 3850)
PCIe 1x (X-Fi)
PCIe 1x (empty)
PCI (Initio SCSI)
PCI (empty)
PCI (empty)

For my final test setup I'll put the SCSI card as far away from the X-Fi as possible:

PCIe 1x (X-Fi)
PCIe 16x (ATI Radeon HD 3850)
PCIe 1x (empty)
PCIe 1x (empty)
PCI (ATI Theatrix 550 Pro)
PCI (USB/FW)
PCI (Initio SCSI)
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Postby Han on Tue Jan 01, 2008 5:37 pm

Guess what - the final test setup wouldn't even complete the boot sequence. PC froze at SCSI BIOS test. #-o

Of course I removed the SCSI card for good and now I can finally enjoy the full beauty of Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio without annoying static pops. :D
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Postby jacktheripper on Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:50 am

;) Good show
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Postby SithTracy on Wed Jan 02, 2008 11:53 am

You could try to find a Symbios/LSI Logic based SCSI II or Ultra card... I would expect you would have much better luck with that than a card made by Initio... I don't think they have produces SCSI cards for years... Of course, and over priced Adaptec card is an option too... while they are not is use, I still have a 2940UW and 2940U2W card (Adaptec) and a Tekram (SYMBIOS based) U2W card.. of course those are dated and probably will not work with Vista... You never know though with Symbios/LSI... they probably still make drivers.
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Postby Han on Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:07 pm

Yeah, I checked Initio's web page and it looks pretty outdated... For the time being I decided to live without SCSI CD writer.

Now you'll think I'm going crazy, but I haven't got rid of those damn static pops that come out of SB card. Grrrrrrrr! Although they are much less frequent I can still hear them. Let's say about one pop per ten minutes. ](*,) Sometimes the pop is pretty quiet, but in time there's a really loud one that freaks me out. :evil: I'm really curious what will Creative Tech support say about this...

Argh - just as I clicked on the Submit button, there was a loud static pop. (I'm currently on IE7. Have to yet install Firefox...) #-o
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Postby jacktheripper on Wed Jan 02, 2008 11:29 pm

This is with your SCSI card removed too that you still get occasional pops?
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Postby Han on Thu Jan 03, 2008 3:49 am

Yes, SCSI is out. The other two cards, besides the graphic and SB, that are in the case are ATI Theatrix 550 Pro (TV tuner, located at the very bottom) and a new firewire card with NEC processor (located above the tuner). Both PCI cards are PCI v2.2 and I'm confident removing them won't affect the SB's sensitiveness for static EMI.
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Postby jacktheripper on Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:24 am

You ordered this card online? or Brick and Mortar. If you brick and mortared it...you could swap it. Probably contact the online dealer and ask about faulty products and return and the like.

I'm sure you've checked the strangely obvious of your wiring to your sound stuff (like broken wires and the like). Wish I could relate to ya better....never had this problem before.
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Postby Han on Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:06 am

Nop, I bought it at a nearby store as an OEM product. I'm pretty sure they got it thru illegal channels, because I contacted our local distributor of Creative products and they told me they'll have this card by the end of January, maybe later. If they tried to sell me the card without the CD, I wouldn't have bought it (I checked Creative's web site for software and there wasn't any)...

Anyway, I guess the card itself is ok. I doesn't look physically damaged. There are no conflicts in Device Manager and all Creative tests pass without any issue. I sent the photo of it to Creative Tech support...

Wires etc. are fine. The AKG earphones are brand new and play flawlessly on iPod...
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