Audio Path on Windows 7 - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 3 Old 12-26-12, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Boulder CO
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Audio Path on Windows 7


I original posted this in the new members forum as part of a "hello" message and was redirected here. Let me try and qualify what I'm looking for (as someone pointed out my stated goals and equipment list were in conflict).

I'm trying to do two things: learn more about how audio works in Windows (Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2) and what combination of equipment might give better sound than just using the on-board processor and Windows Media Player. The items in the list of available equipment all had purpose at the time they were purchased, and this is the collection I have now.

This is what I have to work with (mostly I've had for a while for various reasons, three things are relatively new). The new pieces are: Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers (actually sound pretty good for "PC" speakers and I didn't have many choices that I could take with me). I also bought the Phiaton PS 210 BTNC buds after hearing a friend's (best wireless sound that I've heard and a very reasonable price ($129). I also bought a Creative X-Fi HD USB box (long story but for $50 I figured "why not").

The other gear that is available:
1) Tascam US-144 USB audio interface
2) Lexicon Omega USB audio interface
3) Sandblaster X-Fi Go Pro USB
4) Radio Shack SPL (the new 2055 but it is catalog 3300099). Only thing that my local store had.
5) nVidea Quadro 4000 (shows up as 4 separate sound cards - audio is available from Display Port or DVI).

I like to tinker! Also I should point out that I spent far too much time standing in front of large and very loud guitar amplifiers so my hearing above 9K is pretty much gone (I'm also 60).

I just started using Winamp (I also download Foobar2000 but Winamp is just the one I started with). I have been trying to set it up and get it adjusted. At the moment, I'm using my on-board sound (RealTek ac 262). I have the Creative X-Fi Go Pro (it's a little USB thing that looks like a zippo lighter) installed, but I'm not using it yet (I have disabled all of the Creative software). I really want to learn more about audio setup on Windows. Winamp could easily be replaced, anything but Windows Media Player would do (only because I know what I don't like about it).

I was trying out the three output options that I have available in Winamp 5.63 (Nullsoft Wave Out, Nullsoft Direct Sound and Maiko WASAPI Output). I was trying to decide which one sounded better and I started off by trying to figure out what the different volume levels were and what they should be set to. In the course of doing that (I'm on vacation and am in tinkering mode), I realized I didn't even understand how sound was routed in windows and what the various relationships between the pieces were.

The first question is do I even want or need the Realtek drivers? Windows is perfectly happy to provide everything that's needed and it appears that the Realtek drivers are using the Microsoft drivers anyway. So what does the RealTek driver bring to the party or does it just get in the way and add another place for the sound to get degraded? I'm using Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 at work and Windows 7 x64 at home. It actually took a little bit of work to even find RealTek drivers that were install-able (they had to be signed and RealTek's latest aren't signed - go figure). So I found at the Intel site and downloaded and installed them.

Once again, I'm in learning mode and really want to understand this. I have downloaded REW and I'm currently going thru the documentation for it. I know I can use the US-144 as an external DAC, but don't know the quality of it compared to the others. Can anyone shed some light on the audio drivers and audio path question? And do you have any thoughts about the equipment I have available (one person in the new members forum said they wouldn't use any of it - reasonable answer but I would be interested in why).

Thanks in advance.

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post #2 of 3 Old 12-31-12, 02:31 PM
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Re: Audio Path on Windows 7

The only question I can answer is that if it works without the Realtek drivers, then you don't need them. It's always been my philosophy to only upgrade drivers when there is something wrong or when there is some sort of added new feature.
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post #3 of 3 Old 12-31-12, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Audio Path on Windows 7

mechman wrote: View Post
The only question I can answer is that if it works without the Realtek drivers, then you don't need them. It's always been my philosophy to only upgrade drivers when there is something wrong or when there is some sort of added new feature.
I figured out what they bring (re-tasking the jacks). So when I want that, I load up their control panel app, set the jacks to what I want them to be and then kill it from task manager (no reason to keep it running and they don't provide an exit option).

I'm learning a lot in the process. Didn't realize that in the AC'97 days, the signal ran to the front jacks and then if the jack was in use, the signal stopped. If it wasn't, it was routed back to the rear jacks. That's why things used to sound so bad. Now days, if the system implements Intel's HD Audio spec, the front and rear are separate so the signal doesn't traverse that (potentially) noisy path to get to the rear.

Anyways, thanks for the reply.

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