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I beg, please help Frustrating soundcard problem!

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June 28, 2006 3:47:44 PM

Right, im experiencing a very frustrating problem with my soundcard. Just to explain the setup im using first...

I have my laptops optical s/pdif output connected to my minidisk deck. Im using its "monitor" function, which basically makes it work as a DAC. It takes in the spdif, outputs it to the anlogue line outs which are then connected up to my amp... The laptop has a Via Vinyl audio chip, the VT1618, and im using the latest driver available from the system mtfr, version 6.14.1.4130.

The problem is that there is a momentary.. about 0.5s moment between when a sound begins on the computer, and when sound is actualy output. The sound is NOT delayed, the first 0.5s is simply cut off. This happens all the time, whenever i go from silence > making a sound. So, for example the short pling sound that the windows volume control makes when you pling is simply never comes out (or occasionally i catch the tail end of it), the click noise explorer makes as you navigate is to short, and i never hear that either. When playing a track of music, again, the first 0.5s is simply cut. This makes it completely usueless for audio editing, and similar tasks.

Interestingly however, things work fine as long as something is playing in the background. For example, if i play a clip in wmp, and mute the sound in there, then play my music in itunes as usual, everything works fine. Sounds come out instantly, no problems. The same thing works with various other programs... ie. if i play some music, the windows volume control plinger then works. Quicktime is an interesting exception. Simply opening that (not playing anything) and leaving it in the background, everything works just fine. That is not a suitable solution to the problem. Leaving random programs open just to keep sound working properly is ridiculous.

The problem seems to be that whenever the machine goes from silent to a sound, it causes the spdif output to glitch or momentarily turn off which causes the minidisk deck to loose lock, and take that fraction of a sec to re-synch. I conclude this because when the minisdisk deck is recieveing a signal its display reads "Monitor" if it looses the signal is reads "digital; in unlock". When the computer is playin no sound is says "Monitor" after the computers booted and the spdif turns on. But as soon as i play a track for example, the display brifly flickers to "digital in unlock", resynchs, then back to "monitor"

I have searched around a great deal looking for a solution, iv found a number of people mention the problem, but most people just seem to assume its normal and put up with it, and no one has mentioned a solution, anywhere.

Thanks in advance
June 28, 2006 6:49:14 PM

oh god someone please help. Of all the places surely amongst you hardcore forum go-ers there must be someone with some ideas?
June 28, 2006 11:01:29 PM

I am assuming that people would give you help here if they had the answers.

Here is another good place to look for help:
http://www.audiominds.com
Related resources
June 28, 2006 11:24:44 PM

I'm shooting into the dark, but this is what the problem sounds like to me. It sounds like your laptop's digital out is not always on. ...that it is listening for signal...waiting...before it wakes itself fully and sends the detected signal to output...and that process takes ...oh...say...0.5 seconds. OR ...that's how long your MD deck's record monitor is taking to detect the signal and send it to output (in that case I'm not sure what you can do). Most MD decks have a buffer "shock" memory that they record into. If yours is a Sony, I'd imagine it has that "buffer" that has to fill-up everytime a new signal is detected, and that might take 0.5 seconds.

So, the first thing I would check is in your soundcard's driver's setup to see if there is any option, anywhere, to keep your digital out signal in an "always on" setting, as opposed to say a ...power saving setting, where it's sampling for a signal before its fully waking itself up and sending the signal to output. If its your MD deck's buffer you're dealing with I doubt that there's much you can do. You've got to remember that you're using it's *monitoring* ability in a way that I don't think it was quite made for.

...that may sound dumb, but that's what it sounds like to me....

P.S. I've done exactly the same thing you've described with my better Sony MD deck (bless its litttle digital heart). When I used it in that fashion I always heard this "click" like a recording head had been set to "lock-n-load". ...that little click worried me, but it never bothered anything so I did it anyways. It's sad to believe that $400 deck is nearly obsolete. :cry: 
June 29, 2006 9:58:05 AM

I dont have aby poweravings set up, and the spdif is set permanently on, and it turns on as soon as windows loads. When this happens, the md deck correctly detects the spdif signal... in about 0.5sa like u mention above, and says "monitor" meaning itshapily recieveing the signal. Thing is tho, wenever i play a sound, its like it glitches.. The md deck looses the signal for a second.. and takes 0.5s to re-synch. The display fgoes from "monitor" to "digital in unlock" and back.. so it is detecting the signal.. the problem occurs when a new sound comes thru.. it does this glitch thing
June 29, 2006 1:14:56 PM

It, then, does sound like the S/PDIF is cutting out the signal for a brief moment. I can't imagine why else, than the above, it would do that. Just for grins, run task mangler and watch your CPU activity as this is happening. See if there's a spike.
June 29, 2006 3:29:23 PM

nope.. nothing.. The cpu usuage patern when playin music is prety much indistuinguishable from it just idling. Any spikes when music starts are no differemnt from when the spdif output is disabled. Damn via. Why on easrth would they implement such a retarded system. I cannot imagine any good reason why it does it. Completely unnaceptable imho
June 29, 2006 4:13:26 PM

I imagine if you had any other equipment with a Toslink input you'd have tried it already as part of your troubleshooting? It might be worth considering an Audigy 2ZS Notebook PC card ( http://www.soundblaster.com/products/product.asp?catego... ), if you're not able to find remedy. There are other USB based external soundcards that offer TOSlink out as well ( http://www.usb-ware.com/ads-instant-music.htm ) (I actually have this and will give it to you if you want it and will pay shipping).

Don't give up yet, just know there are other options.

I can't think of any other solution you could prescribe right now. Hopefully, someone else might be able to assist.
June 29, 2006 4:17:33 PM

I'm shooting in the dark as will but it really sounds like an ACPI problem. It appears if the audio card when at idle is having parts of it shut down to save power. When you note that the audio card works or seems fine when an audio application is active in the back ground. That really leans to a power management fuction causing the problems.

You may try going to this site as well for some usefull tips.

www.musicxp.net
June 29, 2006 6:24:23 PM

How would i go about testing that hypothesis? is there a way to temporarily disable acpi just to get that possibility tested?

Although, as i mentioned above the spdif port is always on, it dosent turn off. When enabled the red light is always visible. Even the minidisk deck agrees that its recieveing a propper spdif signal.. until i play a track at whivch point it glitches and has to re-synch

Anyway, halcyon thanks for the links. Maybe it is worth looking into external soundcards. Itd be nice if they mace pci-express ones since i only have a pci-express slot, no standard pci, il have to hunt around. Its kinda irritating really. I was hoping to simplify things with s-pdif... just one compact cable linking laptop to minidisk deck.. and audio perfection lol I currently have my laptop linked to my amp via a small pre-amp/matching device, which i constructed myself to match the laptop output to the amp properly, and provide a small ammount of gain to bring it to the same styandard line level as my other hifi components. It gives vastly superior sound than simply linking the laptop direct to amp, but the whole solution just seems less neat than beloved spdif
June 29, 2006 7:06:43 PM

I believe you should be able to control (at least somewhat) ACPI in the bios, but I'm not sure if you can disable it entirely...next time I bounce the Spore, I'll check that.
June 29, 2006 7:40:22 PM

The first thing to do would be to find out which is at fault - the PC or the Minidisk recorder.

The easiest way to do this (without shelling out for new sound hardware) would be to use other kit with digital optical output - such as a CD player or Playstation 2 (borrow one if you haven't got one)... or maybe take the minidisk recorder to a friends with optical output... or into a PC store with an optical cable and ask if you can connect it to a PC on the pretense that you may be interested in buying a new soundcard. Stop and start playback and see if you get the same 'sync' delay.

If you don't replicate the problem on the other gear with optical out, then its your PC audio hardware. If you still get the same problem, then its a hardware liimitation of your MD recorder.

The first step in troubleshooting audio gear is to find out which piece of kit has the problem, before thinking about how to fix it.

Also, does this happen if you just set the mindisk to record directly without it acting as a DAC for monitoring purposes? Try disabling the monitoring, record via optical, and listen to the recording. Is the delay still there?

Its highly possible that the digital-to-analogue conversion for monitoring while recording is designed to be enabled while a signal is being recieved... rather than beforehand. The initial connection of the signal would be like, I suppose, the pop when you first switch on a microphone (thats supposed to be metaphorical and not technically related in any way :) )

Not all gear that offers a monitoring function is capable of doing so with 0 latency, particularly if you have a handheld MD recorder rather than a studio deck.
June 29, 2006 8:31:43 PM

monitoring with other sources (CD players etc) is perfect. I can literally plug and unplug the toslink conector.. or even wave the end of the optical fibre infront of the minidisk decks socket, and the sound is locked onto almost instantaneously (much faster than when using the computer) yes there is still a short delay but one that is a good deal shorter than what occurs when using the computer.

It is definitely something wacky the sound card is doing. The minidisk deck behaves fine with the cd player. in so far as when the display says "monitor" it IS recieveing a signal.. it dosent indicate a kind of pop-up notifcation behaviour as far as i can tell. If there is no signal (or a proitected signal) it will say "digital in unlock"

So.. everything would be just fine as long as the soundcard would just continue to output an uninterupted stream, synch delays would be irelevant if the damn soundcard would just output a standard stream like any other normal hifi item. The minidisk deck would never loose synch, and thre would be no problems.

i almost get the feeling that maybe the spdif stream is initialized and defaults to a particular sampling rate and depth, but whenever windows plays a sound, the bitdepth or sample rate is different from the default, so it sends out a new stream at the new rate causeing the glitch.. thats the best explanation i can come up with so far
June 30, 2006 6:45:16 PM

Its good that you've isolated the soundcard as the problem... now all you need to do is try other cards to see if this removes the problem, so you can rule out whether windows is to blame or not. Your only option may be to replace your sound card.
June 30, 2006 9:33:52 PM

that would tbe the obvious thing to do, but since its a laptop thers nothing i can do
June 30, 2006 9:59:12 PM

You can replace the sound card, even temporarily, and it might assist you in trouble-shooting. If you're nearby retailer has an Audigy 2ZS Notebook solution AND and good return policy you can pick one up, use it in troubleshooting ...and take it back (of course you'll want to keep it in pristine new condition, but that shouldn't take much effort). ...if you have local retailer you can do that with.
July 1, 2006 11:00:57 AM

aw forget it, il just forget the whole thing. I dont wanna have to use extra cards/external soundcards. Il just stick with analogue, until such time as i get another machine. Im beginning to wonder if this happens with all soundcards, since i found a few posts here where other mention the issue, but just "assume that the way it should work" and put up with it. This guy had used many soundcards, many machines, and a number of recievers over the years and had the same things happen with all of them. I just think its completely unaceptable to sell a soundcard woth claimed optical out wen the damn thing is imho unsuitable for use with that kinda behaviour..

heres the post i mentionhttp://www.htpcnews.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=2249...

I dont have much cahnce of ever sorting this out, since most people simply dont even see it as a problem... do any of u guys yourselves, or know of anyone who successfully uses spdif without the beginning being cut off?
July 1, 2006 11:07:00 AM

Quote:
aw forget it, il just forget the whole thing. I dont wanna have to use extra cards/external soundcards. Il just stick with analogue, until such time as i get another machine. Im beginning to wonder if this happens with all soundcards, since i found a few posts here where other mention the issue, but just "assume that the way it should work" and put up with it. This guy had used many soundcards, many machines, and a number of recievers over the years and had the same things happen with all of them. I just think its completely unaceptable to sell a soundcard woth claimed optical out wen the damn thing is imho unsuitable for use with that kinda behaviour..

heres the post i mentionhttp://www.htpcnews.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=2249...

I dont have much cahnce of ever sorting this out, since most people simply dont even see it as a problem... do any of u guys yourselves, or know of anyone who successfully uses sodif without the beginning being cut off?


Dude. I hate to see you frustrated. I'll tell you what, I don't know where you live, but if it's less than $30 shipping I'll send you my ADS Instant Music and you can see if that makes any difference. Either way you'll have an alternative and reasonable external soundcard. ...that's all I can do my friend.
July 1, 2006 7:26:53 PM

No, its ok. Il stay with the analogue. I really dont want to start using extra bits and pieces, but thanks for your generous offer, help and advice with this issue.
July 1, 2006 8:09:23 PM

...i guess this thread kindof came to an end before i was able to read it any... but what i do for my montego ddl, which otherwise spends about a half second or so 'activating' the digital signal on my amp, so it can switch from pcm, to ac3, when any kind of sound plays... is set the microphone input on my sound card, to be permenantly active, and that causes the signal activation to not keep having to take place on the amp... and the half second or so pause that would otherwise happen at the start of a sound, is no longer there... and the whole sound plays... not sure if this will work for you though.
July 1, 2006 9:08:06 PM

My pleasure man.
July 2, 2006 10:46:35 AM

Quote:
...i guess this thread kindof came to an end before i was able to read it any... but what i do for my montego ddl, which otherwise spends about a half second or so 'activating' the digital signal on my amp, so it can switch from pcm, to ac3, when any kind of sound plays... is set the microphone input on my sound card, to be permenantly active, and that causes the signal activation to not keep having to take place on the amp... and the half second or so pause that would otherwise happen at the start of a sound, is no longer there... and the whole sound plays... not sure if this will work for you though.


ah yes! good idea that. Unfortunately though for me that dosent seem to work. Maybe it just needs some more experimentiation. My sound card even has a analogue in > optical out passthrough which i tried using, but same thing there. Its reassuring to know im not the only one to have that problem.

Its crazy.. i can get sound from the microphone out thru the spdif. but it still! gives a gap when a new spound is played. It is ridiculous. What kind of fool designed these soundcard drivers.
!