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Side speakers play too quietly

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February 19, 2010 2:24:05 PM

I have an update on the cannot hear side speakers thread. I have bought an additional stereo cable and they started playing but now there is another problem. Side speakers play much quieter than the others. I have put every speaker on max volume and they play normally but side speakers are just too quiet even on max volume. What's wrong???

I have a SB X-Fi Titanium Pro S/C and Creative inspire T7900 7.1 speakers. Running on Windows 7 Ultimate 32bit

Any help greatly appreciated!

Patrick
February 20, 2010 6:05:13 AM

Surround output is typically lower on most movies; they are used for ambiance, except during panning scenes when they will play at the full volume.
February 20, 2010 8:12:08 AM

Thanks for the reply astralite! I have been thinking about this problem and have a suggestion. Could it be caused by the cable itself?? The cable is different than the others so it could have a different impedance rate. I've heard somewhere that this can cause the speakers to play quieter than usual

Any theories on this?

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February 20, 2010 2:13:07 PM

There are a lot of superstitions surrounding (pun intended) speaker wire. They are all false. As long as it's copper and heavy enough, it's perfect. You'd have to be running hundreds of feet to even have to think about other effects, like ohmic loss or interference. I use zip cord, like for lamps, from the hardware store, because it's way overkill for resistance, it's easy to work with, and it's relatively cheap. You could have gold-clad Monster Cable to the left speaker, and old car jumper cables to the right speaker, and you wouldn't hear any difference at all. You could have ethernet cable to one, and 300-ohm twin lead you found half-embedded in the ground for the other, and you'd be fine. At audio frequencies, impedance effects are beyond negligible, and at the power levels a speaker uses any normal interference is deep down in the grass.
February 20, 2010 4:39:59 PM

So how can I fix this problem???
February 21, 2010 2:02:02 AM

I looked at your speaker system at the European Creative store (they don't have 7.1s at the US store!), and I looked at the specs and the user's manual for your card. (The manual says nothing about the software bundle, so nothing about upmixing, which is a suspect here.) I Googled on <xfi titanium pro "side speakers">. I'm starting to think that your source is 5.1, and that's why the side speakers aren't working. Another possibility is that the driver is a bad one. I would try going into the software and setting everything to default, and turn off all enhancements.

You don't say what your source is. Are you gaming or playing DVDs or what?
February 21, 2010 7:47:34 AM

The effect is the same either with playing movies, gaming or listening to MP3s. You say that I am totally screwed then? :( 
February 21, 2010 12:29:41 PM

Darcorn said:
... I am totally screwed then? :( 

Not "totally". I'm still looking into it.

Your problem actually quite interesting. For instance, the possible reason that the US Creative store doesn't carry 7.1 speakers is that US (NTSC) DVDs don't encode 7.1 sound. (note the "full stop") For that you need MP2 audio, which only the PAL standard mandates. Look on the DVD box for some sort of MP2 logo. There are more and more Blu-ray discs in 7.1, though, a partial list of which can be seen on Blu-ray.com.

Only your more modern, high-end games use 7.1. I'm still looking for that list.

MP3s will play in stereo, not 7.1, as far as I can tell.

Your card might be able to upmix to 7.1 if you can figure out how to tell it to. I don't have that software on my computer, and I am not familiar with it, so I can't help you there. Poke around in your settings, and check your help files for "upmixing".
February 21, 2010 1:39:50 PM

My card has a feature called CMSS 3D which upmixes 5.1 to 7.1 but the problem is that I want all 8 speakers to play at the same volume. Now it is that 6 speakers play at constant same volume whilst the side speakers are really REALLY quiet even though I raise their volume to the max
February 21, 2010 2:03:46 PM

Darcorn said:
...I want all 8 speakers to play at the same volume. ....

Oh. I guess I didn't understand what you meant before. I have to ask, why would you want to do that? I'll bet that what you describe is normal. The surround speakers, I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, are meant to provide ambience and therefore don't need to be as loud as the front ones.
February 21, 2010 5:17:26 PM

I just worry that if I can't hear the side speakers then for example I won't have that effect when someone calls from the right side then right side speaker works and so on. I am now talking about movies of course
February 21, 2010 6:59:03 PM

Have you tried using the the test tones where it will test each speaker with a tone when it does they should all play at the same volume. If they do all play at the same volume during the test tone then your system is working fine and makes me think you are having a mixing problem. On my setup I have a matrix mode for listening to music which will play all the speakers at the same volume if I turn it off I can barely hear side rear and center speakers and this is perfectly normal.
February 21, 2010 7:58:13 PM

When I turn the speaker test in the Creative Audio Console, the side speakers do not play at the same volume as the others but noticeably quieter. I don't think it's a system problem
February 21, 2010 8:22:36 PM

Does your motherboard have on board audio maybe try the on board and see how it sounds. It's worth a shot.
February 22, 2010 8:53:01 AM

Already tried and to put it frankly........it s%$^%$s. No surround sound at all (even though it's a Realtek HD Audio card). It was for this reason that I bought X-Fi. Couldn't stand the onboard sound card
February 22, 2010 2:35:01 PM

If you got no surround sound out of an HD onboard, you probably had a driver problem. What is your motherboard? Creative also is well known for flaky drivers, and that might be what we have here.

Now, I don't know W7, but in Vista you can go into ControlPanel/Sound and test the speakers there. That's where I would expect to hear equal loudness from each speaker. That works for my 5.1 setup, but I don't have any experience with 7.1.
February 22, 2010 2:40:18 PM

W7 has an identical speaker test as Vista although the situation's the same as in Creative Audio Console's speaker test. Side speakers are much quieter than the others
February 22, 2010 2:54:42 PM

We've reached the limits of my knowledge. The only thing I can suggest is to make sure all enhancements are off when testing and to swap the side and back speakers to rule out the incredibly unlikely case where the side speakers are bad.

About Creative, I hate them. I had been buying SoundBlasters since the early days, when they made you do things to get their stuff to work, and they're still doing it. While everybody else's equipment is Plug-and-play, theirs is plug-and-monkey-with-it-for-weeks-until-you-give-up-in-frustration-and-blame-yourself-even-though-it's-their-drivers.
February 23, 2010 12:44:21 PM

I swapped the cables as you suggested Petrofsky and now side speakers work like a charm but rear speakers are reeeeeeeeeeally quiet. Starting to be very annoyed here :/ 
February 23, 2010 3:59:22 PM

Darcorn - I can help you but I'd like to know which OS are you using (ie. Windows 7, etc). Also, which speaker system are you using?

I'd also like to just follow up on that fact that if you use a surround speaker set, you should always use the same cable and if possible, always match the length for the front/center and rear speakers. In other words, the cable length for the left, center and right speakers should match, and while the rear speakers generally use longer cables, these 2 should also match. It's not a critical issue, but it's the right way of doing it.
February 23, 2010 5:16:58 PM

Thank you Omnimodis! My OS is a Windows 7 Ultimate 32bit. My soundcard is a SB X-Fi Titanium Pro (the one with the black cover). My speakers are Creative Inspire T7900. Your suggestion about the same cables may be what is needed here although I haven't been able to test it out yet
February 23, 2010 5:20:20 PM

I almost forgot!! What kind of cables do you recommend me to get? I mean what make and model. Thank you :) 
February 23, 2010 6:16:52 PM

Darcorn, you're welcome. Don't run out and buy new cables just yet - it's best to look at "free" fixes first and then go to the next stage of investing in cables, etc, if needed!

Firstly, you have good stuff - good sound card and good speakers! To rule out any settings issues, repeat the Windows speaker test (yes I know you already did it, but just do it again)! Make sure you DO NOT select full range speakers as your speakers are not full range!!

Also, disable CMSS-3D - do so both in the Creative Console Launcher and Speaker Properties (Sound blaster tab) - make sure you repeat this in both the Music and the Game modes. Ensure that you have 7.1 selected! In the creative console launcher, go to Speakers and Advanced - and ensure that all volume sliders are balanced. Make the necessary changes here. If they are - and still your side speakers are lower than the rest, then you could just increase the volume for each side speaker to balance it out. This would be a free (and a sure) fix.

That's about it for now. Let me know how it goes!!!

February 23, 2010 7:31:08 PM

All my speakers are balanced at 100 (for the purpose of speaker testing), CMSS is disabled at places you suggested but still the sides are noticeably quieter than other speakers. I also unticked full range speakers in Windows as you suggested. Should I tick surround speakers or leave both unticked? Thanks :) 
February 23, 2010 8:16:57 PM

Darcorn, leave everything unticked for full range! Your system in terms of settings via windows is not full-range, so nothing ought to be ticked. Can you confirm that you disabled your onboard (motherboard) sound via the BIOS? I've seen issues where this wasn't done - so if not yet, then please proceed to do so (you should always do this regardless if you're using a dedicated sound card). By your estimation, what is the discrepancy of volume between the rear speakers and the side speakers (say, side speakers are only half as loud as the rear, etc.)?

Also, try this: in the control panel go to sounds, properties (for your sound card), levels tab and click on the balance button beside the play control volume level. Check for the channel volume levels in there also.
February 24, 2010 2:19:21 AM

Darcorn said:
I swapped the cables as you suggested Petrofsky and now side speakers work like a charm but rear speakers are reeeeeeeeeeally quiet. Starting to be very annoyed here :/ 

OK, you're back in my bailiwick now. You swapped the cables and the problem moved? It's the cables, in spite of anything I or anybody else has said or will ever say. This is Troubleshooting 101, Day 1. (My excuse is that I can't see what you've got there.) I don't know what your setup is like, but run heavy, stranded copper if you can.
February 24, 2010 7:46:32 AM

Ok, I disabled my onboard sound card as soon as I got the X-Fi so I can confirm that. As to the levels, only the speakers are balanced at 100. Microphone, Digital in, Midi Synth and Line in are at 50. To my estimation, the side speakers are half quieter than the rest. It's as if they were balanced at 50 and not 100 even though they are balanced at 100

Petrofsky, can you recommend any cables? I mean the make and model because there are LOADS of those cables on the internet and I just wanna choose the right ones for my speakers/soundcard. I'd hate to buy a cable that is wrong

February 24, 2010 9:27:13 AM

Darcorn said:
... Petrofsky, can you recommend any cables? I mean the make and model because there are LOADS of those cables on the internet and I just wanna choose the right ones for my speakers/soundcard. I'd hate to buy a cable that is wrong

I'm looking at your speakers at uk.creative.com, and I can't see the connectors in the picture. What sort of connector is at either end of the cable? Like I said, I use regular electrician's lamp cord if the connectors permit. I'm a former FCC First Phone, Fender bass player, and long-time repair tech, in case that helps lend credence. As for the length, that's immaterial. Just think for a moment of the difference between the speed of electricity in copper and the speed of sound in air. The slightest microscopic difference in speaker position would more than swamp any difference in the length of the cables, so ignore that.

You did swap the cables and not the speakers, right?
February 24, 2010 10:05:16 AM

Darcorn said:
The connectors I am using for my speakers are like this

http://ask.creative.com/wwimages/speakers/4-4_audio_cab...

Except my cable is a 4-3 not a 4-4

I don't know what is meant by 4-3 or 4-4 cable. The picture you linked to shows what looks like 3.5mm stereo plugs, but there is nothing in the picture to show scale. Are these the cables running from your computer to the T7900? I've been thinking all along we were talking about the speaker wires running from the amp to the speaker, hence the confusion. Yes, cables carrying low-level signal have to be of good quality for shielding, unlike speaker wires which can be anything. If these are indeed 3.5mm signal cables, I'd get something name brand, like Belkin. I guess you can't do newegg.com, but something like this.
February 24, 2010 10:36:58 AM

a 4-3 cable means that it has 4 plugs on one end 3 on the other. 4-4 has 4 plugs on both ends. My soundcard has 4 output jacks so I either need 4 3.5 mm plugs or a 4 - 4 cable like the one in the pic. 4 plugs go to my S/C and 4 to the sub of my speakers
February 24, 2010 10:59:06 AM

I would get four separate cables, one at a time as they fail, if you like, but all four at once would save both shipping costs and headaches. But you said up there that yours is 4-3 (which I can't understand what the heck that is).

Yeah, the shield is open in the bad cable. That's how it can be affecting both of the speakers it serves.
February 24, 2010 11:03:28 AM

The only problem is there are absolutely no cables like the one on the pic. Sure you can buy 4 individual 3.5 mm cables but that's it
February 24, 2010 11:36:01 AM

I must be being thick again. What's wrong with using four separate cables?
February 24, 2010 11:54:59 AM

a cable with 4 plugs at both saves money eventually :)  I will buy 4 3.5 mm jacks though :) 
February 24, 2010 11:55:27 AM

*at both ends
February 24, 2010 1:05:25 PM

Hey Darcorn, let's back up the truck here to the 4-3 cable you have. So, your sound card has 4 mini-jacks - each plug is for one set of speakers - so one jack is for the front left and right speaker (since each jack outputs in stereo), another jack is for the side left and right, the 3rd is for the side left and right and the 4th is for the center and sub. Now, if on the other end of the cable you only have 3 plugs, that means that one of the sets is being combined with another set and that's not ideal at all! Are you using the cables which were provided in the box? How many input jacks are there on your speaker system? Also, when you did the surround sound test, did any of the speakers sound at the same time, or did each 8 speaker (including the sub) sound discreetly? This is important so please provide clear answers. Thanks!!
February 24, 2010 4:17:00 PM

I have four jacks on my sub and four on my S/C. When I did the sound test it went a speaker at a time (a chick said front left, front center, front right and so on) I am using the cables provided with the speakers (each plug has a different color) I searched for a cable with 4 plugs at both ends but no go. Impossible to find let alone buy

Thanks for your help Omnimodis :) 
February 24, 2010 7:30:23 PM

If three of the four existing lines work, why not just get ONE new 3.5mm TRS male-male cable?
Keep using the original 3 that still work connected...
February 24, 2010 7:35:01 PM

That's what I am doing now but the side speakers (ones controlled by the additional cable I bought) are too quiet
February 24, 2010 7:53:52 PM



Sorry, skipped over the first few posts :whistle: 

After properly reading the post....
I agree that your cable is shot.

Instead of buying a new, more expensive cable, why not just exchange the one you just got?
As long as the cables them self are intact and the connector contacts properly, there will be NO difference in sound quality between the cheap and expensive cables.
Since you already paid for them once bevor...
February 24, 2010 7:58:47 PM

I am thinking of buying 4 3.5 mm jack cables and checking it out then :) 
February 24, 2010 9:52:08 PM

Darcorn, there's a super easy to way to determine if it's really that one cable which is causing it to drop in volume - simply switch the front set cable with the side set cable and if your front speakers get quieter then it's 100% confirmed that it's the cable. At that point, I'd recommend you buy 4 individual male-to-male stereo mini-jack cables, ensuring that it's shielded and is not some super cheap rip-off. I must respectfully disagree with outlw6669 about no difference in sound quality between cheap and expensive cables - though I understand what he means, I think it's fair to elaborate that cheap cables are almost never shielded and don't have the best coating for optimum contact, while more expensive ones usually address this issue. That said, you can often find those features on non-Monster brands as well so you won't have to pay $45 per cable...
February 24, 2010 9:56:52 PM

I already did what you suggested Omni, and it's exactly how you said. Now the rears are quieter sides are loud as the others
February 24, 2010 9:59:29 PM

Great! Now you know it's the cable!!! Always nice to know it's a very simple fix... Make sure you use 4 identical cables and you will have the issue resolved.
February 24, 2010 10:00:12 PM

Tell you what. Send me your email address in a PM and I'll follow up as soon as I get the cables a'ight? :) 
February 25, 2010 11:54:40 AM

Update on the cables! I need an opinion about Bainbridge Premium cables. Will they be good in my case? Thanks :) 
February 25, 2010 2:52:33 PM

Darcorn said:
Update on the cables! I need an opinion about Bainbridge Premium cables. Will they be good in my case? Thanks :) 

Never heard of them. Where did you see them? Can you provide a link?
February 25, 2010 3:48:11 PM

Sure, I don't see why not. It's not all that critical, I'm just saying don't get the ones from the Euro Store (Pound Store, Dollar Store, Forint Store, whatever wherever you are). Happy listening.
!