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1st Post: Dell laptop disappoints old audio guy looking for a music server


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This is my first post here at this forum. This is a really great website.

 

May I suggest that a "Newbie" area be established here? I'm almost embarrassed to post this simple question because most of the discussions here are far more sophisticated.

 

I tried to do my homework here before posting, and I learned a lot, but perhaps my problem is just too simple or passé to merit attention.

 

I'm a retired (long ago) live-sound technician and sometimes musician who is finally getting around to ripping my cd collection to a digital format. From reading this forum, I realize now that what I'm trying to create is called a music server.

 

How disappointing to realize how low popular audio standards have fallen? I've experimented with MP3s and various WMA formats at different bit rates, and (perhaps unfortunately) I can hear the difference (and I do not even consider myself an audio snob). So I have determined to use a lossless format. I can afford the disk space.

 

I use John Coltrane's "Love Supreme" as my test track.

 

My problem: even after going to a lossless format, and even after going to an uncompressed lossless format (WAV), I still hear tiny little dropouts in the music... tiny little pops... about once or twice per 60 seconds of music. When I go back and review the passage, the "pop" is not there, so I know it is not a problem with data storage but rather with playback.

 

My technical specs:

I'm using (or trying to use) a Dell Inspiron 1520 laptop running Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 3. I paid extra for a "high speed" hard drive (thinking of avoiding latency in home recording). There seems to be something called a "Legacy Audio Driver" involved, as well as a "SigmaTel High Definition Audio CODEC." I'm also using Windows Media Player Version 11.0.5721.5260.

 

Are there adjustments I can make? Or was I doomed to fail with this configuration? I've already looked around and set everything I can find to "full acceleration." Should I just abandon this quest and get an off-the-shelf music server... or a MAC... or perhaps just one of those 200 disc capacity compact disc players?

 

I can't believe that, after all these years of development, getting high-quality audio out of a computer is still sooooo difficult. Any advice will be appreciated.

 

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This should be easy to fix.

1. Ditch WMP. Google, download and install JRiver Mediajukebox 12 - this is free.

2. In Media Jukebox select Tools...Options...Playback...Output Mode Settings...Buffering. Set the slider all the way to the left.

 

If you still get skipping then do this:

3. Google, download and install ASIO4ALL - also free.

4. Open MediaJukebox and play something. You should see a green coloured ASIO4ALL icon in your Windows toolbar. right click this and you will go to the ASIO4ALL settings screen. Slide the ASIO buffering and latency compensation sliders all the way to the right. Should be no skipping now and it will sound better as well as you'll be bypassing the Windows sound mixer.

 

hFX Classic fanless i7 SSD > Locus Nucleus / SW Diverter HR > RWA Isabella LFP-V Pro / New Sensor Genalex Gold Lion E88CC > ALO Sennheiser HD 800 balanced[br]

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Hi,

 

There is a Newbie section called Computer Audiophile Academy. It is a series of articles explaining the basics and is slowly being built up by Chris C. That being said, because everything involved with computers is inherently complicated seeing as how they are complicated beasts, no question is really irrelevant unless it has been asked to death. For example, as was previously mentioned, power supplies for different computers can make a difference as well as the soundcard/motherboard. Each computer will be a little different making each question "how do I get this to work" unique.

 

Musings aside, Windows Media player just plain doesn't cut it for sound quality. There are plenty of free programs out there that are much better, so like the above post said, try some and have fun comparing them. You may wish to invest in an external soundcard (cost ranging from peanuts to first born children) to see if the interference of having so many circuits crammed into an itty bitty laptop case is making the clicking/popping. Or do you already have one? BTW, external soundcard = dac for the purposes of this discussion.

 

Your quest is totally feasible, it just takes the right questions and the right answers.

 

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Driver quality has really gone down the tubes in recent years. You see a lot of corner cutting in what is/isn't offloaded to the CPU. I see the same issues with my Dell Vostro - dropouts are extremely common in foobar2000, and the sound quality itself is pretty terrible, with bad power supply rejection. I can't say this is your issue with certainty but it is definitely worth testing.

 

I would suggest disabling WiFi on the laptop, and going to Display Properties->Advanced->Troubleshoot and turning Hardware Acceleration to None and disabling write combining, and seeing if either change improves the dropout problem. If the former fixes things then I'd say you're looking at either keeping yourself tethered to an ethernet cable or a USB WiFi adapter. If the latter fixes things, you'll need to move the acceleration slider back up until the pops reappear then back off to determine the maximum safe amount of acceleration (and play with the write combining setting too).

 

You won't have these issues with a Mac. One of the things you get with an expensive computer is a well built driver stack. But of course, there are lots of Windows laptops you won't have these issues with either.

 

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Hey ElAbogado,

 

I think you are just unlucky to have chosen a Dell for this.

Below link may let you feel not alone. It took the man (probably your age) 18 months to solve it the way it should. In the mean time you may get some ideas from the link to try out. Mind my first post in there, though.

 

Glitches on my Dell

 

Peter

 

Edit : The 6400 mentioned in there, actually is an e1505.

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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I notice also that your Dell comes equipped with 3G mobile broadband capability. If you're not using it I would suggest you check to make sure it is switched off. Random clicks and pops, of the type you describe, would be consistent with a modem looking for a connection.

 

And just in case you were wondering, you really do NOT want to be using the headphone output to provide you with an audio signal. That way lies dire and dread! If you're looking for a cheap usb option then something along the lines of an M-Audio Transit will get you going, although this forum is full of highly commendable options. Have a look here for a few ideas, kindly provided by your host! http://www.computeraudiophile.com/taxonomy_menu/2/12

 

And here for little late-night reading :) : http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/First-Post-Cheapish-DAC

 

 

 

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A great many thanks to all who have replied. I'm trying your suggestions as an interim fix, but more importantly I'm learning that I was naive in my approach. I did find and spend some time in the "Computer Audiophile Academy," which was helpful, but I guess I needed the "Computer Audiophile Preparatory School."

 

Your comments are right on the money and I really appreciate the guidance. I'm going to reconsider the whole project backwards from the amplifier.

 

If I can get one of the interim fixes to work, I'll post it just for curiosity's sake. I'm trying Media Jukebox 12 now.

 

Thanks again.

 

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Start-Control Panel-System-Hardware-Device Manager-Network adapters-Dell Wireless 1395 WLAN Mini-Card, left click & disable.

 

That, after switching to Media Jukebox 12, seems to have done it. Thanks. You nailed it.

 

Now I'll think about the output questions you suggested.

 

Thanks to everyone.

 

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  • 1 year later...

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