dslreports logo
site
 
    All Forums Hot Topics Gallery
spc

spacer




how-to block ads


Search Topic:
uniqs
29140
share rss forum feed


trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2

Is on-board RealTek audio really that bad?

I have an ASUS motherboard with an on-board RealTek audio card. Every so often I hear snaps and other audio artifacts in the output.

I've been trying to find out if it's because of outside interference, driver conflicts, or God knows what else.

I've been reading up on on-board audio and it seems that the general consensus is that on-board audio, well... sucks. Is there any truth to that or is it just posts being made by people trying to push expensive Creative sound cards?
--
Tom
Boycott AT&T uVerse! | Tom's Android Blog


CCat
We're all quite mad here
Premium,MVM
join:2005-12-06
Wonderland
kudos:19
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
I have an ASUS mobo also. I just use the onboard audio.
I watch some movies and listen to some music. For me it works fine with a 2-0 speaker setup. If you're really into music and have 5-1 or 7-1 speaker systems then you probably would want an audio card.
I don't have any odd sounds coming from mine, but it sounds like you don't have a solid connection somewhere.
--
I Live In My Own World, But It's OK.....They Know Me There.


darcilicious
Cyber Librarian
Premium
join:2001-01-02
Forest Grove, OR
kudos:4
said by CCat:

I have an ASUS mobo also. I just use the onboard audio.
I watch some movies and listen to some music. For me it works fine with a 2-0 speaker setup. If you're really into music and have 5-1 or 7-1 speaker systems then you probably would want an audio card.
I don't have any odd sounds coming from mine, but it sounds like you don't have a solid connection somewhere.

I have RealTek audio (ALC888S chipset, assuming that's onboard audio) on my HTPC set up with an A/V receiver (via HDMI) for 5.1 sound and rocks.
--
♬ Dragon of good fortune struggles with the trickster Fox ♬


koitsu
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-16
Mountain View, CA
kudos:23

1 recommendation

reply to trparky
To readers: disabling SpeedStep rectified the OP's issue.

The problem in question has to do with how PC hardware actually works at a very low level, and it's virtually impossible for any end-user to diagnose this reliably (in turn they choose to start spouting off nonsense on forums, saying things like "I removed my Big Dog Snake USB/CF card and now everything is great!" -- lies).

Event timers are driven by a series of dedicated chips which have different degrees of accuracy and latency (ex. HPET vs. ACPI timers vs. i8254). All of these are affected in some way or another by certain universal clock rates.

SpeedStep adjusts the CPU clock rate, which has a direct effect on event timers as well as a multitude of other things -- many things that require/rely on a stable/set/constant rate of occurrence (sound/audio is the biggest one) get affected by this. Some drivers handle this better than others, and some hardware handles this better than others.

Likewise, other CPU features like C3/C6 P-states can cause fluctuations in these rates, resulting in the above.

The more "power-saving" features get added to hardware (regardless of where -- at the CPU level, at the bus/protocol level, or anywhere else), the more fluctuation there tends to be when it comes to event timers as well as interrupt rates. The applications (that also means drivers) have to be written to handle these situations cleanly/correctly -- many don't.

For example, here's a thread where I got into a lengthy discussion with a NES emulator author about his choices to force-disable some of these power-saving features citing "audio latency issues". He provided responsiveness graphs which I also questioned. After pushing him for a while, he dug through his code and found that the root cause was actually a design flaw and upon fixing it there was no need to force-disable the power-saving features. I rest my case.

Realtek in general has a very well and long-established history of making (generally speaking) crap. Their audio ICs and NICs tend to be sub-par, ditto with their drivers. I've ranted about Realtek NICs on my blog in the past (use Google to find it). The reason Realtek is everywhere is because their ICs are cheap, thus allowing the board manufacturers to make a larger profit.

For example on all Realtek audio drivers that I've used (ALC887 and ALC889), there is a downright 100% repeatable bug pertaining to frequency playback rates when using non-DirectX for audio that is 22kHz or lower -- the playback frequency table is wrong (audio plays back at a slightly lower frequency than it should).

I also tend to avoid VIA anything (CPUs, ICs, whatever -- doesn't matter what) given their years and years of horrible, horrible chip bugs and driver bugs. Anyone who remembers the VIA 4-in-1 drivers and the 686B will know what I'm talking about.

Sadly I've tried add-on audio cards that have their own series of horrible bugs too -- I've found just as awful bugs in Asus' Xonar DG drivers, Creative Labs X-Fi drivers, and in M-Audio's Revolution drivers. I also tried some other brand (I forget the company name, I still have the card in some box) and found even different bugs.

That's really all I have to say on the matter.
--
Making life hard for others since 1977.
I speak for myself and not my employer/affiliates of my employer.


a2nxtcrav3r
Pokes People With Stick
Premium
join:2003-07-13
San Jose, CA
reply to trparky
the board could be bad,

Asus sound cards ( actuall cards xonar series) are very well made

I have gone through DS,DX,essence stx all were great.
--
hmmmmmm....

LY

join:2010-12-17
reply to trparky
Try using the digital outputs instead of the analog ones. There is usually a digital coax output and an optical output. I would say that the optical would be the best choice since it wouldn't suffer from interference issues.

Also try using another media player.

I use the Realtek HD Audio chipset on my Gigabyte mobo, using the optical output to go to an old receiver which is hooked up to a 5.1 speaker set. Decent enough for my gaming/music needs.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to trparky
It depends on the mobo.

Read any review of the Asus Maximus V Formula--it takes a RealTek chip and improves on it several different ways.

That said, I agree with the others, if you are using 5.1 or 7.1, get a sound card.
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Mele20
Premium
join:2001-06-05
Hilo, HI
kudos:5
reply to trparky
I have a new Dell XPS 8500 desktop so not an ASUS motherboard. I have ALWAYS had a sound card on my computers until this one. Dell was offering the ancient Creative X-Fi or a four week wait for the Recon3d. I love my X-Fi card (the original one not that fake one Dell sold later) on my XPS 600 desktop with XP Pro but did not want it or the Recon3d that gets bad reviews for my new XPS 8500. Dell was not offering Creative's new line of Z cards so I decided to see how just on board RealTek and Dell's Waves MaxxAudio would be.

RealTek is HORRIBLE and while Waves MaxxAudio is better, BOTH can be used ONLY with two speakers! I have an older setup of Altec Lansing Quadrophonic speakers with a huge subwoofer. They sound great on XP with Creative X-Fi card but while Realtek tests indicates all four speakers are working properly, I get no sound at all when I play music or a video, etc. If I switch to two speaker I get horrible rubbish sound that is very weak volume wise. If I disable Realtek and use Waves MaxxAudio the sound is reasonably good but will only work with two speakers. (Dell misled and advertised it would work with quad, 5.1, 7.1) but it is actually only for laptops with two speakers.

I plan to purchase Creative's new Sound Blaster Z SBX PCIE Gaming Sound Card with Beamforming Microphone SB1500 soon. It gets excellent reviews.

»www.amazon.com/Creative-Blaster-···09ISU33E
--
When governments fear people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Thomas Jefferson


CylonRed
Premium,MVM
join:2000-07-06
Bloom County

1 edit
reply to trparky
I have used RealTech for a couple of boards - no issues though I only use 2 speaker setup. Though - I have always been lucky with some 'bad' drivers and never had issues with them - like VIA audio or chipset drivers).


norwegian
Premium
join:2005-02-15
Outback
reply to trparky
They have always worked for me okay. I had problems with this motherboard (ASUS) not having Win 7 drivers and used another boards drivers and had problems at times. I actually fixed it by just using the built-in Win 7 drivers.

Sound has always been great. So to answer your question, it's the drivers not the chipset.

Realtek LAN, that is another story.
--
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing - Edmund Burke



Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to Mele20
Are you *just* gaming? You might consider staying away from any gaming-focused soundboard, even as a gamer. The reviews for the Recon3D are generally horrible across the board for watching movies or listening to music.

That said, reviews of the Soundblaster Z are generally positive, so perhaps you found, despite the gaming label, a worthwhile sound card.
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Mele20
Premium
join:2001-06-05
Hilo, HI
kudos:5
I think I fall in the category of "Power User"....not much of a gamer at all...I like powerful desktops and like to run virtual machines. I think I got spoiled with W98 and a Yamaha sound card...that was a truly amazing little sound card. As far as purity of sound goes, it outperformed the Creative X-Fi on my XP machine.

Anyhow, I want a sound card for recording streaming music, listening to my own music files, having the sound for a movie be great....that sort of thing. The vast majority of reviews at NewEgg, Amazon, Hardforum, etc.are really good for the X series. Evidently, Creative, after several years of crap, has gotten its act together. Apparently, even the old cards like the X-Fi finally work good on Win 7 and 8 because of new drivers (which were not out when I bought this machine in November).

Not sure why its named a "gaming" card as that could limit its sales unnecessarily.
--
When governments fear people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Thomas Jefferson


trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2
There are some spikes that I've experienced in terms of internal latencies that seems to indicate some issue that I can't seem to narrow down. Whether or not that's the cause of the small audio glitches that I'm experiencing, I have no idea.

Do these glitches happen all the time? No, every so often I get them. It kinda' just spoils what is generally a perfectly running system.

Do I sound a bit too obsessed with the performance of this machine? Maybe. I don't know. It's just that when you put as much money into the machine as I have you tend to want it to run as perfectly as you can.
--
Tom
Boycott AT&T uVerse! | Tom's Android Blog


Boricua
Premium
join:2002-01-26
Sacramuerto
reply to koitsu
koitsu See Profile, could this also have to do when my roommate turns off the bathroom fan, it comes out of the speakers?

BTW, I too had a fluctuation of sound and it is Realtek. When I get home, I'll turn off the speedstep in the BIOS. Thanks.
--
Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian. Robert Orben


El Quintron
Resident Mouth Breather
Premium
join:2008-04-28
Etobicoke, ON
kudos:4
Reviews:
·TekSavvy Cable
·TekSavvy DSL
reply to trparky
I had to remove my Xonar DG when I added a second GTX670 onto my P8Z77-V, I'd installed it when I built the machine, so I didn't know what the onboard audio sounded like until I made the change, other than a slight loss on the bass, I'd say the onboard audio was adequate.
--
Support Bacteria -- It's the Only Culture Some People Have

James_C

join:2007-08-03
Florence, KY
reply to trparky
Maybe someone has already mentioned it, but before you do all kinds of elaborate things or spend much time or money, if you are connecting to amplified speakers it is also possible the speaker amp itself is making noise due to a bad mechanical cable connection or power spikes on the AC mains.

First thing I'd do is unplug the speakers, plug in some headphones directly to the motherboard and see if the noise persists.


trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2
I use headphones as my main listening device. I have them connected to my front-panel connectors on the front of my computer case.


trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2


koitsu
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-16
Mountain View, CA
kudos:23
This sounds very, very, very likely. Welcome to how PC hardware works, and why all this "background crap" (like anti-virus software, malware scanners, etc. -- anything that causes an interrupt to be held high (stopped/halted) for a while, such as disk I/O) does nothing but destroy responsiveness of a system. Welcome to what we system administrators have to deal with/troubleshoot as well.

My comments on the quality of audio drivers (regardless of brand) still apply, however.
--
Making life hard for others since 1977.
I speak for myself and not my employer/affiliates of my employer.


trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2
And it's confirmed by a staff member at MalwareBytes that Web Site Blocking does indeed cause these audio issues when combined with specific hardware combinations.

I have to admit that this has got to be one of the most exhausting and lengthy troubleshooting experiences I've ever had to deal with.
--
Tom
Boycott AT&T uVerse! | Tom's Android Blog


trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2
Now this is what I like to see...



trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2
My guess is that because whatever is in MalwareBytes' Web Site Blocking calls for a DPC that takes longer than it should, it causes the processor to spend more than it should on a single task. At least, that's what I seem to understand. DPCs, or Deferred Procedure Calls are rather technical.

Because of the nature of audio and the fact that it requires near real-time processing, anything that can cause the CPU to lock itself up doing something else will cause an audible audio dropout.
--
Tom
Boycott AT&T uVerse! | Tom's Android Blog


C0deZer0
Oc'D To Rhythm And Police
Premium
join:2001-10-03
Tempe, AZ
reply to trparky
It very simply is.

I've yet to see a single onboard audio solution that could do anything beyond EAX 2 for games... a codec that is very close to (if not already) 20 years old. And even for those that claim to do so (like I'd seen on some recent laptops), none of them would even have the software support to do stuff like ALchemy to be able to accelerate games that were still compiled with DirectSound in mind as opposed to OpenAL.

And even on newer games that don't suffer from this API issue, you also have to contend with the fact that such onboard solutions usually don't support very many simultaneous audio channels, and as a result, you don't end up "hearing" many things that you should be able to if you use a proper audio card. This is especially exacerbated on a true surround sound setup.
--
Because, f*ck Sony

Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON
Reviews:
·Start Communicat..
·Rogers Hi-Speed
·Bell Sympatico
·TekSavvy Cable
reply to trparky
I agree with what some people are saying.

To truly understand the problem, you have to understand the hardware, timings, latency, etc.

For myself, I tried using RealTek on-board audio, as well as several PCIe sound cards, including the Asus Xonar DX.

As I investigated sound hardware, and tried different things, I found I was slowly but surely getting higher quality audio with less noise, but something called DPC latency had the most dramatic effect on my ability to create pop and stutter-free audio while composing multi-track music using a variety of VST's and audio inputs from real instruments and synths.

Once I understood audio technology more, I realized that on-board, and add-on soundcards were just crap, including the Asus Xonar DX which people seem to generally like. I still own one of these cards, and use it on my son's PC, I prefer it over Real-Tek on-board audio, it truly is better. Asus's Xonar drivers are absolute junk. Incidentally, there is a great place to get more up-to-date drivers for these cards:
»brainbit.wordpress.com/category/uni-xonar/

No surprise, Asus has not been helpful in the driver department.

After much thought and research, I finally opted for a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 audio interface. This is a very nice rack-mounted device which connects to the computer via Firewire, and offers a lot of inputs and outputs. It offers TRS and XLR balanced inputs/outputs, and a flexible mixer and flexible routing. Anything which I connect which uses unbalanced inputs/outputs get routed through a DI box first. This interface has 20 inputs + 20 outputs, enough for my current needs.

The biggest thing for me, was the fact that the noise floor was much lower with the Saffire Pro 40 than with other audio hardware contained within the PC chassis. I also completely lost the noise introduced by the various components of the computer (hard drive seeking, PCIe bus signalling, etc.). Since I drive my studio monitor speakers and subwoofer at near-full volume all the time (which they can easily handle), and simply pull the volume down using the Windows mixer, or Reaper DAW's mixer, using the Saffire Pro 40 means I never have to hear the crap the computer constantly introduces into lower-cost crap sound hardware. The difference is measurable, and highly noticeable, even to the untrained ear.

I investigated DPC latency and other issues surrounding the introduction of pops, hisses and stutter, which are not issues of audio hardware themselves, but are caused by more systemic issues - hard page faults, badly written drivers which hog resources, etc. Once I solved those issues, it was smooth sailing. Believe it or not, running a Windows 7 gadget that showed the multi-core CPU utilization totally killed my ability to produce music without stutter and pops.

If you have the coin to spare, don't waste your time with internal sound hardware. Go buy an external hardware audio interface, some decent active studio monitors (Behringer and Fostex make some good low-cost speakers), and XLR balanced cables, and make sure you have a firewire interface using the highly recommended Texas Instruments Firewire chipset. Make sure you keep your audio interface drivers up-to-date.

Take the time to learn the technology, buy quality components, then tune your system to get the best audio performance. You won't be sorry.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
What's your background? Are you an audiophile/audio enthusiast, or professional musician? While I 'm sure everything you claim about the Saffire Pro is true, recommending a component that is the cost of a cheap computer for simply audio is going to fall outside the budget of the vast majority of PC users.

The motherboard I bought took some steps to improve the integrated Realtek audio, and some version even came with the external ThunderFX module. I opted against the version with the external module, and now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have.

What would you recommend for people who are looking for better audio over integrated, but don't have $500 to put down on the Saffire Pro? Is there a decent middle ground for $100-150/200?
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


trparky
Apple... YUM
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:2
For me I simply want to enjoy audio artifact free listening on my computer and this issue has been plaguing me for months.


Dissembled

join:2008-01-23
Indianapolis, IN
reply to trparky
I would argue on-board solution is more than adequate for the very vast majority of users. I can appreciate the audiophiles who demand more or people who are specifically doing a lot of sound work.

To answer the original question though, on-board is not really that bad.

Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON
Reviews:
·Start Communicat..
·Rogers Hi-Speed
·Bell Sympatico
·TekSavvy Cable
reply to Krisnatharok
said by Krisnatharok:

What's your background? Are you an audiophile/audio enthusiast, or professional musician? While I 'm sure everything you claim about the Saffire Pro is true, recommending a component that is the cost of a cheap computer for simply audio is going to fall outside the budget of the vast majority of PC users.

The motherboard I bought took some steps to improve the integrated Realtek audio, and some version even came with the external ThunderFX module. I opted against the version with the external module, and now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have.

What would you recommend for people who are looking for better audio over integrated, but don't have $500 to put down on the Saffire Pro? Is there a decent middle ground for $100-150/200?

I am an audiophile, and an aspiring musician. I've been down this street before, spending good money on hardware, only to be disappointed with the results, then upgrading to the next thing people recommend, only to be disappointed some more. In the long run, spending more money on cheap, low-end soundcards, than if I just bought one good professional audio interface.

The interface I purchased was pricey ($530 + tax at the time, can be found for $300 or less on the used market), but that's just one example. There are many lower-cost high-quality interfaces on the market, people just have to open their eyes, look around, read independent reviews, speak with people who are in the business of making music, you know, get back to old-fashioned research. I was turned on to Focusrite by a guy I've grown to trust at Long & McQuade, but I still had to read a lot, including reviews by professional musicians and recording studios before making my decision.

The Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 for $299.99, can be found used for less.
»global.focusrite.com/firewire-au···o-24-dsp
»www.long-mcquade.com/products/88···re_s.htm

I usually focus on Focusrite Firewire audio interfaces, but there are also USB audio interfaces, and other companies that produce pro audio interfaces. Here's one more, the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 USB audio interface
»global.focusrite.com/usb-audio-i···lett-8i6
»www.long-mcquade.com/products/13···face.htm

I try to keep in mind that people are looking for a minimum of 5.1 audio, and require 6 ch output. If people only want really good 2ch audio, more money can be saved.

People think nothing of spending $150, $300, and recently up to $1000 per graphics card, $300 or more on SSD's, $200 on processors, and $150-$300 on PSU's. Big systems are still in-vogue where I live, and shelling out $500 for a pro audio interface doesn't really seem like much.

At the end of the day, when I crank my music, I'm not disappointed in the sound when the hard drive activity increases, and I don't hear all the horrible noises induced by the system.

One of the other things people have to wrestle with is ground loops, causing 60 cycle hum (60hz in Canada + US + other places, 50hz in the UK + other places) in the audio path. The presence of ground-loop induced hum certainly show inexperience. They are relatively easy to cure, once you understand it, but can be more challenging to diagnose as the number of connections you make increase.

At the end of the day, hopefully people find this educational. There are some good soundcards out there, and I like to think of the Asus Xonar series as being right up there, but they will always be low-end crap that introduce far more noise than we'd like. Pro audio interfaces are of a higher echelon, and better match people's expectation for pristine audio. It still requires a computer which is properly set up, and following the essential guidelines: disabling speedstep, getting a handle on DPC latency, and making sure your system is properly tuned up (current drivers, respectful drivers, fewer-to-zero resource hogs, etc.).

Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON
And most definitely, Asus sound drivers are crap. Almost as bad as their wireless NIC drivers.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to Tristan
Would you ever consider writing a guide on audio solutions for home PCs, perhaps by price-point? This is all fantastic information and probably new for many of us.

If you like, I can assist with any research or formatting, but it would be a big help to the forum(s) when recommending builds to people if you had a guide we could get stickied.
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.