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raystankewitz
1 Nickel

Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

Dell 17R (N7110) gives a harsh sound, like the amplifier chip is being overdriven, at somewhat regular intervals. It does not matter what type of media is being played, whether CD, MP3 or Youtube.

I have ran all the diagnostics and updated the audio drivers. Still no respite from this and an extended search proves that I am not the only one with this problem. I truly suspect that the audio hardware/software combo are to blame but since this is not a desktop, I cannot just change out the sound card to troubleshoot the issue.

Further, the 'Dell Diagnostics' gives no advanced method to test the audio, just a short series of tones. Before it's mentioned, I have not reformatted the drive. This so-called hidden fat32 partition does not show, even with a diagnostic live CD.

Dell, if you're listening, if I cannot find remediation, this will be the last Dell I purchase. I paid good money for a laptop that so far, has not met my expectations in a near-$900 piece of equipment.

Ray

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21 Replies
Jim Coates
5 Osmium

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

Further, the 'Dell Diagnostics' gives no advanced method to test the audio, just a short series of tones. Before it's mentioned, I have not reformatted the drive. This so-called hidden fat32 partition does not show, even with a diagnostic live CD.

The Inspiron N5110 also seems to be lacking the full Dell Diagnostics. It seems to have been replaced with an extended series of PSA tests. It is unfortunate if Dell is phasing out Dell Diagnostics because of its unique function to discern between a hardware audio problem vs software. There are some Windows based diagnostic tools like PC Checkup but I don't think they can rule out Windows based drivers as the source of an audio problem.

An alternative is to restore the laptop to the original factory configuration which will fix all software problems (except the pre-installed ones) so the problems that remain are hardware. But in your case you don't know if the problem is flawed pre-installed software unless the problem was not present when the laptop was fresh out of the box. In a situation like that you can use Factory Image Restore to fix or diagnose the problem.

I cannot just change out the sound card to troubleshoot the issue.

Try the native Windows audio driver instead of the Realtek. If you get the same problem with both drivers then that would tend to suggest a hardware problem. If the problem disappears with one of the drivers, that would suggest a problem in the other driver. To install the native driver you have to completely remove the Realtek, but you might want to save it in a different location.

Find the driver in Device Manager, right click and select uninstall and choose the option to delete the files. If there is no other Realtek audio driver in the driver folder then upon reboot Windows will install its native driver. Another way of doing this is to go to Start>Control Panel>Uninstall a Program. Find the audio driver then right click on it and uninstall it.

To re-install the Realtek driver later, you would need to download a fresh copy unless you saved a backup copy.

Jim Coates -- 15 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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raystankewitz
1 Nickel

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

Anyone know the location of the Realtek drivers on the hdd? Tried to uninstall/reinstall but Windows beats me to the punch when I reboot. Windows 7 keeps reinstalling the same drivers. Little help here?

I suspect there was an ulterior motive to remove the full Dell Diagnostics. It has been noted in other threads that restoring the laptop to fresh-out-of-the-box condition did not change a thing. If there is a real hardware issue here, they (Dell) should ante up and offer to buy these 15R/17R units back at full value paid. At the moment, this laptop is less than useful to me and I may be forced to sell it at a loss to buy another brand unit  to replace it.

A very disgusted Dell laptop owner.

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Jim Coates
5 Osmium

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

The driver files are at  c:\dell\drivers\Rxxxxxxx -- whatever the name of the driver package, probably R306067 or R297834. If more than one Realtek audio driver package has been unzipped to the drivers folder then all Realtek folders there should be removed because Windows will continue to rebuild a Realtek audio driver from the files as long as it can find them in the drivers folder.

I don't quite get the nature of your symptom. I understood it to be a harshness in the speakers but I notice you put crackling in the tags field. If crackling uninstall McAfee software if you have that program and see if any improvement.

Jim Coates -- 15 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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raystankewitz
1 Nickel

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

@Jim - What it sounds like is a solid state amplifier driven to saturation, sort of a grinding, electrical short-sort of sound. Very short in duration. Like a momentary glitch. I dunno, it's hard to describe in non-audiophile terms.

As silly as your suggestion might sound, I do have McAfee on my system, the McAfee Total Protection version. I will uninstall it tonight or tomorrow and then test the system thoroughly before I report my findings.

Ray

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raystankewitz
1 Nickel

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

Hmm, went to the trouble of uninstalling McAfee only to find this is not the problem. I'll work on the audio drivers next.

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raystankewitz
1 Nickel

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

Audio drivers reverted to Micro$oft drivers. Speakers sound like hell, all muffled and no definition AND the glitch is still there.

Well, this is now costing me time and money as I was relying on this unit to work correctly. I am on the verge of shipping this thing off to Dell with a demand for a full refund. Rolling it back to factory original will cost me days of productivity that I cannot afford to lose, but in the interests of knowing it is indeed a hardware/software incompatibility, I will roll it back.

):

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Jim Coates
5 Osmium

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

Sorry that diagnosing is taking time. There are so many causes of audio noise and there is not a one shot solution when the cause is unknown. There is no guarantee that you will ever find the cause so I agree with you that you should return the laptop for a refund if you are still within the brief return period which is usually 21 days, because after that you will own the problem. I would give it a greater than 50% chance of being in the software which is not covered by the warranty.

The point of trying the native driver was not to solve the problem but to help diagnose it. Based on your result I would say now that the source of the noise is not the Realtek driver. Still don't know if it is the hardware or another driver. If you are interested, download the DPC Latency Checker tool from www.thesycon.de/.../latency_check.shtml. This tool checks for excessive DPC latency caused by a poorly written driver. If a driver hogs the cpu for an excessively long time then the audio buffers cannot be refilled in a timely manner and you hear audio glitching. It can be difficult finding the offending driver but the point is that if the tool does show excessive latency while you hear the glitching then it is probably a software rather than a hardware problem.

The reason I suggested uninstalling McAfee as part of trying to diagnose this was because it is one of  the main causes for audio glitching on the XPS L502x line and I thought I remembered that someone with an N5110 used the same remedy to fix his glitching. I just checked my notes and see that what he actually said was that updating the Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver fixed his problem. That driver is another major cause of glitching because there is a bad version that Dell had, and Microsoft updates too, so some folks had it pre-installed and a lot of other people got it by allowing automatic updates. This again is not a silver bullet -- getting the good version solves audio glitching in some models more than others. If you are interested get it directly from Intel, not Dell. Go to

http://www.intel.com/p/en_US/support/highlights/chpsts/imsm


If you see a link named "Download Drivers and Software" then click that. On the next page, scroll down and select "Intel Rapid Storage Technology" dated 11/11/2011, version 10.8.0.1003.

Or if you are diverted to a section named "Intel Rapid Storage Technology -- Latest Downloads" click on "Intel Rapid Storage Technology -- Fri 11 2011".

In either case you will go to a page with 2 versions available for downloading. They are the same except that the 1st  is for English and the 2nd is for non-English operating systems.

in the interests of knowing it is indeed a hardware/software incompatibility, I will roll it back.

Restoring the original factory configuration will only help separate the cause of the problem into hardware vs software if one of 2 scenarios is true:

1. if the restoration solves the glitching then you know the cause was a software problem that occurred after you got the laptop, for instance like the bad Microsoft update i mentioned above.

2. If the restoration does not resolve the glitching then it is a hardware problem, BUT only if you know for sure the problem did not occur out of the box. If that is unknown to you then the cause could be faulty pre-installed software, for instance like the bad version of the Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver.

However if you are going to return the laptop anyway it only takes a few extra minutes to use Factory Image Restore so might as well give it a shot in hope of a fix.

Jim Coates -- 15 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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raystankewitz
1 Nickel

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

@Jim -

Well, since we're into this troubleshooting mode, I'll give that Intel driver a shot first. Who knows, it might be the fix.

As usual, I will report back.

Ray

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Vykoria
1 Copper

Re: Harsh sound from any speaker or headset during any audio playback

Hi Ray

I am using an Inspiron 17r se with similiar problems. I turned off the acceleration of the ssd and all problems were gone.

Installing the newest drivers didn't work for me. Now I am waiting for new infos by dell.

You could try this, only a reboot away ;-)

Vykoria

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