shadow460
2 Iron

xp audio skipping

Ever had an audio CD skip back to the same 1 second of music over and over? My Inspiron 1501 was doing that earlier. It was really bad under Windows Media Player 11. It happened once under Pro Presenter 4 as well. In wmp11, the files were in a set playlist, and in Pro Presenter, they were in the audio bin being played with the media player in the top right of the screen. In both cases, the skipping stopped instantly as soon as either I closed the lid or touched the touch pad.

The laptop is running an OEM version of XP Pro SP3. It was installed with all new drivers about a month ago. Windows has almost all of the optional updates installed, including .net 4 extended and its startup fix.

The only changes I've made in between the time it was running OK and when it began skipping were to change from "no visualtization" to one of the battery visualizations in WMP 11 and swap the CPU from the Turion-yadda TL-58 to a brand new TL 68. I disabled the visualization a few minutes ago and the skipping has stopped for the moment.

I kinda ruled out a software issue by loading up Pro Presenter. Pro is heavy on graphics (it's heavy on everything really, but my system blows away the requirements). With all the drivers nearly new, that rules out outdated drivers. The SSD is allowed to garbage collect (closest SSD equivalent to defrag) almost daily.

The system specs are:

Inspiron 1501

XP Pro SP3

Turion 64 X2 TL-68 

4GB (2x2GB) Hynix PC2 6400 memory

64 GB Crucial M4 SSD

Ideas?

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18 Replies
Jim Coates
6 Gallium

Re: xp audio skipping

Here are some tips that were left on this discussion board about chopping and skipping, not necessarily about the optical drive or the 1501..

> Power Settings: Inspiron 1501 and models with AMD Turon processor, change power plan to "Power Saver" or "High Performance" rather than "Balanced". You can do the power plan change at "Control panel > Power option". "High Performance" gives better results than "Power Saver" but drains the battery if not using the power adapter/charger. (Forum member Japan 2ch posted this tip on 4-10-07 and helped a bunch of 1501 owners.)

> Inspiron 1501 or Vostro 1000 computers with an ATi video card, go to this thread for a solution posted by forum member znalim.

> Disable Visualizations. You might get some improvement by disabling all visualizations under the Now Playing tab of Windows Media Player. (Forum member hovaslash posted this tip on 2-28-07.)

> Crossfading and Auto Volume Leveling. Along the same lines, you might get some improvement by disabling Crossfading and Auto Volume Leveling.
(Forum member wewake17 posted this tip on 4-12-07.)

> Lightfx Plugins. Similarly, tech support suggested removing the lightfx plugins completely.
(Reported by forum member fhwfhi on 2-13-08.)

> Disable Enhancements. If you experience skipping near the end of a song while using Windows Media Player you have to check the box that is labeled "Disable all enhancements". Just shutting off the enhancements individually won't work. The obvious drawback is that you lose the enhancements.
(Forum member smittyofdhs posted this workaround on 2-20-07
) -- Note this one might just be for Vista.

> Updating the firmware for a TS-L462C Cd rom/burner to version DE07 chops up the audio when not playing a cd, because that firmware revision is defective. To diagnose, place a commercial music cd in the drive (not a homemade mp3 or data cd -- just use a store bought cd or a copy of one). If the problem lessens then read this thread for instructions. (Click on link.)

To see if you have a TS-L462C open Audio Properties (right click on the volume icon on the taskbar and click 'adjust audio properties', or go through the Control Panel/Sounds & Audio Devices Properties). Select the Hardware tab. Look for DVD/CDROM in the device column. The name of the drive should be there.



> Check for Ultra DMA mode. For several reasons the IDE hard drive or cd/dvd drive can stop operating in DMA mode and start using PIO mode. In PIO mode there can be crackling, popping and stuttering, and possibly generally sluggish performance. To check:

1. Go into the 'Device Manager' (in XP the path is: Start>Control Panel>System>Hardware>Device Manager).
2. Click the + sign next to 'IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers'.
3. Right click on 'Primary IDE Channel'.
4. Select 'Properties'.
5. Select the 'Advanced Settings' tab.
6. Check that the 'Current Transfer Mode' says Ultra DMA. If it says PIO then use the 'Transfer Mode' dropdown box to select for 'DMA if available'. If you can't make the change in the dropdown box then it must be done in the Registry. See the "Note" below.
7. Click 'Ok' to save your changes, or 'Cancel' to exit the Properties if you made no changes.
8. If the problem seems related to the optical drive (CD/DVD), right click on the 'Secondary IDE Channel' and repeat steps 4 through 7.

Note: If you get to step 6 and find you cannot make changes in the dropdown box, go to http://winhlp.com/node/10


They have a little script program to reset to DMA mode. Click on the link in their 1st step. (Note: you must use Internet Explorer for their vbs program to run -- it will not work using Firefox or other web browsers). Read the instructions in their steps 2-5 and then run their program. It makes edits to your Windows Registry to try to reset the drive(s) back to using DMA mode. If you want to know exactly what the program does, scroll down to "Re-enable DMA using the Registry Editor" for the full explanation.

The rest of their article describes the problem in great detail and discusses possible causes and solutions for it. You don't need to read the entire article unless running their program doesn't get your drives back into DMA mode.

(Forum member bacillus first posted this tip years ago in a basic form. Anne in Pennsylvannia found the link to http://winhlp.com/node/10.)

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

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shadow460
2 Iron

Re: xp audio skipping

I think it's a conflict between the audio and video drivers. It could probably be solved by updating the video driver with one directly from AMD. For now, disabling the visualization worked. In critical applications, such as live music, I do't run visualizations anyway, specifically to prevent them causing problems.

Pro Presenter does, in fact, depend on Windows Media Player when it's installed on a PC. I had forgotten that since it didn't ask me to install WMP before installing Pro Presenter. If Windows Media Player isn't working, then I expect Pro Presenter won't work either.

DMA settings are UDMA 5 for the SSD and UDMA 2 for the H-L optical drive. I do not know specifically what model the drive is. They are actually in those modes according to Windows.

Power settings are Always On and no GPU throttling under the Catalyst Control Center, even on battery power. There is no option to disable enhancements in the Control Panel's sound applet.

Auto volume leveling is still active, and I didn't mess with either the lightfx or cxrossfader.

The machine has been running for several hours now without getting stuck like it was.

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shadow460
2 Iron

Re: xp audio skipping

Bump. This worked for about a day. The machine still skips in Windows Media Player. Sometimes it will run for hours without skipping and other times it skips on every song. It doesn't keep skipping, though. It will skip for about a second and then continue. I've been running Windows Media Player 11 today. It almost seems like it depends on where I am physically. What's weird, though, is there's no hard drive to skip sectors or anything. I could believe that slight bump would cause a hard drive to stutter, but a bump doesn't affect an SSD.

None of the effects were enabled in WMP11 when I looked.

I'm still looking for a solution.

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shadow460
2 Iron

Re: xp audio skipping

Any ideas? I've updated the video drivers as suggested, but I still get skipping here and there in Windows MEdia Player and I get some crackles and pops in some other programs. I know it's not Sound Blaster, but it should at least be clear.

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Jim Coates
6 Gallium

Re: xp audio skipping

You started this thread saying that cd's skip. Does it just do it with cd's or music on the hard drive too? Have you tried it with winamp or such music player?

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

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shadow460
2 Iron

Re: xp audio skipping

I don't think I've ever played a CD in this computer and had it skip. I've played a CD here once or twice. Mine skips whild playing from the SSD, which makes no sense--there's nothing to physically cause the skip.

It's still acting up, and so is my Vostro 1000 which has similar hardware and a fresh XP install.  Having problems with both machines tells me it's not my software--it has to be a design fault in the hardware and someone has to have worked around it by now.

Every time I make a change of any kind to the audio drivers or settings the problem disappears for a few fays and then it returns. It's almost as if I'm trying to use duct tape to fix a plumbing leak. Of course it will work for a few days, but gradually it will get worse and worse until there's a big problem.

Certainly by now someone has recognized that the SigmaTel auido codec itself is the problem, and someone has undoubtedly written a fix or an updated driver for it. I need to know where I can download it from.

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Jim Coates
6 Gallium

Re: xp audio skipping

I don't think I've ever played a CD in this computer and had it skip.

Thanks for clarifying that. I misunderstood what you meant by the first sentences of this thread, when you wrote, "Ever had an audio CD skip back to the same 1 second of music over and over? My Inspiron 1501 was doing that earlier."

Did you ever test the optical drive by inserting a commercial music cd? If you have the model with the bad firmware, the noise in audio programs is caused when the drive is polled for a cd. If a cd is present the noise stops. This problem occurs when you are using an audio program other than playing a cd.

Certainly by now someone has recognized that the SigmaTel auido codec itself is the problem

No known problem with the audio hardware that I ever heard of. That hardware on the 1501's -- which are getting pretty old now -- was on a lot of laptops and it has a good track record.

It's still acting up, and so is my Vostro 1000 which has similar hardware and a fresh XP install.  Having problems with both machines tells me it's not my software--it has to be a design fault in the hardware and someone has to have worked around it by now.

It seems to me that in your interpretation all of the thousands of Dells with similar hardware 4 years ago would have had the problems you have, but they didn't. I have read every post on this board and I would known if all of those models had faulty audio hardware. That does not mean that both of yours don't have faulty hardware, but it seems like if both have the same symptoms then both having faulty software or configuration is just as likely if not more so.

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

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shadow460
2 Iron

Re: xp audio skipping

I do not know what the optical drive's firmware is. It's an H-L model, but I have to pull it out to see what firmware revision is printed on the case. Device manager doesn't tell me.

In any case, I've got four laptops. Two of them, a Latitude D620 and a Smart Step 100N have perfect sound. The Smart Step lacks the Sigma Tel audio, but I'm not sure about the D620. The two that I know for sure have it, though, are the two giving me audio problems, and that tells me something.

If this was a configuration problem, it would not have manifest when I first got the computer before I reinstalled the OS, yet still be manifest after a clean install. I've tried everything I can find to resolve the problem short of unsoldering and replacing the Sigma Tel chip on the motherboard. I am running "new" video drivers, still it stutters. I've tried a different WiFi card, that actually made the problem worse. I've tried to update and I've reinstalled the audio drivers, no change. I've installed whatever it is that Dell calls "notebook system software". It didn't help. I've reinstalled the CPU drivers and that didn't help.

I'm just going to go get a Creative X Fi express card and use that. It will have recording software that I need, it'll have a stereo line input (something the Sigma Tel lacks), and it'll have a dedicated audio chip, not something that relies on the CPU to do its dirty work. It also has a breakout box available if I need that. The card's $50 used, and considering I didn't pay much for this or the Vostro anyway, I think that's reasonable.

Here's what I think happens with onboard audio (and some "lite" or value add in cards): I think the onboard audio, along with several other onboard devices like LAN, some graphics chips, the IDE and/or SATA controller, the modem, the USB controller, etc. all utilize the main CPU to some extent. In systems that have dedicated cards or chips for LAN, sound, graphics, etc, those items are all handled on the card instead of being sent back to the CPU for help. If the CPU hangs on an integrated system, all the onboard functions that depend on it also hang until the CPU catches it breath. I think that causes the skipping, popping, and stuttering. If the CPU hangs up in a system with dedicated cards or controllers, those controllers will either just stop when they run out of input from the system (they have nothing to do), or they will keep going, out of control, with whatever they were doing. I've seen many times that in my desktop the Barton 3200 will get bogged down but the Audigy 1 will keep banging out tunes like it has lost its electronic mind. When that happens, the system will not accept any digital input but it will continue to play music. The analog inputs will work the whole time. Sometimes the sound will stop if the system hangs for a second, and very rarely it will stutter and then go on. Even with as old as it is, my desktop never pops or skips.

Then again, I'm comparing a $200 (when it was new) sound card to whatever audio codec was cheapest when this laptop was made.

Perhaps a little stuttering, popping or skipping is just normal for the Sigma Tel audio device. That's what I thought when I first got this laptop. I didn't know Creative made an express card sound device. I'd probably have bought already even if I wasn't having audio problems.

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Jim Coates
6 Gallium

Re: xp audio skipping

Perhaps a little stuttering, popping or skipping is just normal for the Sigma Tel audio device.

No, what happens is that some other poorly written driver or device bogarts the cpu and so the audio buffer does not get refilled in time. It is excessive DPC latency. DPC latency is a normal Windows phenomenon and usually does not cause a problem -- it is the way Windows lets drivers take turns at the trough. It is excessive dpc latency causes the audio noises. When people with excessive dpc latency try other operating systems such as Linux or Apple, the noises go away because those OS's don't use dpc latency. That is also why the noises are not there when running the Dell Diagnostics audio tests, because the tests don't run in Windows.  There is a more accurate explanation of it at thesycon.com

http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml

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

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