How To Optimize Sound On PC And Notebook

The PC has long been more than a piece of work equipment; it also serves as a jukebox, projectionist, and, of course, a game machine. The sound then has to be perfect for maximum enjoyment.

Humming, crackling at the start and stop of an audio signal and miserable levels: the analog audio output of many onboard sound chips is barely good enough for video telephony and noisy video clips that you have filmed yourself.

The higher the quality of the headphones or the connected stereo system, the more noticeable the deficits of cheap sound chips. After installing a newer Windows version such as Windows 10 on older hardware, there is only crackling silence when the drivers for a sound chip do not work.

Headphones or the connected stereo system, the more noticeable the deficits of cheap sound chips. After installing a newer Windows version such as Windows 10 on older hardware, there is only crackling silence when the drivers for a sound chip do not work.

1. No sound: test the sound card and driver

If the audio output or the microphone input does not want to make a sound under a newly installed Windows system, this is often due to incorrect settings or driver problems that silence a PC. Even if the “Windows Audio” and “Windows Audio Endpoint Creation” services are not running, the sound output fails. With so many parameters, only a step-by-step sound check will limit the problem.

For Windows versions Vista and 7, Microsoft provides a fix-it tool for checking the sound card, driver, and possibly overlooked settings. To use the tool, go to the Microsoft website and then click on “Run now”. After the download, the diagnosis can begin.

The option “Identify problems and let me select the corrections to be applied” is recommended because this is the only way to determine the causes of the missing sound.

The tool first requires the specification of the output device, speakers or headphones. It then goes through all the typical sources of error: Manually switched off Windows services, deactivated audio device in the device manager to trivial or often overlooked settings such as output via the standard audio device, volume, and mute. You will then also receive a report on the problems found.

Starting with Windows 10, a proper diagnostic function is already available in the system, and a Microsoft tool no longer needs to be downloaded. In Windows 10, right-click the speaker icon in the system tray and select “Fix sound problems”.

Here it is also necessary to first specify headphones or loudspeakers as output devices. The further check is easy and shows the possible incorrect settings. Specify headphones or speakers as the output device. The additional review is easy and shows the possible incorrect settings.

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2. Disturbing loops: Humming analog outputs

A widespread phenomenon when connecting the PC to the TV set or stereo system is a distinct hum in the background, which massively disrupts listening pleasure. This is independent of the quality of the audio equipment used, and changing the cables does not help.

The cause of the unpleasant background noise is a ground loop created by a potential difference between the protective conductor of the power supply or, in the case of TV and Hi-Fi devices, the antenna connection. The currents that flow across this potential difference are harmless.

However, they induce a typical, deep humming tone of the AC network in the audio cables carrying the signal via the standard ground line of the PC and audio device. This can be remedied by interrupting this loop via galvanic isolation. Cable does not help.

The cause of the unpleasant background noise is a ground loop created by a potential difference between the protective conductor of the power supply or, in the case of TV and Hi-Fi devices, the antenna connection.

The currents that flow over this potential difference are harmless. However, they induce a typical, deep humming tone of the AC network in the audio cables carrying the signal via the standard ground line of the PC and audio device. This can be remedied by interrupting this loop via galvanic isolation.

In most cases, a hum at home is due to an antenna or satellite cable on the TV or stereo. Therefore, do the test first, pull the antenna cable from the TV set, the receiver box, or the satellite receiver. If the audio signal sounds without a hum, you have found the culprit.

An electrical decoupling of the shielding of the antenna cable makes the dull background noise disappear. The easiest way to achieve this decoupling is to use a sheath flow filter.

As an intermediate piece, the interrupts the shielding (jacket) and the coaxial cable of the antenna or satellite cable with capacitors of a few nanofarads. You don’t need to use a soldering iron for this,

If the humming persists after disconnecting the antenna cable or if no devices with antenna connection are involved, the cause is found in the electrical installation: In old buildings without equipotential bonding between floors, for example, there is no uniform protective conductor for the electrical lines. In this case, currents between the ground lines of the hi-fi system and the computer connected to it could be responsible for the hum.

It can help connect all the relevant devices to a connector strip or separate the audio cables galvanically. Filters with cinch sockets, which filter out low frequencies, Galvanic separation of the audio cable. Filters with cinch sockets, which filter out low frequencies, are available for around 7 euros.

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3. Digital: take sound via HDMI

If the device is connected to an output device such as a television via an HDMI cable, there are seldom deficiencies in audio quality. In addition to the video signal, HDMI also transmits sound directly digitally. The end device then takes over the conversion with its DAC. TV sets often deliver Hi-Fi quality and are superior to PCs.

If you connect headphones or a hi-fi system to the analog output of these end devices, the sound quality is correspondingly better. In addition to the video signal, HDMI also transmits the sound directly digitally. The end device then takes over the conversion with its DAC. TV sets often deliver Hi-Fi quality and are superior to PCs.

If you connect headphones or a hi-fi system to the analog output of these end devices, the sound quality is correspondingly better.

Instead of a TV set, you can also connect a splitter via HDMI, which only forwards the audio signal from the HDMI interface and makes it available digitally via SPDIF / Toslink and analog cinch outputs.

These HDMI splitters, such as the Ligawo HDMI decoder, are available from Amazon for 40 euros. HDMI, you can also connect a splitter instead of a TV set, which only forwards the audio signal of the HDMI interface and makes it available digitally via SPDIF / Toslink as well as via analog cinch outputs. These HDMI splitters, such as the Ligawo HDMI decoder, are

4. Upgrading: External sound cards and converters

Suppose the computer or notebook serves as a media center and delivers good audio quality for headphones, active speakers, or a high-quality hi-fi system without detours via HDMI.

In that case, it is worth investing in additional hardware: External sound cards with their own DAC ( Digital-to-analog converters) can also be connected via USB so that audio output and input are no longer left to an overwhelmed sound chip on the motherboard.

The effort for this solution is low because USB sound cards can be connected quickly, and capable converters are available for as little as 12 euros. Those who can spend more will, of course, get a better DAC.

As always, with hi-fi equipment, there are no upper limits in terms of acquisition costs. Suppose the computer or notebook also serves as a media center and delivers good audio quality for headphones, active speakers, or a high-quality hi-fi system without detours via HDMI.

In that case, it is worth investing in additional hardware: External sound cards with their DAC (digital Analog converters) can also be connected via USB so that audio output and input are no longer left to an overwhelmed sound chip on the motherboard. The effort for this solution is low because USB sound cards can be connected quickly, and capable converters are available for as little as 12 euros. If you can spend more, you will, of course, get a better DAC. As always, with hi-fi equipment, there are no upper limits in terms of acquisition costs.

The Speedlink Vigo USB adapter offers a cost-effective solution with the impressive sound quality for around 11 euros. The small device, which is hardly more significant than a WLAN adapter, contains a DAC and an ADC (analog-to-digital converter) for headphone output and microphone input – both in the standard 3.5 mm version.

Users who value excellent sound quality and a high-performance headphone amplifier get the Hires USB-DAC Saber 24/96 for around 50 euros, and at first glance inconspicuous but high-quality USB sound card with a 3.5 mm output. Headphone amplifiers value get with the Hires.

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