Windows 10 audio output quality

It indeed depends on what kind of driver you use. WASAPI and asio don't have that issue, standard MME or WDM drivers have this issue. WASAPI is now the best option, but not always availeble for your system and limites the audio out to one application only (as it uses direct kernel streaming). Asio is in general almost as good as WASAPI but is more flexible.
 
Regarding Windows 10, if an audio device is running ASIO drivers and is still assigned as "Default Sound Device" and or "Default Communication Device" then Windows still mucks with SQ. The only solution I have found is to make sure those two device assignment point to an unused sound card (present in the system, but unused by me). A remaining problem is that Windows will sometime reassign the two default devices to the most used sound device after a Windows update. WASAPI EXCLUSIVE mode seems to work more reliably in that regard. I assume it is Windows sound engine that is causing the problem, I have seen it resample PCM ASIO streams in the past when I had a sound card that displayed the received sample rate and bit-depth. Whatever Windows sound engine is doing and regardless of what it looks like on an FFT, with my best dac the difference in sound is noticeable. There have been multiple occasions when I have started troubshooting the dac only to find out Windows had reassigned the default devices.
 

wasabii

Member
2021-11-30 10:48 pm
It indeed depends on what kind of driver you use. WASAPI and asio don't have that issue, standard MME or WDM drivers have this issue. WASAPI is now the best option, but not always availeble for your system and limites the audio out to one application only (as it uses direct kernel streaming). Asio is in general almost as good as WASAPI but is more flexible.


Can you help me locate DAC information, and such as what sound cards does my laptop have? Secondly, what factory DAC and chips does my laptop have? I managed to find most specs, but the DAC info seems most elusive with most brands I was not able to pull up any details regarding what digital to analog converter is onboard.

The Laptop is a Dell Alienware, 2017 M17 R4, Pentium i7, 32GB.
 

kodabmx

Member
Paid Member
2011-10-31 1:00 am
Toronto
Open Powershell and type:

Code:
Get-CimInstance Win32_sounddevice | fl

It will give an output similar to this:
1644340187287.png

If it doesn't work change Win32 to Win64

You can also hit Windows + X and open Device Manager. Find "Sound Devices" and look at the properties.
 
That is a gaming laptop with a very generic Realtek ALC3266 soundcard. You could use asio4all drivers (quiet good generic asio drivers) with it, but to really fix it it's best to use a decent external soundcard with a good dac. And that does not has to cost a fortune, certainly not diy. But ready made cheap good USB dacs are like the Topping D10S (about 110$) that will be a big stepup from the onboard soundcard.

That Realtek ALC3266 is a 48-pin LQFP all in one (dsp/adc/dac/linedriver) chip used in most modern computers and of very mediocore quality. The output is ment mainly for headphones, not to drive a good soundsystem. And the standard driver is never used by laptop builders, they make their own closed source variation of it, that you can't change the dsp settings from (or very limited).
 

wasabii

Member
2021-11-30 10:48 pm
When I plug in a 3.5 to that output it asks weather I'm going to use earphones or speakers. Outputting via either one of the USB (2.0 3.0 / micro usb automatically bypasses the onboard DAC then straight to a separate external DAC box. Its one of the best sounding Laptops in terms of SQ I've played with. I had some expensive modern up to current DAC that retail up to 3k ranges, more and less. I can not say they all better this laptop's DAC while incorporating quality hifi or skull phones.

It has me curious to know. Its had some audio and visual hardware upgrades. I'll try to track down more specs and see if theres a party going on inside.

As a streamer it competes with a 2k totl Pioneer with redbook CD's. If in the least it sounds like a brilliant streamer.
 
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Things moved fast on dac's the last decade. If you are talking about a 3K dac if 10 years ago, i don't even doubt that, but compared to modern cheap dac's like the topping the Realtek chips are crap. And it's not because a dac is expensive that it's good, it has many times proven otherwise in the past and today. But try the asiofor all drivers first, they are free...
 
Glad to hear it. I've been tempting to try a pi + Moode but Windows UI seems much easier and more flexible, and better supported by the streaming Apps.

I think a proper future for audio would be industry movement towards a turnkey as easy to use as Sonos or KT receiver dedicated fanless device that could do all this (room measure, eq+convolution, all the streaming apps + DLNA, same streaming UI flexibility and layout as windows) headless from a tablet or cell, but the future of audio is stuck in the past. There's always Roon or JRiver but they still keep you stuck on an OS that pushes updates

I picked up an SMSL M500 dac recently since I mostly stream and the jump in SQ with no changes to Windows at all is really something. As soon as the M500 is powered up the audio setting picks up the SMSL so I don't have to play with anything.

I'm still using an old Bedini preamp but have a Topping PRE90 on the way from China which should be interesting.

I find price/performance available today has moved ahead nicely. +1 on the fanless. As for the rest it sounds like something Bose should look into ;-).

I hope things are going well Dave and John.
 

Pano

Administrator
Paid Member
2004-10-07 6:05 am
Panama
Regarding Windows 10, if an audio device is running ASIO drivers and is still assigned as "Default Sound Device" and or "Default Communication Device" then Windows still mucks with SQ.
Oh, I haven't seen that. As far as I can tell, Windows sound controls don't do anything to an ASIO stream. But this is certainly worth tsting. Wonder what would be an easy test?
 
I assume it is Windows sound engine that is causing the problem, I have seen it resample PCM ASIO streams in the past when I had a sound card that displayed the received sample rate and bit-depth.
Hm, ASIO and windows sound engine are different animals, I have never seen of heard of them working with each other. But both operate the same soundcard. It's perfectly possible the windows sound engine driver can take over the device before ASIO can claim it for itself. Or some fake ASIO driver which is just a COM shim on top of the standard windows driver (Asio4All?) can feed the stream through the windows internals.
 
I am mostly using I2SoverUSB from JL Sounds. It has a licensed Thesycon ASIO driver. I suspect the problem may be that the default Windows sound engine can take control of the USB board though some Windows sound driver entry point. Some other program such as Foobar may be trying to attach the ASIO interface, but somehow Windows is able to route that PCM through Windows Sound Engine so that multiple apps and system sounds can be played through the same sound device. Whatever its doing, the effect is audible. Most people might not notice it, don't know. Its can be hard to realize there is a problem without carefully A/B testing with and without the default device assignments. As I said, the most aggravating thing is that Windows can reassign default sound devices without warning.