Sound Card Suggestions

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Last year it seemed cheaper to buy a computer then build one. I bought a
Dell 570. Right after the factory warranty ran out the on board sound
crapped out. I need to get a pci express sound card. I'm not a gamer and
don't need surround sound. I just have an amp and two speakers. I'm open
for suggestions and where to purchase.



Re: Sound Card Suggestions

On 10/24/2012 05:54 PM, Brian K wrote:
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Not critical

however, before you buy a card you should check to see if it's just a
matter of reinstalling the drivers...
or possibly looking in the bios to see you for some reason sound was


Re: Sound Card Suggestions

On 10/24/2012 8:03 PM, philo wrote:
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I checked drivers and bios.  Sound is enabled and drivers are up to
date. I have windows 7. When I plug in the jack Windows says that a
sound device has been added. I used to be able to wiggle the jack and
get sound. But now when I do that I just get static. That's why I think
it's the onboard sound that's gone.

Re: Sound Card Suggestions

On 10/26/2012 03:09 PM, Brian K wrote:
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Sounds logical to me.
I'd just get an inexpensive sound card then disable sound in the bios
and you should be ok then


Re: Sound Card Suggestions

Brian K wrote:
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You can get USB sound solutions for $10.

There are USB chips that do two channel sound and they
should make for a real cheap dongle. The main disadvantage
of this particular one, is it doesn't have a short piece of
USB cable on it. Sometimes, one of these with a cable fitted,
is more convenient and less likely to get damaged. To install
headphones, you'd likely unplug this from the USB, plug in
the headphones or amplified speakers, then plug back into
the USB port. So for safety, a thing like this encourages
a "static" configuration. It likely wouldn't stand up to a
lot of plugging and unplugging.

PCI Express sound cards will likely cost more. The cheapest
I could find was for $21, but the customer reviews didn't seem
that encouraging. Either the customers couldn't install it
right, without any documentation being provided, or it is
really a dreadful product. And you can go up in price there
to around $200 if you're crazy.

Personally, I'd rather go with a crusty old PCI sound card,
but it sounds like a slot for that isn't convenient for you.
The reason being, sometimes there is less of a price
premium for these. The PCI Express pricing is a bit
more artificial.

Example of a PCI card for $10.

I could also find a PCI card for $200. I wonder how many of
those they've sold. A person with $200 to spend on a sound
card, likely has a $400 motherboard with "all PCI Express"
slots. People looking for PCI (like me), are more likely
to be on a budget. So $200 in that case, is stratospheric.


Re: Sound Card Suggestions

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I've run into the situation where the sound quits on a mb for no apparent
reason and I've tried rejuvinating by removing the drivers and reinstalling.
once in awhile it would work, but mostly not. However, I've had greater
success by reinstalling the whole operating system and then the sound
drivers. What I figure has happened is that some peripheral or even a patch
is corrupting either a driver file or a supporting file that kills the
sound. To me it would be worth taking the time to take a spare hard drive
and installing the operating system and the sound drivers to see if it
solves the problem before shopping for a card, unless you know for an
absolute fact that the sound on the mb is kaput.

Jan Alter

Re: Sound Card Suggestions

Jan Alter wrote:
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That's a good point. The sound problem might not be a fatal hardware
issue. I've even had cases, where the amplifier has a problem with
the bias on the front end, and it's the input stage on the amp that
cuts off. It can be caused by DC leakage from the motherboard sound
end. Connecting the amp to a different source, can change the AC
and DC characteristic feeding the thing (and then you reach the wrong
conclusion about what is broken). So you're right, there's
probably a few test cases to run first, before deciding to buy
another card.

In a lot of cases, both the sound card and the amplifier, are
AC coupled. Something like this. Here, DC leakage on one side,
isn't the end of the world. It's because there are two capacitors
in series, and two chances to block the leakage.

    Sound Chip ----||-------------X         X-----||------Speaker Amp Input
                   Coupling    LineOut          Coupling
                   Cap                          Cap

If, on the other hand, the amp is direct coupled, a DC leak
through the cap can upset the input on the amp. As far as I know,
the motherboard end is always AC coupled. Every reference
schematic I've looked at for motherboard sound, has "caps
on everything". But a bad capacitor can leak some DC, which
can upset the DC bias on the input stage on the amp.

                 +- Leak... -+
                 |           |
    Sound Chip --+---||------+------X        X-------------Speaker Amp Input
                   Coupling    LineOut          DC
                   Cap                          Coupled

A person could try some 32 ohm headphones in the lime green LineOut,
as an alternative to using the amplified speakers. That would help
eliminate an amplifier input bias problem. Multichannel audio solutions,
can have 32 ohm (strong) drive on Lineout, and 600 ohm (weak) drive
on the remaining channels. It's best then, to use LineOut for test.

And thinking about all the ways to test, you're right, that reinstalling
Windows (on a separate disk) and retesting with "clean everything", is
probably the easiest test environment to set up. I was going to suggest
a Linux LiveCD, but my success rate on audio stuff is pretty poor
there. So you'd end up "debugging Linux Sound" instead of concentrating
on your testing. A Windows install might be the best. At least there,
you know installing the right driver, is mostly what it needs.

I've had a PCI sound card fail to work right, because one of the
bus pins wasn't making contact. But that was easy to detect, because
there was an "unknown device" in Device Manager, and sound stopped
working at the same time. It's pretty hard to get motherboard
sound to fail that way (as the interface is "thinner", and everything
is soldered).


Re: Sound Card Suggestions

On 10/25/2012 2:55 PM, Paul wrote:
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Thanks all for suggestions. I should have supplied more information. So
here goes. The computer is a Dell Inspiron 570. It comes with one PCI
slot (I put in a 4 USB card there) and two PCI Express 1.0 slots.

When I first got the computer I hooked up the sound to my amp as I did
before with my homebuilt machine. The sound would work if I wiggled the
mini-plug in the output on the line to my amplifier. (This worked before
and also worked with my old computer)

The inputs to my amp are two female rca plugs. I have male to male
rca/phono lines running from the amp to a female rca/phono to male mini
stereo plug that's plugged into the computer.

This setup has worked for a year ok. Sometimes the sound would drop out
but if I just gently wiggled the mini plug it would come back. Then
after the computer went out of warrantee the sound dropped out and I
could not get it to come back.

I first tried unplugging the mini plug and plugging it back in. Windows
7 gave me a message that it recognized the audio device had been plugged
in.  But no sound.

Then I tried plugging the mini-plug into my I-pod. After turning up the
volume on the I-pod to max I had sound. The amp is working on these lines.

I tried plugging my headphones into the headphone jack on the front of
the sound.

My Dell Inspiron 370 comes with a disk that formats the hard drive,
reinstalls the operating system and returns the computer back to factory
settings and configuration. Some of the drivers are Dell propitiatory.
(Fortunately, I backed up everything critical to my usb external backup
drive.)  The audio drivers were reinstalled. At no point has Device
Manager indicated that anything is wrong with the audio.

No sound from either headphone or rear output.

I tried downloading and installing drivers from sound.

This has led me to believe that it's the onboard sound that's gone bad.


Brian M. Kochera ABCDT
Certified Dog Trainer
Sit Stay And Beyond LLC
Dog Manners Not  Mayhem

Re: Sound Card Suggestions

Brian K wrote:
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You have audio on the back of the computer, and on the front.

On the back, the Lime Green colored connector is LineOut. It
is line level, 1 volt into 32 ohms. (A good amp for the speakers,
will be 10000 ohms input impedance, where higher equals less
electrical load.)

The front of the computer has a headphone jack. That is
also 1 volt into 32 ohms.

The computer likely uses what is called HDAudio. The claim
to fame of that is, the audio ports are independent. That
means, a separate silicon output is used for headphones,
versus for Lineout. You should be able to plug
your amplified speakers into the front port.

With older computers, the standard was called AC97. In that
case, the rear Lineout and the front Headphones, interacted.
They actually used the same silicon output. What happens
sometimes with AC97, is a problem with the side-contacts
in the headphone jack, upsets the availability of audio
on the Lineout on the back of the computer. Inserting
headphones and removing them a few times (e.g. "wiggling"),
might free it.

But HDAudio has no such compromises. Only if the entire
sound chip is burned up, would all the outputs die. If
static electricity kills the back one, the front one
should still work.

The sound chip has a few supporting components around it.
There is a small 5V regulator that gives clean sound.
But if that failed, then the thing might disappear from
Device Manager. The sound chip also has capacitors on all
inputs and outputs. But if one of those failed, you'd
lose only the left or the right channel. Not likely to
lose both at the same time. Neither is an electrical
failure (static electricity), likely to kill Lineout
L:R at the same time either. So most failure scenarios
would take out one channel. While a common mode infrastructure
thing like the 5V regulator, or the digital bus connection,
that would knock out the whole chip, and likely result
in it disappearing from Device Manager.

If you received a sound driver update, and there was
something wrong with the configuration info, maybe
that could wipe out Lineout.

Your situation is still a bit of a puzzle.

Try your headphone jack. See if the computer "recognizes"
that something has been plugged in. Tell it you've got
speakers in there.


It's also possible your cabling is bad.
All it would take is a broken ground connection.
Do you hear any hum ?


Re: Sound Card Suggestions

On 10/26/2012 5:08 PM, Paul wrote:
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I tested the cabling with another sound source. It works fine.  I think
I mentioned it, but I will repeat that the front side headphone jack
doesn't produce sound either.

Re: Sound Card Suggestions

Brian K wrote:
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Are you able to record from a microphone via the back ?

Or, use Line In and record from that ?

The thing is, if the chip appears in Device Manager,
things like Sound control panels and so on, you'd think
that would prove the digital section of the chip. Then,
we'd need to formulate a theory as to why the analog
portion doesn't work.

The audio chip sometimes has a three terminal (5V) regulator near
it. A separate regulator is used, to get "quiet power". Maybe, if
that just powered the analog section of the chip, and the
regulator was not working (i.e. shorted out for some reason),
the sound would be dead.

There was one Asus motherboard years ago, where a standoff
actually touched the audio, and killed one channel. Asus tech
support would tell people to remove the screw on a certain
standoff, and the sound would come back. I doubt your
problem is that easy to fix, but I'd at least cast
a suspicious eyeball over that area of the motherboard,
just in case something has fallen into that area.

Another possibility, is sound has been routed to an HDMI
video port, rather than to the sound port. And the
silence you've got, is because the sound is going to
an entirely different place. Check your sound control
panel, the custom (RealTek) sound control panel, and see whether
the destination has been "swacked" somehow :-)

I see a RealTek chip here, but don't see anything of
particular note. I don't see something I identify as
"clean power" here either. The raft of black electrolytics
are for AC coupling the audio signals.


Re: Sound Card Suggestions

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Quality ain't cheap: /


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