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Inspiron 14z sound problem


May 8 2012

I had a bizarre problem on a Dell Inspiron 14z with a Conexant SmartAudio HD driver: The sound would intermittently cut out. To be more precise, the soundstage would collapse and it would output mono instead of stereo audio.

After some maddening troubleshooting, including reinstalling the drivers and multiple reboots, I finally found the culprit: The Conexant SmartAudio driver doesn't work very well when it is outputting 16-bit 44.1 KHz audio; it's a lot happier outputting 24-bit 44.1 audio.

To change this in Windows 7:

  • Go to the start menu (you know, the Windows logo button usually in the lower left corner of the screen)
  • Click on "Control Panel"
  • Make sure "View by" in the upper right hand corner of the control panel says "View By: Small Icons" (makes finding things much easier)
  • Click on "Sound"
  • Click on "Speakers: Conexant SmartAudio HD" then click on "Properties"
  • In the "Speakers Properties" window, click on the "Advanced" tab
  • Make the "Default Format" "24 bit, 44100 Hz (Studio Quality)"
  • Click on "OK"
  • Close all Control panel windows.
At this point the sound will (knock on wood) no longer switch from mono to stereo.

Bizarre driver bug.

As an aside, choosing a higher sampling rate like 96000 Hz or 192000 Hz won't make any difference anyone besides your cat can hear, and might very well not make any audio difference at all.

Indeed, David Griesinger, creator of the legendary Lexicon reverberation sound (Griesinger's sound can be clearly heard in the "booms" at the beginning of Blade Runner's opening titles), has an amusing Powerpoint which points out that there are sound cards that advertise 96Khz sampling, but don't actually output audio above 23 Khz.

For people who don't want to download a Powerpoint file, this Google cache of the file might work.

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