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How to prevent audio stutter

Posted on 2004-08-25
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Last Modified: 2012-08-14
When any sound file (or CD or DVD) is played, randomly the stream stutters—the sound, sounds like a short automatic gun firing for a second. From reading about similar instances a cause of this problem is often DirectX (DirectPlay) losing track of its buffer and having to run through it again to catch up. The stutter sound is DirectX doing that.

A suggestion to solve this problem is to map the sound controller to a unique IRQ as automatically sharing an IRQ can interrupt DirectX for too long—a few milliseconds is all it takes. However, not all BIOS's support this choice, which is the case for this laptop. So the solution seems to fall to the sound driver having to do DirectX's job. I believe many multimedia drivers wrap DirectX to tightly control its functionality, particularly in game apps.

A step to resolve the problem is probably to find what it is that interrupts the stream. I'd greatly appreciate any ideas how to do that and any suggestions that might eliminate the stutter phenomenon.

The mobo is an ASUSTek M6Ne version 1.0 with 2GB ram and XP Pro. All patches/updates applied, except SP2. The audio controller is an Intel 82801AA/AB/BA/CA/DB AC'97. The driver is version 5.1.3552.1. Hardware acceleration is off and do not map through this device is selected—changing these properties hasn't made any difference though.

Thanks in advance

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Question by:cwest1
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by:Callandor
ID: 11893993
Everest will give you a listing of IRQs used and what is using them: http://www.lavalys.com/index.php?page=product&view=1&subpage=5
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by:cwest1
ID: 11894124
Looking at Everest Pro, it has many features to help one dig away, but I don’t believe it has a feature that’ll identify processes that are starting/stopping on the fly. Hypothetically, I image a tool that’ll write process start/stop history to a file. Studying such a file should help identify what process started (and perhaps stopped) at the same time as the stutter occurred. Something like that.
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by:Callandor
ID: 11894431
You might be able to fix this by reinstalling the sound card drivers.
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by:pkaanapu
ID: 11894902
What brand of model laptop is it?
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by:cwest1
ID: 11894909
The sound card is really a chipset on the mobo (without any jumpers to play with). I’ve updated the driver, which I suspect is still deficient in terms of controlling the buffer to which audio is streamed. That is, the driver doesn’t prevent any interruption. I thought that’s what DirectX would do, but perhaps not.
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by:cwest1
ID: 11894954
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by:Aramis11
ID: 11895774
Does it help any to look in the Task Manager Processes?  Anything running that can be shut down one thing at a time may point to the source(s) if the stutter stops at some point.  This is a weaker approach than you are looking for but just a possibility to look at.  I suspect a sound board upgrade (adding one) would be an expedient albeit more expensive way to get rid of the effect.
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by:cwest1
ID: 11896123
As it’s a laptop, adding another sound board isn’t an option . Using msconfig I prevented all user processes from starting. Just wmpalyer, explorer and taskmanager running, but stutter still recurs, although quite noticeably less. I’m sure someone has come up against this issue before, particularly gamers as those apps are multimedia intense.
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by:Blue_Rishi
ID: 11896914
< When any sound file (or CD or DVD) is played, >

Does this occur when playing from the hdd? If not, it might be an idea to increase the buffer for cd/dvd drive...
Also, make sure the ide-channel the drive is on is set to 'dma if available' in devicemanager...

Blue Rishi



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by:cwest1
ID: 11896954
The stutter occurs regardless of the file location--HD or CD/DVD. DMA is on for the HDD.
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by:Callandor
ID: 11897253
Is the cpu hitting 100% when it stutters?
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by:gfdos
ID: 11897260
The only thing I can recommend is disable the onboard sound and use something like the USB
soundblaster audigy or extigy

http://www.creative.com/products/welcome.asp?cat=2
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by:cwest1
ID: 11897296
cpu usage is about 4% when stutter occurs--only wmp running
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by:cwest1
ID: 11899067
Some interesting observations... I noticed that the stutter occurs more frequently when connected to wifi than when connected through Cat 5. I disabled all network connections and the stutter seems to have stopped, at least over an hour’s period.

Don’t laugh, but I pointed a DV camera at the processes window in task manager and hit record. After a few stutters occurred, I replayed the tape in very slow motion. When the stutter occurred wmp jumped from 4% to 16% usage. Not much change and no other process moved up in the list which was sorted by CPU usage--probably because task manager momentarily froze while the stutter was present. It was just under a second.

Something related to a network connection seems to interrupt DirectX. Any ideas?
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by:Callandor
ID: 11899209
You may have scheduled events, like every 5 min, that look at your network - the system can freeze momentarily while waiting for a response.
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by:nobus
ID: 11900241
is your anti virus active? try disabling it
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by:cwest1
ID: 11903916
I believe I’ve solved the mystery! When I disable the wifi card and enable the Ethernet card and connect to a LAN, the stutter hasn’t occurred for an hour. Suspecting interference from the wireless card, irrespective of whether a wifi network is detected, I enabled the wifi card but disabled the WZC service. Stutter still hasn’t occurred. I’ll do more testing this evening.

I doubt if there’s a fix for wireless interference so the workaround might be to stop WZC and restart it when needed, but that’s annoying enough (to me) to want to seek a better solution.
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by:Blue_Rishi
ID: 11906083
Does the wifi card share ANY rescources with the soundcard? (like IRQ?) Try changing it...Don't know enough about wifi cards and their drivers/services to be of much help in that department. Does the wifi adapter/service periodically scan for new networks? if so, that might be causing the problem...

Blue Rishi
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by:cwest1
ID: 11906184
On this laptop IRQ 11 is shared by most devices. It’s ACPI, not PCI, so binding the wifi to another IRQ isn’t an option unless a BIOS supports that, which in this case it doesn’t. WZC (Wireless Zero Configuration) as far as I know frequently scans for hotspots. I’m pretty sure this is interfering with DirectX, because stopping the WZC service seems to obviate the stutter symptom.
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by:cwest1
ID: 11908985
After some more testing it does indeed seem that the WZC service interrupts DirectX, and probably other processes that are as noticeable. Stopping WZC and letting the driver for the wifi card handle the configuration seems to do everything that WZC does anyway, so there isn’t any side affect unless a wifi driver was relying on WZC. Thanks for the ideas.

When the administrator gets around to this post I’d ask him/her to close it.
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by:FDIT
ID: 12532176
make sure that all drive are set to DMA
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by:cwest1
ID: 12835259
why do you delete self-answered questions that could be helpful to others?
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by:Aramis11
ID: 12840435
This string does look like it could be useful to someone else.  A Blue Rishi answer was probably closest to being on track, besides the originator's conclusions.  Is a partial refund possible?
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