If you bought yourself a sound card for better audio and are not getting what you expected you may be the victim of poor defaults from the driver installation. I own a SoundBlaster Audigy SE and found that for a few years now the Creative Audio Control Panel has some strange settings by default leaving you clueless as to why only some of your speakers work and why it’s all echo’y.
So how do you install a SoundBlaster card properly?
- Turn off your machine and install the hardware.
- Boot your machine
- Download the drivers from the manufacturer
- Install this downloaded driver to replace whatever Windows may have already installed by auto-detecting your hardware
Now that your hardware is installed and the driver and related software are installed its time to properly configure it.
First let’s ensure that your sound card is properly set to be the default audio device.
- Right click the volume icon and then click on ‘Sounds’ This will open the menu shown below. In this menu, scroll through the list of audio devices and find your new sound card. If you notice there may be multiple interfaces that you can use. Here you can see ‘Speakers’ as an SB Audigy device and then below it a ‘Digital Audio Interface’ for the sound card as well. As I will be using the green standard audio port with a standard 3.5mm jack I will use the standard Speakers.
- Right click this device and then choose ‘Set as Default Device’.
Now you have properly set your default audio device, so Windows will use this for output until configured otherwise. Now on to the Creative Audio Control panel to finish the configuration
You can find the control panel in the Creative folder under programs or by searching ‘Creative’ from the Start menu.
By default there may be some pretty strange assumptions made by the driver. For example I have a 5.1 surround sound card, but it defaulted to 7.1. Clearly they use the same driver as their higher end models, but this leaves those of us with the lower end cards needing to complete these extra steps. You will want to check the following items to ensure they are properly set in the control panel.
First this you want to do is ensure you pick the proper configuration for your speakers. As I mentioned earlier, for me it defaulted to 7.1 when I am using 2.1 and only have a card that supports up to 5.1 surround sound. Without this you may find that your audio is unbalanced or fades strangely.
This is another default that you probably don’t want to use. I have found this to usually cause distortion so I disable it. EAX Effects have always been disabled by default, however if you are having issues, check the setting to ensure one of them isn’t turned on causing your problem.
SPDIF I/O – Digital Output
If you purchased this sound card to use at it’s maximum potential you may not be getting it out of the box. Digital Output is defaulted to 48KHz on my card, but can be set higher. So be sure to adjust appropriately.
Again, just as the digital output defaults to lower than maximum, you will want to be sure your sample rate is set up properly. I have adjusted mine up to 96KHz from the default of 48.
Additionally in the performance tab you can adjust the bit depth. Here my default is 16, however it can be upped to 24.
NOTE: Bit Depth/Sample Rate/Digital Output
These settings will only give you a noticeable change in performance if your source audio files match. So setting these values above 16bit/48KHz will not make the sound quality better for CD’s, iTunes or other downloaded music as well as DVD’s. These will only really matter if you do audio processing and work with higher end equipment and its files. For reference CD’s are 16bit and have a sample rate of 41.4KHz. However, if you do watch Blu Ray movies they do contain the higher rates/depth(24bit/96KHz) so enabling these should give you the maximum quality. ANother thing to note is that if the sound card does not have it’s own processing chip(such as my low end Audigy, these higher rates will take a bit more CPU power. If you have a modern system though you most likely won’t notice a difference in your PC’s performance. However if you do, you can set them at a lower level to see if that fixes any problem you experiance.
Still having issues? You can try this to get the card to reinstall fresh without reinstalling Windows.
Search windows for Device Manager. In Device manager locate the Sound section and right click your sound card. Then click uninstall. It will prompt you if you wish to uninstall the driver. Check this box and click OK to continue. Reboot and your sound card will be detected and automatically reinstalled by Windows.
If you are still having issues, then perhaps Windows is the problem. For a month and a half after the Anniversary Update to Windows 10 (August through mid September 2016) I was without sound in my left speaker. No amount of uninstalling and reconfiguring my sound card could fix anything. Then, just yesterday I checked and my sound was back. So sometimes things may just be completely out of our control and you have to wait for the manufacturer or Windows to update some files to get things working again.