HD Audio? More like HeaDache Audio.

Posted by Dave Wickham

I apologise for the dreadful joke, but this is a subject that has been consistently bugging me for quite some time.

Last year I got a new laptop. It’s fairly decent (by no means high-end, but it has 1GB RAM, a Core Duo T2300 CPU, and an nVidia GeForce Go 7400 – enough to play most games at its native resolution of 1280×800 without any problems). It also has Intel HD Audio. My issue with this comes from two completely different areas.

First up: Microsoft. Microsoft has Windows XP support for the audio system, as outlined in Knowledge Base entry #888111. But wait! What’s this I see?

Note This hotfix is not available for download. To acquire this hotfix, contact Microsoft Product Support Services. For more details, see the “More Information” section.

Oh how very useful. I had to spend quite a long time tracking down a copy of hotfix 888111. Thankfully Windows isn’t my primary OS, and Linux (Ubuntu) just supported it out of the metaphorical box, though on there there’s no audio input.

Secondly (and finally), the audio quality just really isn’t that good. I’m not sure whether the blame lies with the audio chip maker or the laptop manufacturer, or maybe it’s even a driver issue – though I doubt that for most of the issues – but there are a number of issues. For a start, there’s a constant hiss that I can hear, even when audio’s muted; in some circumstances when my laptop’s closed, I get regular clicking and similar quality issues in some circumstances; and finally, audio sometimes seems to get “backed up”, so a whole batch plays quickly after a brief pause, and will sometimes change volume (this one I’m more inclined to believe could be a software issue, but I don’t really feel like testing that).

Now, I know that audio quality on integrated hardware is unlikely to be great, and I’m by no means an electronics engineer, so I also don’t know if it’s technically possible to make a small integrated chip that doesn’t suffer from interference, but the audio quality just bugs me. For contrast, I happily use a Sound Blaster Live! Platinum 5.1 on my desktop, and thats not considered to be particularly high end, so I’m not an extreme audiophile.

(Of course, if anyone from Creative or another audio company is reading, I’ll happily review an ExpressCard X-Fi or other sound card. Or hey, even a USB one. *ahem*)

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