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Audio playback and recording crackles when everything was fine a few days ago

By Je Hones ยท 14 replies
Jan 5, 2011
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  1. This problem isn't specifically audio related but I posted it here because it's the thing that is affected that bothers me most. I suspect all these problems are related.

    Mods, sorry if this is more suitable for another forum.

    Basically, at one time my audio playback and recording would skip, crack and pop but then I realised that I was still using my old sound-card instead of the Toneport UX1, which is what I use now. After I made that switch there were no more skips, cracks or pops during playback or recording but now there are, and I'm using the UX1. It started again about 5 days ago and I have no idea why. However, I think these cracks and pops come from spikes in the CPU, because if I don't do anything to significantly use CPU, like open a new program or change windows, the cracks are more infrequent. But again, this never happened before so I don't know why it is now.

    Also since around 5 days ago I've been experiencing the taskbar and window frames changing to Classic of their own accord. After an indefinite period of time the taskbar will flash and change into Classic, or some mangled hybrid of XP and Classic. As soon as it does that in Sounds & Audio Devices every option gets greyed out and no sound card can be, or is, selected, when before this everything would say UX1 and would work. The only way to fix it is to restart, but then it's just a matter of time before it happens again. This has happened before and I suspected it was due to having Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware installed. As odd as it sounds, it would happen a lot more frequently when I had that installed and would actually incite it when I did a scan, sometimes crashing the computer halfway through. Since uninstalling it, it happens a lot less frequently, but still does. Another interesting fact is that the audio playback actually wasn't crackling when this sound options and taskbar thing was happening, but it would stop me from hearing what I was recording. I use Foobar for playing audio, and it must have independent sound options or something because it's the only thing I can play audio through when this happens.

    The only thing I've done differently since before the cracks and pops weren't happening is restore my BIOS to default settings and reinstall the UX1 sound-drivers. The inciting incident was when my computer froze and wouldn't let me click anything, but the mouse was moving around freely. I pressed the restart button but it got stuck in the start-up telling me to select the correct boot device. I went into setup and it was only seeing my third slave hard-drive and disk-drive, but neither second slave or master drive (with Windows on), so it couldn't boot. Using my other computer I ran a web search on how to fix it and one guy said restore BIOS to default settings, so that's why I did that. It didn't fix it but after about forty minutes I turned it back on just out of curiosity and everything loaded up fine until the login screen, where it crashed twice, before working the third time and allowing me to use my computer as normal. My educated guess was that it was overheating and going temporarily insane before cooling down. Like sunstroke, ish.

    Since then I've noticed that my audio playback and recording are being interrupted by the pops and clicks.

    Okay, now here's another problem that's probably associated with all of this. A few months ago my computer would randomly freeze up, and not like when it crashes and the mouse moves and you can get to Task Manager etc., I mean actually stop altogether. The mouse wouldn't move and even the little light that tells you whether NumLock is on or off wouldn't change when I pressed NumLock. The screen would remain on whatever was last on it and there was no significant pitch change or strenuous sounds coming from the hard-drive or anything in the computer. It was like it stopped and wasn't even aware of it. I eventually took a vacuum cleaner to my computer's innards and sucked up a lot of dust with some last resort type of mentality. I noticed a lot of dust came out of the power supply vents. After I did that, surprisingly, it was fine for a while, but started doing it again after a couple of weeks, so the cycle continued.

    This had actually happened before though and resulted in all my anti-spyware software being sabotaged somehow. I could only use my computer up until Webroot's Spysweeper started up, and then it would freeze. This actually happens when I install it even now. The taskbar thing was happening alongside this too, and I did have Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware installed. Eventually I did a repair install of Windows, and everything was fine.

    So, to recap, the present problem is the audio playback and recording clicks combined with the XP taskbar changing to Classic and greying out the sound options, the random freezing and occasionally the computer just restarting after showing a blue screen with some grey writing that goes away too fast for me to read, then going into the reboot sequence.

    For some reason I'm drawn towards the idea that the power supply is failing or not processing enough power to run the computer because it would normally freeze when I was using Cubase, which is very CPU heavy, but it would occasionally do it when I was browsing the web in Chrome or just playing music in Foobar. Saying that, I'm sure what I'm running is in range of its capability, and it has worked before, so that makes me think it's the power supply failing rather than being innately unsuitable. Malware is probably shafting something too.

    I think that's covered everything. I'm sorry for the length of this, but I thought it all could be symptomatic.

    Attached is a HijackThis log, and here are my computer specs:

    OS: Windows XP Home Edition (5.1, Build 2600) Service Pack 3
    Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 6000+ (2.99GHz)
    RAM: 4GB (but apparently XP can only use or recognise 3GB)
    Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT
    Sound Card: Line 6 Toneport UX1
    Power Supply: 500W/230V

    Attached Files:

  2. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    What motherboard do you have? Check if the default BIOS have the onboard sound enabled, and if so, disable it. (assuming you have onboard audio).

    If you're worried about heat being a problem, install CoreTemp and enable logging. Then if your computer crashes again, you can go back and check the logs and see if there was some kind of heat spike when it crashed. If removing dust made it run better, heat could be an issue.

    I also see that your audio card is USB. I couldn't see if it has a power adapter on their web site. If it does not, maybe you have a problem with it getting enough power.
  3. Je Hones

    Je Hones TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks, I just downloaded CoreTemp now and already one of the cores is flashing orange. The sound card doesn't have a power adapter, but it has always been this way and worked fine before so how could that happen? The motherboard is an ASRock N68PV-GS.

    Something the computer has taken to doing since I posted this is reboot itself and show that blue screen a lot more. The mouse kind of lags across the screen just before it happens too. Just on the off-chance it worked and to rule out another possible fix, I restored my computer back to December 2nd, a time I'm sure this wasn't happening, but and these crackles and crashes are still occurring.
  4. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    1. After next time the computer crashes, upload the log file, so we can take a look at what happened with heat. Are you using a stock cooler or an aftermarket one? Cause if you haven't cleaned the heatsink out lately it could be clogged with dust as well.

    What you may consider doing carefully is remove all the components and really getting in there with a vacuum cleaner, air canisters and q-tips if needed to get all the dust out. And make sure that all your fans are running properly when the computer is on.

    2. Well, if you're having power issues, and the USB sound card is powered via USB, maybe not enough juice is getting to it. Does not have to be the fault of the sound card, but the PSU.

    Looks like your mobo has onboard sound, have you made sure that it's disabled?
  5. Je Hones

    Je Hones TS Rookie Topic Starter

    The computer actually just crashed as I was replying to this message but for some reason the log file didn't save or I accidentally closed the program instead of minimising it to the tray. I'll just wait until the next time; it shouldn't be long off. I think I'm using a aftermarket heatsink too because the computer was originally custom made with the components I bought; I never had a stock Dell or any generic build computer like that. But no, I've never cleaned the heatsink attached to the motherboard properly, only cleaned it while it has stayed attached. There's a fan on the side panel of the case which I've cleaned a lot though.

    If this is the second instance you proposed, would buying a power supply with a higher wattage fix it?

    How would I go about disabling the motherboard sound card? The motherboard itself doesn't even show up on Device Manager. I had to download CPU-Z just to find out what model it was.

    By the way, I searched "blue screen" on Google and I'm fairly certain it's the first image result. The one that starts "A problem has been detected and..."

    I'd post it myself but apparently I can't post links or images until my post-count is higher. This is the one that pops up just before it goes into the start-up sequence. I know the error code will most likely be different, but I remember seeing the word "Advanced" around the same position in the screen as it is on that, and that's the only one even remotely similar.

    Does that help at all?
  6. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    Here is a link to your motherboard manual.

    Page 44 tells you how to work with the onboard audio. So you can mess around with that and see if you get any better results with the audio. I would suggest either enabled or disabled, don't mess with auto in order to get more accurate results. There are options for the audio, HD audio and front panel audio, so there are several combinations of settings you can try.

    As far as the heatsink goes, if you have some extra thermal paste around, it won't hurt to carefully remove the cooler, detach the fan if possible, and then clean out the heatsink. If you just isolate it to the chunk of metal, you can rinse it under hot water (adding some soap if you want). Use an old toothbrush or pipe cleaner or something to make sure you get all the gunk out. Then let it dry completely before reattaching the fan and applying thermal paste and putting the heatsink back onto the CPU. I'm not sure what kind of cooler you have, but in my experience its difficult to get all the fins cleaned out while its attached.

    As far as getting a new power supply, it *might* help, as with all troubleshooting, its easiest if you have duplicate components and can switch them out one at a time until you see what the problem is. But right now I'm having you try noninvasive things that don't cost money. About a year ago or so I had to replace a computer similar to yours. I bought a PSU thinking its the problem, but it turned out not to make a difference, and ended up replacing the motherboard, CPU and RAM.

    I suspect that overheating may be responsible for part of your problems, as you've indicated some success in performance after cleaning, so I'd like to see if you can do everything you can in terms of cleaning out your computer, reseating the components, etc, to alleviate the problem. But if you've done everything you can on that front, and the heat problems continue, then this could be the culprit. Conversely, if you get the heat down to normal levels with the cleaning, and the problems continue, then a different problem could be the cause.

    When you have a brand new computer, you can make the assumption that the components more or less work, and that the problem is setting or software based. But if you're dealing with components a few years old, the problem could just as easily be hardware based as it could be anything else. If some little doohickey on your motherboard got fried and damaged, it could manifest itself in all sorts of ways that are not easy to detect. Replacing the components is always a solution, but that can get expensive.
  7. Je Hones

    Je Hones TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks again. I checked the manual and set the options to "disable" but but everything is still as it was. I will make some time to properly clean the heatsink too. The computer crashed again before but didn't show the blue screen first, and the log didn't save again, but I was sure I switched on the logging. Could the shut-down be so abrupt that it cancels or doesn't save the log?

    I actually just remembered some more stuff, and it kind of fills in my plot-holes from my original post. I bought a new motherboard (the one mentioned), RAM and CPU in October 2009. As well as this, I fitted my brother's old power supply (the current one) and his graphics card (the same) into my computer. It's probably worth noting that my brother experienced a lot of problems with his computer, most probably at the hands of his power supply. It would constantly turn itself off or refuse to start up, quoting overheating. I didn't think it was an innate flaw with the power supply, rather just incompatible with his set-up, but now I'm not so sure. From that alone, shouldn't it point to the power supply? It's really the only well-used thing left, plus it has a bad track record. This hardly seems like a graphics card problem either.

    I've just remembered as well that I've experienced this popping and crackling before, and with this sound-card. I started with an SB Live sound-card but through my own embarrassing ignorance on the subject never actually realised my UX1 was a sound-card. I just used it to record guitars and other non-MIDI instruments. I basically switched the sound cards out for each other and there were no more glitches on my recordings. However, when I was browsing the internet some things would completely screw up audio, namely YouTube, flash heavy advertisements and weirdly, Utorrent. I thought there was just some conflict going on between the UX1 and Flash or Java or whatever, but it didn't really bother me because I don't really use YouTube and could just work around it. Shortly after that my master hard-drive failed and I reinstalled Windows on another hard-drive, the same that I'm currently using.

    As far as I'm aware this was a grace period in my computer usage. Everything worked perfectly and there weren't actually any glitches during playback or recording, and I could even use YouTube. Independent audio playback in Foobar was never a problem until now; it did that thing where it glitched up during Flash usage in the past but has never just struggled to play without something else greatly choking the CPU- like having 20 tracks open all using different VSTs in Cubase, which is understandable I guess.

    This is where the back-story of my original post ties up with this account. At some point between then and August 2010, SpySweeper started screwing with my computer and the taskbar would switch from XP to Classic, then came the random freezing I described in my original post. This is when I did a repair install of Windows and everything worked perfectly afterwards. That lasted until now.

    Do you think I should try doing a repair install of Windows again?

    I recently bought a new monitor and earlier this year fitted a terabyte SATA hard-drive. Could either of these have pushed the CPU or power supply over the edge? Saying that, I've had my computer working fine with the terabyte so the monitor is the only really new thing.
  8. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    Well considering everything, you should probably buy a new PSU, for peace of mind if nothing else. =)

    You can probably search around the forums for good recommendations. I won't recommend the ones I've bought because my PSU failures inevitably came when I had a little money so I always went with price (and a decent amount of positive reviews on Newegg) when I bought a replacement, but Corsair has gotten very good reviews on a lot of web sites, and you can probably pick up a good one for less than a hundred bucks in the 600-750W range.

    As far as sound, maybe there are issues with XP drivers? Have you e-mailed the company? A lot of smaller manufacturers are actually far more responsive in terms of tech support than bigger ones. They may be able to help you out with some particular issues. I've never used an external USB drive, so any suggestions I'd be able to give would be stuff I found other places.

    As far as the switch from XP to classic, I haven't used that OS in many years, so I can't think of what would replicate that. But I have had something similar happen on Vista or 7 when my video drivers crashed, and took the Aero display with them and switched to classic. But I don't think that would be the case in XP, I don't think that it uses the video hardware for the desktop. (could be wrong)

    What I would probably do at this point is pick up the new power supply, do a good cleaning of the system (replacing any other parts you think are cursed), do a clean install of Windows, load up the latest drivers for your hardware and see how it goes.
  9. Je Hones

    Je Hones TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I haven't e-mailed the company, no. I was leaning towards the idea of this being something my computer was doing wrong rather than the UX1 but I guess they might have encountered similar problems with other customers, so could have some knowledge on this. I'll e-mail them now.

    I've read about the Windows theme changing from XP to Classic and most people's conclusions is that it's symptomatic of Malware. It only changes from XP to Classic with regard to display too, not OS. I don't know if I was specific enough about that before. It's really only an irritation; it's the sound options turning off in sync with this that's the real pain. Saying that though, this hasn't happened for a few days now. It's stayed on the XP one with the sound options all staying on too. Maybe the restore or CHKDSK or running CCleaner fixed it.

    Thanks a lot for all your help. I'll report back when I've bought and installed the new PSU and reinstalled Windows. I'll do it over the weekend.
  10. Je Hones

    Je Hones TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Sorry for the double post, if it's a rule not to or something, but I have an update on this situation!

    I went inside my computer today and tried cleaning out the heatsink with some q-tips and ended up pulling out large clumps of dust. We're talking like a couple of centimetres thick and twice as long. Madness. The vacuum cleaner mustn't have been able to get at it when I cleaned it last. I fully vacuumed everything afterwards too. Anyway, after that I powered up my PC again, which actually gave me the boot device error but after fiddling with the IDE cable it powered up fine on the next go. Later on I replaced the IDE cable which happened to be bent and so potentially faulty. I'm hoping that has fixed that issue.

    Cleaning the heatsink didn't fix my audio crackling though. However, it did drastically reduce my computer's temperature. I opened Core Temp and one core was saying 31 and the other about 25. My computer has been on for about 4 hours now and the temperature is still the same. Before, one was on 51 and the other never got lower than 45. My computer hasn't frozen all day either so I'm optimistic that this will stop the random freezing. Also, I haven't got the blue screen and restart in a while, so I suspect it was a virus that was eradicated when I did the system restore. Same goes for the XP to Classic theme and no audio device thing.

    Perhaps the most important thing I've discovered today is that it is almost certainly the PSU screwing my audio up. I got worried that the sound card was actually broken or faulty so I tried it on my brother's computer which has a 750W PSU. He has the same motherboard and RAM as me, but a quad-core processor and a better graphics card. I discovered that it played audio flawlessly on his, even when I ran CPU heavy processes like WoW, or Flash like YouTube. All at once even. While I was doing this I tested the onboard soundcard in my own computer and that played perfectly too.

    The fact that my onboard soundcard worked led me to the conclusion that my onboard soundcard requires less power and processing than the UX1, so didn't lag. That fact tied up with the fact the UX1 worked on my brother's computer left the only two lowest common denominators as the PSU or the processor. Just to rule out the processor being the problem I tried the UX1 on my Dad's computer which has the exact same hardware as mine except his PSU is 650W and the graphics card is worse than mine. I probably should have just tried the UX1 on his instead of my brother's, but at that point I just wanted to use the most powerful computer in my house so that I knew it wasn't a UX1 fault, and also so I knew the PSU was capable of juggling all the processes so it had no excuse for crackling.

    As it turns out, the UX1 played audio without fault on my Dad's computer too, which only leaves my PSU as the problem. Everybody's computer that it worked on had at least 650W PSU, while mine is 500W. I run the most stuff on my computer out of everybody I tried the UX1 on too so I should really get myself a PSU with a higher wattage, which I am going to do tomorrow.

    I shall return shortly with the epilogue!
  11. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    Good news!

    You may also want to consider doing a clean install if you're able to. That way you can get rid of any corrupted files or any other bad mojo left over. =)
  12. Je Hones

    Je Hones TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Okay, so things haven't gone as planned with this PSU. I bought this PSU yesterday and once I fit it in my computer nothing would power up. I made sure everything was connected as it should be and that the switch was turned to on. Still, nothing. The instructions included in the box stated to ensure that the PSU was switched to the right voltage, but nowhere could I see a switch for that. I took out the new PSU and put my old one back in just to make sure I hadn't completely destroyed my computer, and everything worked as it did before.

    I took the PSU back to the shop I bought it from today and they told me they're all the correct voltage relative to the UK by default. However, there was nobody in to actually test it was or wasn't faulty in that respect or any other, but he kindly replaced it.

    Today, after fitting the replacement PSU again, everything appeared to power up: heatsink, fans, hard-drives etc. but the monitor wasn't getting a signal and the light on it to indicate on or off was just blinking as if on stand-by, waiting for a signal. I randomly pressed the restart button on my computer and for some reason I'm oblivious to the monitor started working. I've since turned my computer on and off and this is the only way it will actually power up with a signal to the monitor. Yay, a new problem.

    Also, I still get the crackles when I play or record audio. Now I'm suspecting that it's the processor. If it is, buying the PSU wasn't a waste of money because I'd need one if I was to buy a quad-core anyway... I'd also need a new motherboard.

    I'm just about to do a clean install of Windows to see what happens. Any thoughts though?
  13. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    Hm. You *may* want to go with another brand of CPU. First one didn't work, second one is causing issues with monitor you didn't have before. Converting the price its about 40-50 bucks depending on VAT, that's a bit on the cheap side for a PSU. You might want to get something better.

    But lets assume that the PSU is not the problem. Replacing the mobo is always an option, but at this point you'd probably want to go to the next gen, and so it might get expensive.

    But lets hypothesize that your motherboard USB ports are the issue, so a possible solution might be to get a USB card, they're about 10 dollars, and it might be worth a shot. This way if the plugs aren't working, a PCI card with USB ports might, and may save you some cash.
  14. Je Hones

    Je Hones TS Rookie Topic Starter

    It's fixed! As in, the audio crackle problem. I just did a repair install of Windows and everything is as it should be in that department. I probably could have done without buying the new PSU now that I think about it. It misled me all along.

    I still get the monitor problem with this new PSU when I boot up though. I'm going to ring the shop tomorrow and explain what's going on then see what they'll do about it. I actually think the old 500w PSU would work with this computer now, although I think it'd be prudent to keep a 750w one installed, providing it works as it should. I'll see what they say on the phone. They might offer me a different PSU or have a solution to the problem with this one.

    Thanks again for all your help.
  15. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,007   +18

    You're welcome, glad it worked out for you.

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