Audio problems, imaginary center speaker

By Clint Emsley
Aug 13, 2012
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  1. I cannot find anything like this problem anywhere on the internet, but hopefully it's just something silly that I haven't found yet.

    I'm running Windows XP on an emachines netbook. My soundcard is a Realtek HD Audio. A few months ago, I started having a weird issue where all the audio sounded tinny and echoey. I tried a few different pairs of headphones to no avail. Upon updating my drivers, the sound was less echoey but still very tinny. After playing around with it for a while, I found that if I changed the balance all the way to the left OR to the right in the volume controls, I was able to get normal full audio in both headphones. The catch was that I had no stereo definition at all.

    I let it go like this for a few months but recently I decided to fix it for real instead of the strange fake solution of changing the balance. I've uninstalled the drivers completely and reinstalled the newest version from emachines, as well as the newest version from Realtek. I tried a very OLD version of the driver as well, but I still get the same issue.

    I was playing around in the Realtek control panel and found that turning off Dolby Surround Sound made the sound quality better, but I still have to put the balance on the left or right to get any volume. I also used one of their diagnostics to test surround sound, and it appears that the driver somehow thinks I have a center speaker and two left/right speakers. Any sound in the center is very weak, any sound on the left or right comes through strong on both headphones.

    I have no idea what to do at this point, and I'm hoping someone else has had a similar issue. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


    I forgot to mention that this is only a problem when I plug in headphones. The built in speakers work just fine, with differentiated left/right channels and everything. It's just headphones.
  2. Doctor John

    Doctor John TS Enthusiast Posts: 204   +15

    Have you checked the settings in Control Panel/Sound & Audio/Volume/Speaker Settings (Advanced)? If you have 5.1/7.1 etc. selected instead of basic Desktop Stereo Speakers selected, it might produce your symptoms?
    Also did you try different headphones?
    Hope this is some help. :)

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