PC/Windows Audio Path - who does what?


Posts: 805   +1,109
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My desktop motherboard has a Realtek sound chip (with accompanying driver) with a mixed reputation. That sound chip connects (at least) to the analog sound outputs on the mobo, and when I listen to something plugged in there I'm pretty clear I'm getting a Realtek sound experience.

But I've got other audio devices too, such as:
1. Bluetooth wireless headphones (ie Bose QC35 II, Sony 1000XM4)
2. USB-attached Arctis base station, which has its own low-latency signaling to its headphones
3. Monitor connected to nvidia GPU, which appears as its own audio output device

When I use these other output types, does the Realtek chip still have any role? The options in my Windows desktop UI don't appear to change, although I'm suspicious each independent sound processor all has the same options (or maybe they do if they're implemented completely in the windows o/s software anyway.)

I've had trouble finding clear information about all this, would maybe love an article from someone who works on audio applications or drivers and understands the actual internals of what happens end-to-end?


Posts: 526   +117
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The internal sound card will shut off if you start using the HDMI sound card from the Nvidia graphics card. Often those wireless headsets have their own digital sound card built into the headset. You will know if you look at the Device manager if another sound card pops up when you start using your headphones. That's completely normal. The PC sees you plug in headphones..it switches sound to that and you main sound card is quiet.

Someone like who is really into good sound on my PC I use EVGA Nu Audio card (Google it) and I use a really nice set of Corsair speakers that are not real loud but they are stunning in audio reproduction. Since I do IT work for a living I have customers in my repair room and only musicians notice the studio 'like' quality of my setup. Most people can't tell =(