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  1. #1
    Star Lounger
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    Sound card issues

    I have a Dell Optiplex 780 running Win 10. When I first started using it sound was OK, but now the volume level is so low through my external speakers that the only way I hear sound is through the built-in speaker on the sound board and that is very, very soft. I can't hear YouTube audio.
    Headphones work just fine.
    Could this be a problem with the sound board?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    Have you considered using something like a Linux Live USB/disk to test the sound board outside of Win 10? If you get sound using a Linux distro then you know the problem is software-based, not hardware. Conversely, if you get a similar issue with a Live Linux USB/disk then this would point to hardware.

    Hope this helps...

  3. #3
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    Testing from a bootable flash drive or DVD makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to teach myself enough about Linux to get this to work.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamStamport
    Unfortunately, I do not have the time to teach myself enough about Linux to get this to work.
    1. Download distro, for example Linux Mint (Cinnamon) and create USB or burn to DVD. (The x32 ISO is 1.5 Gb)
    2. Click Start > Power then press and hold the Shift key before choosing Shutdown. (This is so you can get to your Dell's Boot menu options.)
    3. Use the F12 key at the Dell logo to pop up the Boot menu options and boot your Dell from the USB or DVD. This will load Linux Mint to run in 'Live' mode.
    4. Insert a music source - audio CD or USB stick with MP3's. The source device should automount and appear on the desktop.
    5. Double-click on the source to 'open' it and play something.
    6. When you have finished testing, close any windows then right-click on the music source on the desktop and select Eject to un-mount it again.

    Little or no learning required and, after creating the Linux Live media and booting from it, it should take less than 2 minutes to confirm whether the issue is hardware or software. Just don't double-click on the Install Linux Mint icon on the desktop!

    (I prefer Linux Mint Cinnamon because the desktop looks very similar to Windows and IMO is one of the easiest to use if you are new to Linux.)

    Hope this helps...
    Last edited by Rick Corbett; 2016-07-13 at 01:00.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    Check in the Control Panel whether there's a specific CP for your brand of soundcard chip, Realtek, for example.

    Several times in the past I've come across sound driver updates where the new driver sets different default outputs at the back, the CP for the soundcard (you might have to track down the full driver set or the CP/Rack to install it first) often has a simple method to switch the output back to the correct socket pairs/colours. Otherwise, it might be trial and error at the back of the PC to find the current outputs.

    If it is a Realtek, it looks like it's Driver only for W10, you might need to use the old CP/Rack - but your first port of call should be the Dell site and see what they have listed.

  6. #6
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    Thanks satrow, but the new driver did not fix the problem nor did swapping the cable to the other port.

    I've tried the Dell support site. It is of no help saying that they have no intention of supporting Win 10 on my machine.

    I'll work on Rick's Linux option.

  7. #7
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    Rick,

    I created the Linux boot disk and started it per your instructions. Unfortunately, the mp3 player is asking to install plugins. I attempted to install, but I'm lost here not knowing anything about Linux.

  8. #8
    WS Lounge VIP Calimanco's Avatar
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    Rather than try and fix the problem, you could install an inexpensive sound card, which will be an improvement on the existing onboard chip .

  9. #9
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    Thanks, Calimanco.

    The PC is still under warranty, but I was hoping I could prove to them that it was the card.

  10. #10
    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Did you try downloading and installing the audio driver?

    http://downloads.dell.com/audio/DRVR_WIN_R297758.EXE

    Also, since the headphones work fine, did you try plugging your speakers into the headphone jack? If that doesn't work, then your speakers may be bad, or perhaps your speaker cable.

  11. #11
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    I installed the driver. It had no effect.

    Plugging speakers into the front jack had no effect.

    I'll order new speakers. If they do not work I'll make a warranty claim.

    Thanks for helping.

  12. #12
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamStamport
    I created the Linux boot disk and started it per your instructions. Unfortunately, the mp3 player is asking to install plugins. I attempted to install, but I'm lost here not knowing anything about Linux.
    (You don't need to know anything about Linux. With the right Linux distro, it's easier than Windows IMO.)

    As you booted from a disk I'm going to assume you used a USB stick with one or more .MP3 files on it. It's a bit difficult to guess what you are seeing without any details or screenshots but I'm going to assume you experienced an error with the automatic download and installation of the required plugin. This usually happens if you don't have an internet connection so let's deal with this first.

    I know you don't want to have to 'learn any Linux' so the easiest way is to just click on the Firefox icon in the taskbar to open Firefox then see if you can get to external websites (or click on the Mint Menu > Internet > Firefox Web Browser).

    mint-firefox.png
    Click to enlarge

    If you can get to external web sites then you obviously have an internet connection so next do this:

    1. Click on Mint menu > Sound & Video > Install Multimedia Codecs:

    mint-install-codecs.png
    Click to enlarge

    You will get an error about a missing Release file (I guess the Mint packager forgot). Just click on the Close button and a few seconds later you should see a new dialog asking you to confirm whether you want to "Install additional software?" (***):

    mint-install-codecs-confirm.png
    Click to enlarge

    2. Just click on the Install button. The codec package should be downloaded and installed automatically. You won't have to decide where to put the files 'cos Linux will handle all that for you in the background.

    3. Try your .MP3 file(s) again and let us know how you get on. Alternatively, if you don't want to continue with the Linux Mint Live disk then that's fine.

    Hope this helps...

    *** Note: Downloaded codecs will be installed to the RAM disk that Mint is running from (not to your laptop's hard disk) and will disappear when you exit the Linux Mint Live environment.
    Last edited by Rick Corbett; 2016-07-13 at 14:51. Reason: corrected typo

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  14. #13
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    Rick,

    Thanks so much for your patience & "hand-holding"!

    I was able to update & start the player successfully under Linux this time and there was no sound. Does this rule out a problem with the sound card and point to the speakers or a speaker cable problem?

  15. #14
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    If sound worked normally using Linux Mint then this would show that the issue was not hardware-related but, instead, something to do with software, either the Windows 10 OS itself (which has several media codecs built-in) or a driver for the sound card.

    Unfortunately, given what you have already tried in Windows and as there was no sound using Linux Mint either, the issue is likely to be hardware-related.

    I don't know of a way to determine further without substitution, i.e. by disconnecting/reconnecting cables to audio port(s) and replacing hardware elements one-by-one (cables, speakers, etc.) to see if there is any improvement.

  16. #15
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    Dell machines come with built in diagnostics, also an online one.

    http://www.dell.com/support/article/us/en/19/SLN114988

    However, if you don't have a red cross on the system tray icon, the card may have an Audio Manager.

    My Toshiba laptop uses Realtek and going Start - typing realtek highlights Realtek HD Audio Manager where you get a range of options to improve the sound quality and volume.

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