Laptop computer Forums (Audio, General Hardware, Video)

Inspiron 2200 headphones sound has background noise

  • My new Inspiron 2200 has a nasty background noise when you listen to it from the headphones. It's much too loud, you have to turn it down really low to be able to listen to it (This makes me think that the headphones just reroute the sound output straight from the laptop speakers.).
    But even more annoying is the constant background hiss, even when sound is on mute. There's also a high pitched squealing which comes on and off randomly. And doing certain things on your computer, like using a scrollbar, makes a low pitched consistant humming noise.

    I would return it, as such terrible quality sound really lets down the rest of the laptop which is generally very sound (no pun intended), but it's past the 2 weeks you have to return it; it took me 3 weeks to try the headphones out because I hadn't copied my large music collection across before now, and my music is the only reason I have to listen on my headphones.

    Can anyone please help me with this? I know I'm not the only one to experience this problem. I can give a support ticket if anyone needs it.
    As I say apart from this it's a very good quality laptop and it's such a shame that such an otherwise excellent laptop has such a fundemental flaw. :(


    Message Edited by kestasjk on 08-23-2005 02:34 PM

  • While I have no solution to your immediate problem, one workaround seeing that you are very keen on listing the music is to get an external soundcard. This could either be an USB or a PCMCIA one.
    The audio quality will be far superior with the external soundcard versus the inbuilt one.
  • Hmm thanks for the input, but sound quality is one thing and a loud background hiss is another. I'm no sound buff, I can't tell the difference between 192kbps mp3 and CD quality sound, I can just tell when there's a hiss. So I don't think it would be worth the hassle to have to plug in a USB or PCMCIA sound card every time I want to avoid having an annoying background hiss which definently shouldn't be there in the first place.
    Basically I don't mind relatively bad quality sound in a budget laptop, but I don't expect a loud fuzzy background noise. I'd really like to see this fixed if at all possible and I think Dell should be responsible for this pretty major flaw in their otherwise solid Inspiron 2200.

    You seem to be a forum regular bacillus, haven't you seen anyone else with this problem? Something like this surely can't be a one off problem, other people must have complained about this and got it fixed?
    Thanks for the response, regards,
  • Kestas,

    Just curious, do you also have the noise when running on battery power?

    What is your make of audio, Sigmatel or Crystal? If Sigmatel you should be able to install another driver this way:

    > Go to Start/Control Panel/System/ Hardware tab, then click on Device Manager. Go down to Sound, Video, and Game controllers and right click on SigmaTel. Choose properties.
    > Go to the Driver tab and click on Update Driver.
    > Answer "No" to the Windows Update question.
    > Choose "Install From List or specific location".
    > Hit next and then choose "Don't Search, I will choose driver I want to install".
    > You will get a list of Sigmatel drivers. Uncheck the box that says "show compatible hardware".
    > Select Intel, and then select "Intel AC 97 Audio Controller". XP replaces the SigmaTel driver with the Intel AC97.
    > To reinstall the SigmaTel just select "Rollback Driver".

    If you have Crystal I'm not sure ... try rolling back the driver and see if the Intal replaces it.


    Jim Coates -- senior forum member

  • Hi jimco, unfortunately yes the sound is still there when I'm using battery power, and it's also still there using the AC97 driver.
    Dell support have offered to replace my motherboard but I get the feeling this is a problem with all 2200 motherboards.

    The volume is much much too loud when using headphones, and in Sound>Advanced tab you can only select the 'Desktop speaker' configuration. This leads me to believe that sound for headphones is just rerouted straight from the output to the speakers.

    If the volume was lowered at the hardware level perhaps the hiss would become unnoticeably quiet, but I don't think there's a problem with my motherboard alone which stops headphone output from being lowered, it must be a problem with all 2200 motherboards.

    If you have any suggestions for dealing with Dell to get this rectified and not just replace this faulty motherboard with another faulty motherboard, or any other suggestions at all, please let me know. I'm fine with transferring music to my iPod to listen to it but this problem is really noticeable when watching DVDs. :(
    Thanks very much for the support, regards,
  • Oh and yes it's a sigmatel chipset.
  • I think you are just going to have to go through channels with this. I'm not saying you are wrong, but you present no basis other than your feeling that a new motherboard will have the same defect. It might, but you have to wait until you get the new one before you can reject it as being an inadequate solution from Dell. I'm sorry but I don't see what else can be done for now. One step at a time. You might even have to let Dell put in several motherboard replacements before you will be able to get them to try some other solution.


    Jim Coates -- senior forum member

  • Fair enough jimco, thanks for the support.

    While I'm here I have an 8-cell lithium ion battery and I'm worried about it degrading over time, battery life is quite important to me.
    I know some batteries have to be drained every couple of weeks to keep them healthy but I think I might have read somewhere that lithium ion batteries don't require this? Is this true? Are there any steps I should take to keep by Li-Ion battery in good condition?

    Thanks for the help, regards,
  • > I'm not saying you are wrong, but you present no basis other than your feeling that a
    > new motherboard will have the same defect. It might, but you have to wait until you
    > get the new one before you can reject it as being an inadequate solution from Dell.
    Hmm in response to this the basis for my feeling that replacing the motherboard won't do much is that the problem seems to be stemming from the fact that the volume isn't getting turned down at all. I can't see how a faulty chipset could be to blame for this.
  • Kestas,

    I don't know what you mean by a chipset fault. They would replace the mb in order to replace a pressumed faulty integrated audio system with a new one. The Sigmatel is a 48 pin chip on the mb that contains the headphone amplifier and its gain controls. It's hardly illogical to try replacing this audio component, and Dell's way of doing that is to replace the mb.


    Jim Coates -- senior forum member

  • Well I don't know anything about chipsets or the faults which can occur in them, but I don't see how there could be a fault with a chipset which causes the headphone output volume to be much larger than it should be. I'll get the board replaced though, and let you all know how it goes, but I'm skeptical.
    What'll happen/What should I do if I get the board replaced and the problem persists?

    I hope you're right though jimco, :) regards,
  • Kestas,

    I don't understand where you think the problem is ... software? If you think it is a hardware problem then replacing the mb covers everything. Of course a replacement mb could also be defective so you should just let Dell keep replacing mb's until they get tired of doing that. At some point they will have to come up with another solution if replacing mb's doesn't work.

    I'm not getting what else would you have them do. When they replace the mb they will essentially be replacing your computer with a new one. I'm not an apologist for Dell by any means, just don't see anything more that can be done on the hardware level.


    Jim Coates -- senior forum member

  • Software can't be the problem jimco, it happens regardless of driver and even OS. My point is that I think this is a hardware problem, but I think that the hardware problem is present on all Inspiron 2200 motherboards. If this is the case then replacing it won't help.

    Another example; say the hard disk which came with my Inspiron 2200 had no cache on it. There would be 2 possibilities;
    - That all Inspiron 2200 hard disks have no cache, or
    - That my laptops hard disk, by some amazing chance, managed to be put together so poorly that the cache was left out, yet it still miraculously managed to work without it as if it had been designed to do so.

    It seems so unlikely that a piece of hardware as complex as a sound chipset would malfunction so badly that sound outputted to the headphones isn't scaled down in volume, yet the chipset works fine in every other respect.
    If you weigh up the chances that
    a) my chipset is malfunctioning, yet somehow manages to work *as if* it was designed that way, or
    b) that all Inspiron 2200 sound chipsets are *were* designed that way to cut costs
    I'm going to have to go with B.

    Sorry if I'm not being clear I'm trying to make it as clear as I can but I'm not a good writer.
    As I said I'll be getting the board replaced just in case it is a problem with my sound card on my motherboard alone, but I doubt a problem like this would occur only on my motherboard.. We'll see anyway. As I said I hope you're right jimco as it means I could have good headphone sound once it gets replaced, but I'm skeptical that it's a unique problem with my motherboard alone.

  • Kestas,

    Since most of these Inspirons use the same Sigmatel chip and since some of them prove to be defective now and then, I would put the odds on it being a bad chip if it is indeed a hardware problem.
    Good luck with it and please keep us (or me at least) informed on developments.


    Jim Coates -- senior forum member

  • Unfortunately the problem is still there even after getting my motherboard replaced. :(

    I was toldby a Dell support representative *after having replaced the motherboard* that this problem actually is present on all Dell Inspiron 2200 motherboards like mine and it's currently being resolved, and they'll replace it with a revised motherboard in November when it's completed.

    What's annoying is that not only could the support representative have found out that the motherboard was being revised for this very problem before calling a technician to get it replaced, but that I even suggested to him that the problem was probably not specific to my motherboard before he called a technician to get it replaced! He could have at least checked up on it before sending one out after I had suggested it to him myself!

    This wasn't so much of a problem for me as I have the on-site support where they send a technician to you; if I had had to have sent my system away, get the board replaced, and get it sent back weeks later replaced with another defective board, only to find that Dell is revising the motherboard for this very problem, and being told this by the same support representative to whom I suggested this would happen, I would be really irritated.

    My frustration isn't directed at you of course jimco ;) but perhaps someone from Dell support will see this and stop it from happening again. I'll let you know how the revised motherboards are in November.