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Headphone / Speaker Jack Produces Distorted Audio


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Headphone / Speaker Jack Produces Distorted Audio

  • When I plug headphones into my headphone jack, the sound is distorted on my Latitude D830.  The headphones I am using are good headphones so that is not the issue.  They sound great out of any other device, including my brother's D820.
    After uninstalling the SigmaTel HD Audio Device CODEC driver and re-installing it, I discovered that if the headphones are in when the re-install takes place, the headphone audio is great.  However, as soon as I unplug my headphones, the next time I plug them in the distortion is back.
    I also tried something else.  I opened the playback devices window and played the same audio file over and over and watched the audio level.  With headphones unplugged the meter shows a nice, high level.  When I plug headphones in the quality is good for a split second, but as soon as it realizes the headphones are plugged in the audio level immediately drops and becomes distorted.  The meters also show a much lower level.  Is there a way I can get good audio from the headphone jack all the time?
  • Hello
    You can try removing the driver and then installing the driver back from support.dell.com
    Its a software issue and only updating can work.
    How is the Audio in the internal speakers
  • The driver for my sound device does not appear to be on the Dell Support website.  They have the driver for the STAC 92XX C-Major HD Audio but thats not the same as mine I dont think.  Can anyone give me a link to the driver I need because I can't find it anywhere.
    As far as I can tell the sound on my built-on speakers are okay, at least as good as you can expect laptop speakers to be anyway.  There doesn't sound like there is any distortion, but to be honest I have headphones plugged in right now and I don't want to unplug them because as soon as I do the headphone out will sound all distorted.
  • Can't supply a link until you supply your operating system name, but you can get it yourself by following the links starting at the 'Drivers and Downloads' link on the left, in the bottom section named 'Dell Support Tools'. You can use your Service Tag if you want to, or just follow the links.

    It is the STAC 92XX C-Major HD.

    For XP it is the R153908 (
    Vista is the R153910 (

    To see drivers for other OS's, find the OS in the dropdown box in the links.


    Jim Coates -- 14th year on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

  • Thank you.  Sorry about not stating my operating system (Vista 32-bit).
    I uninstalled the driver, the re-installed it using the downloaded update from Dell's support website.  When I uninstalled I checked the box that says "Delete the driver software for this device." However, after restarting the computer the sound from the headphone jack is still very poor.  The level is fairly low and as I mentioned origianlly, distorted as well.
    This definately seems to be a software issue, and I have the latest software according to Dell, so there's really nothing more I can do is there?  Should I try installing the older driver (the one found under the Latitude D820 with Vista 32-bit page) since my brother's headphone out of his D820 works great?

    Message Edited by MLabuda on 08-03-2007 10:06 PM
  • It can't hurt to try a different driver. Just create a restore point first. If the driver fails use 'rollback driver ' to eliminate it. The wrong driver usually will just fail to install.

    About whether it's a software problem. The jacks in the models with the STAC92xxHD chip use Universal Jacks technology. These 'sense' a plug insertion and reconfigure the jack accordingly. I believe this is based on impedance sensing. The input jack can configure between line-in and mic-in, and the output jack between line-out and headphone. And the jacks' usage can be reassigned entirely. Sigmatel (which is now made by IDT)calls this 'retasking'.

    The sensing part of this is electronic, and the reconfiguration part is software that is triggered by the sensing, so it's complicated. I believe a software issue here can be caused by a sensing malfunction.

    I don't know if that is the case in your situation, but it could be that when you install a driver the configuration is properly set, but becomes misconfigured when replugging causes a bad sensor circuit to trigger an incorrest configuration. If the jack is reconfiguring as line-out and shuts off the headphone amplifier, it could result in a low signal, but I don't know why it would distort. One would suspect distortion as a result of too much gain.

    Normally I'd say to run the audio test part of Dell Diagnostics to confirm that there is a hardware problem, but we have seen that these Universal Jacks can cause a false result in Diagnostics. That is because Diagnostics operates in dos, outside of Windows, where a software misconfiruation is irrelevant even though it is caused by hardware. So the audio test can pass in Diagnostics, correctly signaling a software problem, but missing that a hardware problem is the root cause. In these instances the only reliable diagnostic procedure might be to try a new motherboard. In other words, it can be tough to diagnose.

    Anyway, just something to think about if you can't find a software solution.


    Jim Coates -- 14th year on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

  • jimco thank you very much for you help.  Just when I thought I knew everything about computers. :smileyhappy:
    The cause of this problem for the D830 is in the driver software.  There isn't anything physically wrong with the chip or the jack, but rather in the driver software that tells it how to operate.
    My suggestion to anyone with a Latitude D830 and Vista that has poor sound quality when using headphones or external speakers is to follow these steps:
    1. Verify you have latest version of the SigmaTel driver by opening Device Manager (just search for it in the start menu).  In Device Manager expand the Sound, Video and Game Controllers tree and right-click the SigmaTel device and select Properties. Under the Driver tab look at the version number.  For a Latitude D830 with Vista the "latest" driver, which didn't work well for me, is version
    2.  If sound quality from the headphone/line out jack is still poor, try doing what did work for me:  download and install the version of the driver that is intended for Windows XP (  Under Driver & Downloads on the Dell support page select the Latitude D830 as your product, then choose Windows XP as the operating system.  Expand the audio tree to find the SigmaTel version driver, then follow the instructions on the webpage to download and install the driver.
    PLEASE NOTE: Installing the XP driver should fix the headphone/line-out jack sound quality issue, but it will also change a few things as well.  First of all, it appears that the microphone jack is no longer recognized, so you can no longer hook up an external microphone.  The internal microphone, however, DOES still work.  Second, the SPDIF output interface is no longer recognized either.  If you don't need either of these options and you just want the option to use the internal mic, the built-in speakers, external speakers, or headphones, then try downloading version Worst case scenario is you revert back to version using "roll-back driver" or by downloading it off the website.
    TO DELL: PLEASE release a new driver that fixes the headphone out problem AND still allows you to plug in an external microphone.  It seems to me that there isnt a driver for the D830 that works at 100%.

    Message Edited by MLabuda on 08-05-2007 06:26 PM
  • As ridiculous as this sounds, I stubled upon a remedy from a fellow blogger.  In order to fix the sound on my Dell Inspiron laptop, power it down, then PULL THE BATTERY for 10 seconds, restart the computer, problem solved... for real!  

    Up to that point, I literally spent two days unistalling and reinstalling software and hardware, then 4 hours on the phone with a third party support service, who insisted it was defective hardware.  My persistence in seeking a solution paid off, and in this case unbelievably simple.

    Headphones now work well also!  Give it a try!