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Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Fri Jul 27, 2018 12:58 pm

I've had an Asus Xonar STX installed on my machine for about five years now. I haven't had any problems with it until last week. I am no longer getting audio from my headphone output jack or the two RCA output jacks. I can get audio from the SPDIF through a external DAC. I am wondering if components in sound cards eventually wear out and if so can repairs be done by replacing components? I'm recalling the STX had some features like exhangeable op-amps, so I'm not sure what's occuring could be explained by a failure at on the circuit board necessitating full replacement. Is there any way to better identify where the failure is occuring and how/if there is a way to fix it?

I know the headphones work, and my system hasn't had any significant changes in drivers or hardware in ages, and in the 'playback devices' explorer window I have the correct audio device selected. When I playback some audio the volume meter indicates it's going through, and well, just one day I stopped getting audio through my headphones that are connected to the STX's headphone jack; no accident/event I can think of to explain such an occurrence.

Usually I'd just go spend a lot of time doing my own research to figure things, but I've been absent from system building and tech in general for years now due to medical issues that take all of my attention. I am hoping someone might be able to point me in the right direction for a fix that doesn't involve purchasing a new sound card.
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Fri Jul 27, 2018 1:29 pm

Aside from capacitors drying out eventually, no there should not be anything on a sound card that wears out.

Drying capacitors generally wouldn't cause a sudden failure; it would more likely result in a gradual degradation of fidelity. In any case, the card isn't old enough for that to be an issue yet, unless the capacitors were defective to begin with (in which case they would've probably failed long before now).

This really sounds more like a software (driver) issue. Did the problem start after a Windows update? Have you tried reinstalling the drivers for the card? You could also try booting a live Linux distro from a thumbdrive; if you can get sound with that, then it rules out a hardware problem.

Since the card has replaceable op-amps, I suppose you could try replacing them. IMO it is rather unlikely that the op-amps are the issue, but it could explain why you still get output via SPDIF but can't get analog to work (since the op-amps are only in the analog signal path).
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Fri Jul 27, 2018 2:54 pm

Do you happen to have an Nvidia card? Just this week my Nvidia HDMI audio driver grabbed control and would NOT let go until I disabled the device. I assume this is related to the ability to stream to my Shield TV because I don't use (and never have) any video OR audio through HDMI on the PC.
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Fri Jul 27, 2018 3:21 pm

Remove the Xonar under device manager (uninstall device), then Action > scan for hardware changes.

Sound cards don't just partially give up like that; JBI is right.

Just curious - do you need the soundcard for something specific, like analogue capture, high-impedence headphones or something else unusual? I only ask because the largest improvement to sound quality on PCs and laptops is to get the DAC portion of the sound system away from the rest of the electronics. Modern motherboards are better than they used to be but no matter how you slice it, there's a lot of EMI inside a PC case.
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Fri Jul 27, 2018 3:42 pm

Its the capacitor, do you smell the tell-tale electrical burn smell? Any caps bulging at the top? Or have dark leakage seeping out from the top? JBI is indeed right, hardware components rarely go bad, but caps are 90% of hardware issues. Caps *usually* die a long death, you'll get rising noise, one channel might fade in and out, et c. I have an older Lexicon USB interface and it started fading, static, noise level began rising. I opened it up, found the main power cap was bulging and could smell that smell. I waiting on my replacement cap now (a Nichicon with the same cap value), can't wait to solder it on and be proud of my junior grade electrical work!
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Fri Jul 27, 2018 4:04 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
Remove the Xonar under device manager (uninstall device), then Action > scan for hardware changes.

Sound cards don't just partially give up like that; JBI is right.

Just curious - do you need the soundcard for something specific, like analogue capture, high-impedence headphones or something else unusual? I only ask because the largest improvement to sound quality on PCs and laptops is to get the DAC portion of the sound system away from the rest of the electronics. Modern motherboards are better than they used to be but no matter how you slice it, there's a lot of EMI inside a PC case.


Uninstalling and reinstalling worked. Thank you. I feel sheepish for not thinking of doing this myself. It's been so long since I've worked on this stuff I've started to forget some basics.

Part of the reason I got the STX is that it has an EMI shield. And I did have some unusual audio demands that had me wanting to offload audio to a dedicated processor. At one point I was doing some acrobatics with Virtual Audio Cable and capturing gameplay both on consoles and PC and I'm remembering the STX offered advantages to some of the problems I had to overcome. Mostly I got it because it was well-reviewed and I had poor experiences with motherboard audio I wanted to avoid when building my current system. Namely I needed a SPDIF output that could handle Dolby Digital Live while also offering an internal virtual surround for some of my favorite PC titles and quality playback for music via headphones.
Last edited by LastQuestion on Fri Jul 27, 2018 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Fri Jul 27, 2018 4:06 pm

Thank you all for your time and suggestions. It's been a help being able to get this quickly resolved.
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sat Jul 28, 2018 1:09 pm

Well, the sound came back initially the other day after uninstalling and reinstalling via device manager, but now it's gone and repeating those steps isn't working. Will start looking at drivers and other software changes....this is weird.
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sat Jul 28, 2018 1:48 pm

LastQuestion wrote:
Well, the sound came back initially the other day after uninstalling and reinstalling via device manager, but now it's gone and repeating those steps isn't working. Will start looking at drivers and other software changes....this is weird.

Sounds like Windows is finding a newer driver (which also breaks it) and then updating it automatically. You might need to force it to a different driver version in the Device Manager.
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sat Jul 28, 2018 2:28 pm

MOSFET wrote:
Do you happen to have an Nvidia card? Just this week my Nvidia HDMI audio driver grabbed control and would NOT let go until I disabled the device. I assume this is related to the ability to stream to my Shield TV because I don't use (and never have) any video OR audio through HDMI on the PC.


I do have an nvidia card. I disabled the "High Definition Audio Device" in Device Manager and it had no effect on the audio problem. Did you do something different? And, did this happen after updating nvidia drivers or just happen suddenly without any clear trigger?
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sat Jul 28, 2018 2:36 pm

ludi wrote:
LastQuestion wrote:
Well, the sound came back initially the other day after uninstalling and reinstalling via device manager, but now it's gone and repeating those steps isn't working. Will start looking at drivers and other software changes....this is weird.

Sounds like Windows is finding a newer driver (which also breaks it) and then updating it automatically. You might need to force it to a different driver version in the Device Manager.


I uninstalled the STX driver, and after rebooting Windows (WIn 7 64) couldn't recognize the STX because it apparently doesn't have any capacity to find a driver to match with it. I have to install the driver manually, and in device manager the version and date are correct, so I don't think windows is changing the driver used by the STX. Even though the problem persists, that it changed back to normal for a time the other day after the uninstall/reinstall via device manager seems to confirm something software/driver related. Even so, at that time it started working again without changing any drivers, and reinstalling the driver for the STX didn't have any effect. Neither has disabling virtual audio cable, nvidias High Definition Audio device, or messing with just about every settings and config I could in the sound panel. This has me perplexed.
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:25 am

Update: I believe I've solved it. I came across this post: http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id- ... sound.html PastaActual said: "Solved: My sleeved MOLEX connector came undone and couldn't deliver power to amp. Reconnected power and everything runs fine.". So I unplugged the MOLEX and used another MOLEX connector on the same cable, and my Xonar STX works now. I unplugged that and plugged back in the original MOLEX and it also still works. I suspect maybe the card got unseated from the PCI-E slot just enough to affect some functions and plugging and uplugging the MOLEX was enough physical force to reseat it. That or something in the MOLEX somehow got loose, but the retention for the MOLEX is really tight, so it's hard to see how. Further, my case had some quirks that lead the PCI-E slots to not quite line up right in the vertical dimension with the cases support structures, so PCI-E cards aren't as snug a fit as they really should be.

I'd like to thank everyone here for the advise provided. It was helpful in figuring out what was going on.
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:28 am

Glad you solved it!
LastQuestion wrote:
Further, my case had some quirks that lead the PCI-E slots to not quite line up right in the vertical dimension with the cases support structures, so PCI-E cards aren't as snug a fit as they really should be.

Are the motherboard standoffs too tall?
 
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:33 am

Do you mean vertical relative to the surface of the motherboard, or relative to the case (in a tower-style case)?

Sometimes you can mitigate minor case alignment issues by slightly bending the slot bracket of the card.
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Re: Sound Card Issue, Would Appreciate Advise

Sun Aug 05, 2018 2:56 pm

it's something to do with the case. And I was able to get my build to work by doing both suggestions, of finding different motherboard standoffs and then getting the card brackets to bend a bit. it just...the surface of the PCI slots attachment points for the brackets is too high and isn't exactly perpendicular the motherboard. As a result, when fastened down the PCI-E connection comes in at a slight angle. My case is also a Silverstone FT02, so the orientation of the motherboard and PCI slots is slightly different than typical cases. They hang down vertically, lengthwise, from the PCI slot brackets as opposed to the lateral forces applied in most cases. Because the brackets are 'too high', fastening kind of pulls it out of the PCI-E slot a bit. I think that contributed. It's just a hypothesis though.

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