Knowledge - Details
Date Added: 5/28/2023
When you plug a speaker, mixer, or other digital audio device into a computer's USB port, the sound that comes out is intermittent, staticy, and terrible. The audio might sound normal for 1-3 seconds when you first plug in the device, but it becomes ugly almost immediately. The computer's built-in speakers and analog audio out the headphone port both work fine, so you know your audio source and sound equipment is not at fault.
Intel Smart Sound. It's apparently a chipset feature that is supposed to automatically and invisibly improve sound quality, but in my experience, it's completely broken and offers no way to control or disable it. Updating drivers did not help me, and none of the Windows audio settings made any difference. If you see Intel Smart Sound Technology in your Device Manager and have already tried all the usual troubleshooting steps, this is likely your culprit.
Open Device Manager, right click on Intel Smart Sound Technology, and disable it. Reboot. The sound should be perfect now through both the USB and headphone ports.
ALTERNATE WORK AROUNDS:
1) You can keep Intel Smart Sound enabled this way. Plug a powered USB hub into the computer, and plug the audio device into that hub. The computer will still be outputting digital audio, but somehow, this prevents Intel Smart Sound from recognizing that it's supposed to interfere, so the sound comes out normally and nicely. The downside is you have to buy the extra hub and have extra cables and complexity.
2) Use a different computer which lacks Intel Smart Sound.
3) Boot into Ubuntu. In my test, this worked fine and helped me confirm that this was a software/driver issue, not hardware. Apparently, Intel Smart Sound is only broken/active in Windows.
Disclaimer: Everything on this website is written for my own use. I disclaim any guarantees that the procedures and advice listed here are accurate, safe, or beneficial for anyone else. If you attempt to follow any procedures or advice shared here, you do it at your own risk. Part of IT work is knowing how to recover from problems.