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Windows 7 Audio Playback - Setup Guide

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Benchmark's Guide for Audio Playback using Windows 7

A simple guide to configure your computer for optimal audio quality

Logo copywrite of Microsoft.
Logo copywrite of Microsoft.




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Contents

Overview: Windows 7 Audio

Windows 7, like Windows Vista, requires the user to set the sample-rate for streaming audio. In contrast, Windows 2000 and XP simply streamed at the sample-rate inherent to the audio file and/or media player being used.

In our testing, we found evidence that Windows 7 converted the audio to the sample-rate that is set in the 'Properties' menu for the playback device, unless the rate is set to the sample-rate of the audio being played. However, the sample-rate conversion within Windows 7 performs extremely well, causing no detectable amounts of distortion (below -140 dBFS).

Unfortunately, certain computers seem to have trouble maintaining a steady USB stream when running Windows 7 (even computers that worked perfectly with XP and/or Vista). We have found that turning off the 'energy saving' options will reduce the amount of interruptions in the USB stream.

This article will guide you in properly configuring your operating system and media player.

Guide to Configuring Windows Vista

Follow Sweetwater's guide to Optimizing Windows 7

Turn off all energy saver options

  • This is only necessary if you are experiencing clicks and/or dropouts.
  • Go to:
Control Panel -> System and Security -> Power Options -> choose "High performance"

Turn-off operating system sounds

  • System sounds could compromise the quality of your audio (as well as being incredibly annoying!). They will interrupt bit-transparency and could cause clipping.
  • To turn system sounds off, open "Sounds", which is located in the Control Panel. Continue as follows:
Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Sound -> Sounds -> Sound scheme -> choose "No Sounds"

Keep all digital volume controls at 'unity gain' (100% or 0.0 dB)

  • This applies to digital volume controls in media players, Windows Volume Control, or any others
    • If any digital volume control is used, we recommend the Windows Volume Control, as it causes very little distortion
  • We recommend always using an analog volume control (post D-to-A)
  • Read more about the effects of digital volume control to see why this is important

Set "Default Format" to the highest sample rate and word length (bit depth) that your playback device is capable of (96 kHz for Benchmark USB interfaces)

  • Win 7 will convert the audio if the sample rate is not matched. However, the performance is of such quality that we still recommend this setting because it will maintain the highest bandwidth possible. To set this, right-click on the 'speaker' icon in the system tray (near the clock), choose "Playback Devices" and continue as follows:
"Playback" -> Select the device for which you would like to configure -> "Properties" -> "Advanced" -> "Default Format" -> change the sample rate to the appropriate setting.


Keep all DSP and plug-ins turned off

  • Certain players and devices have various audio effects such as "EQ", "Surround Sound Simulations", "Bass Boost" or "Sound Enhancer". It is highly recommended to disable all of these audio DSP and plug-ins.

Guide to configuring media players for Windows

  1. Follow the guide for setting up the Media Players for Windows that you use with Windows
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