Windows XP Audio Playback - Setup Guide
Benchmark's Guide for Audio Playback using Windows XP
A simple guide to configure your computer for optimal audio quality
*this article was researched using Windows XP SP2. Some information in this article may not apply to different versions of this operating system, though most information can be applied to most versions of Windows XP. Email us to report any errors or discrepancies, or if you would like more information on this topic.
Overview: Windows XP Audio
Windows XP features dynamic output sample-rates and word-lengths. That is, it will automatically stream audio at the sample-rate of the audio file being played. This is important when you have audio files with different sample-rates. This avoids sample-rate conversion to a fixed sample rate set within the operating system, as sample-rate conversion often causes severe distortion.
Windows XP will transmit up to 96kHz, 24-bit audio bit-transparently (perfectly, bit-for-bit), when the media player, device, and OS settings are configured correctly. This article will guide you in properly configuring your operating system and media player.
Guide to Configuring Windows XP
Keep all digital volume controls at 'unity gain' (100% or 0.0 dB)
- This applies to digital volume controls in media players, XP's Master Volume Control, or any others
- The resulting output of Windows XP's Master Volume Control (found in 'Sound Properties') will match the word-length of the audio being streamed to it. This output is not properly dithered, and therefore not recommended for 16-bit audio playback (unless the media player used is set for 24-bit output, such as with FooBar2000).
- 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 "Sample rate conversion quality" to 'Best'
- If you apply the recommendations in this guide, you should be able to avoid sample-rate conversion. However, it is still a good idea to set this feature.
- To set this, open your "Sounds and Audio Devices" window from within the Control Panel, then continue as follows:
"Audio" tab -> "Sound Playback" -> "Advanced" -> "Performance" -> "Audio Playback" -> "Sample rate conversion" -> 'best'
- Read more about the effects of sample-rate conversion to see why this is important
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 and evoke sample-rate conversion.
- To turn system sounds off, open "Sounds and Audio Devices", which is located in the Control Panel. Continue as follows:
"Sounds" -> "Sound scheme" -> 'No Sounds'
- Read more about the effects of Kmixer, the Windows XP audio mixer, to see why this is important
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.
- Read more about the effects of DSP and plug-ins to see why this is important
Guide to configuring media players for Windows
- Follow the Media Players for Windows guide for setting your playback software
Articles about Computer Audio Setup
For more articles about specific media players and/or operating systems, see the Category:Setup Guides list of guides.