Monday, August 26th 2019

Windows 10 1903 Has a Nasty Audio Stutter Bug Microsoft Hasn't Managed to Fix

Windows 10 May 2019 Update (version 1903) is the pinnacle of neglect and contempt Microsoft has shown towards the all-important audio subsystem of the modern PC. With it, Redmond has one-upped its last big move against audio, by killing the DirectSound hardware pipeline and mongrelizing PC audio under Intel's lousy and fundamentally anti-competitive Azalia specification that solves common audio compatibility problems under a scorched-earth guiding principle - "kill any feature that could possibly lick our aftersales support budget, by dumping every aspect of audio onto a very restrictive host-signal processing (HSP) architecture, let people come up with their own soft DSPs, because CPUs can handle them." Windows 1903 proves how this approach wasn't a silver bullet against PC audio problems, and is fallible.

I've never owned a PC without a discrete sound card. My first "multimedia PC experience" was powered by a Creative kit that included a Sound Blaster PCI, an Infra-CDROM drive, a clip-on mic, and tiny stereo speaker boxes. ISA-based integrated audio solutions back then were bested by greeting cards. I've since made it a habit to buy a sound card every 5 or so years. No gleaming SNR numbers by Realtek can convince me that an integrated audio solution can best a $100 discrete sound-card, and I've owned plenty of motherboards over the years with the most premium Azalia implementations (be it the ALC889 or the modern ALC1220). My current machines feature an ASUS Xonar AE (a bang-for-the-buck ESS ES9023P implementation with a 150 Ω amp), and a Creative SB Recon 3D. Both cards implement the Azalia pipeline at some level, to survive operating with post-Vista Windows. The SB Recon 3D uses a chip that converts PCIe to the HDA bus; while the Xonar AE uses a PCIe to USB chip and a USB (Azalia) to I2S chip (essentially a USB headset laid out on a sound card with a high-quality analog side). Both cards are borked after the "upgrade" to Windows 10 May 2019 Update (1903), and two successive "Patch Tuesday" updates haven't managed to solve it.

Symptoms
Audio stuttering and glitching, and lots of it. Think Winamp circa 1999 running on a Pentium 133 with its CPU priority toggle set to "low," and the CPU being subject to the rigors of Internet Explorer rendering Yahoo.com over a 56K PCI soft-MODEM. That bad! My AMD Ryzen 7 2700X has 8 cores and 32 GB of DDR4-2667 memory at its disposal, and yet iTunes playing back Apple Music Radio in the background with Google Chrome rendering Twitter is sufficient to send me 20 years back in time. My Intel Core i5-9400F doesn't fare any better.

What's Wrong
Drawing inspiration from the other world-famous Washingtonian product, the Boeing 737 MAX airplane, Microsoft introduced Windows 10 1903 with a boatload of insufficiently-documented under-the-hood changes. Some of these changes affect Deferred Procedure Call (DPC) tick-rate, causing spikes in DPC latency, affecting the audio pipeline. Focusrite beautifully summarized DPC affecting audio:
DPC (Deferred Procedure Call) is the operation that Windows uses to assign a priority to processes/drivers that run simultaneously in the same system. If processes that are involved in streaming audio aren't assigned high enough priority then various issues can occur since the audio will not be streamed correctly in 'real-time'. These can include pops/clicks, "glitchy" audio and device disconnections.
It goes on to postulate that outdated drivers for audio devices that have gone EOL (end of life) that aren't ready for dynamic DPC could effectively render your otherwise physically-perfect discrete sound cards unusable. "A common cause for DPC latency is out of date device drivers and Windows processes that are not optimized correctly. Many processes/drivers are involved in streaming audio and many other processes/drivers can cause interruptions in the audio stream."

First Public Acknowledgment by Microsoft
Pete Brown, among other things, heads client-segment audio hardware user-experience at Microsoft, and Tweeted the first acknowledgment by Microsoft that it screwed up:
In the above Tweet, Pete posted a link to an Update applicable to Windows 1903 chronicled under KB4505903. This update was touted to fix audio glitches, and would go on to be part of the August Patch Tuesday rollout (you can separately download it here).

Did the Patch Work?
No. At least not in case of my sound cards. ASUS and Creative are possibly the last two discrete sound-card manufacturers with extensive lineups of discrete audio solutions in various form-factors (internal cards, external USB boxes, USB headsets, etc.), and even they haven't begun unpacking the mess that is 1903. The two have dozens of EOL sound cards between them (many still in the retail channel), and haven't updated their Windows 10-compatible drivers in years. My Xonar AE isn't EOL, yet. Realtek released updated HD Audio drivers for both its UAD and legacy driver-models. Most online tech communities simply advocate updating these single-origin Realtek drivers, and with KB4505903, the overwhelming majority of PC users who listen to Realtek CODECs have possibly solved their audio problems, prompting Pete's team to call it a day. But those on discrete audio solutions that don't get driver updates as regularly as Realtek CODECs do, are shortchanged. Pandering to "creators" no more?

What You can Try
If you want to take Microsoft's approach to solving problems (scorched earth) and absolutely, positively want your audio to work (maybe because you're a music composer whose discrete audio hardware puts food on the table), then paste the following line in an elevated Command Prompt and hit Enter (and reboot):
BCDEDIT /SET DISABLEDYNAMICTICK YES
And when Pete's team has finally figured out how to use a discrete sound card, and released a patch that works, you can revert the above change to let Windows 1903 function as intended:
BCDEDIT /SET DISABLEDYNAMICTICK NO
Or you can just disconnect your studio rig from the Internet, flick on CSM, and install Windows XP SP3 x64 over multi-boot.
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169 Comments on Windows 10 1903 Has a Nasty Audio Stutter Bug Microsoft Hasn't Managed to Fix

#126
Felipe Toledo G Andrade
Makaveli
Windows XP eww hope that computer is not connected to the internet.
It is connected, but I only use it when needed.
Its actually a very good machine for XP(Pentium E5800, 2GB DDR400 dual channel, HD 1TB WD Black, Radeon HD3850 AGP, Asus P5PE-VM mobo...)Connected to a Pioneer receiver...
I run every game from 2001 thru 2010 really well...
Posted on Reply
#127
INSTG8R
Vanguard Beta Tester
I guess maybe this is an onboard issue because never experienced anything of the sort on my SB ZX and it’s still running 2017 drivers(thanks Creative...)
Posted on Reply
#128
R-T-B
trparky
When most Realtek stuff gets within 95% to 98% of that excellence, it's usually good enough for me.
But not for him... and that's perfectly ok. People prefer different things man.
Posted on Reply
#129
karateca
mahoney
My friend has these issues on his brand new ryzen build which also include kernel power error 41 reboots(pc restarting during gaming and even at idle), crazy high latency and the ridicilous audio cracking.

[MEDIA=imgur]FZROUzq[/MEDIA]
Hi, i have the same issue, you know how can resolve that problem. This problem make me cryzy dude, thx.
Posted on Reply
#130
mahoney
karateca
Hi, i have the same issue, you know how can resolve that problem. This problem make me cryzy dude, thx.
Still not resolved. He's already sent it back for RMA
Posted on Reply
#131
SystemMechanic
Chomiq
Thing is, if you want a dac/amp with mic input you have very limited selection and using dedicated sound card like the ones from Asus or Creative is often the only solution.

That being said I just checked a review of Creative's BlasterX AE-5 and when it comes to mic input I hear no improvement from ALC1220 on my new board. Same amount of low noise static with gain enabled.
you know you can buy a usb mic right..Yeti blue for example.
Posted on Reply
#132
Chomiq
SystemMechanic
you know you can buy a usb mic right..Yeti blue for example.
Yeah that's perfect for online gaming... not.
Posted on Reply
#133
mahoney
mahoney
Still not resolved. He's already sent it back for RMA
Update:
Received new board and cpu. No more issues with latency and audio crackling
Posted on Reply
#134
lexluthermiester
mahoney
Update:
Received new board and cpu. No more issues with latency and audio crackling
Very cool. Glad you're up and running!
Posted on Reply
#135
Cidious
mahoney
Update:
Received new board and cpu. No more issues with latency and audio crackling
You're saying it was your motherboard or cpu?

I am going to swap out my motherboard for a MAX variant for Ryzen 3000. Same model otherwise. Let's see. I can hardly believe so many people have broken motherboards...
Posted on Reply
#136
mahoney
Cidious
You're saying it was your motherboard or cpu?

I am going to swap out my motherboard for a MAX variant for Ryzen 3000. Same model otherwise. Let's see. I can hardly believe so many people have broken motherboards...
He shipped back his mobo,cpu,psu and ram. Was a new build. Some of the issues were crackling sound, kernel power error reboots, bios was buggy (xmp profile was showing 3500mhz instead of 3600mhz), latency issues. They replaced the cpu and motherboard. We've been testing it for a few hours yesterday and had no issues. I have no clue what was the problem with the cpu that they had to replace it.
Posted on Reply
#137
potato580+
window 10 need rollback to window 7, or even xp, just have to say it :)
Posted on Reply
#138
trparky
potato580+
window 10 need rollback to window 7, or even xp, just have to say it :)
I can possibly agree with Windows 7 but Windows XP? Please, don't say that again for I might lose my lunch. Who signed off on that godawful Luna theme? It made Windows look like Fisher-Price.

Now if they could go back to Windows 7's systems and keep most of the GUI changes I would agree with you as well. The Action Center needs to stay, how Bluetooth devices and multiple sound cards are handled needs to stay, the multiple monitor support where you can put a taskbar on secondary monitors without the need for DisplayFusion needs to stay, and yes... people are going to scream bloody murder over this. The Windows Store and DirectX 12 needs to stay as well. I actually like a number of apps from the Windows Store including the Calculator, yes... the Calculator since it can be updated without pushing out a big update to the whole OS. I can't help it, I like how the Calculator has all those unit conversions. How else am I supposed to convert Celcius to Fahrenheit in a few seconds.
Posted on Reply
#139
killster1
Chomiq
Yeah that's perfect for online gaming... not.
my boy has lots of diff headphones with mic's but he chooses to use the usb yetti for his mic, i have no idea what would be wrong with it ?
Posted on Reply
#140
lexluthermiester
trparky
Who signed off on that godawful Luna theme? It made Windows look like Fisher-Price.
Back then it looked good. Some people still like it.
trparky
Now if they could go back to Windows 7's systems and keep most of the GUI changes I would agree with you as well.
Oh heck no. The Windows 10 GUI is part of what makes it crap. No thank you...
trparky
The Action Center needs to stay
Gotta disagree there as well. Action Center is annoying and one of the first things disabled after installing 10.
trparky
how Bluetooth devices and multiple sound cards are handled needs to stay,
This we agree on!
trparky
the multiple monitor support where you can put a taskbar on secondary monitors without the need for DisplayFusion needs to stay, and yes... people are going to scream bloody murder over this.
That's another annoyance. The taskbar on both/all screens is superfluous, an irritation and a waste of screen real-estate. So yes the lack of taskbar on additional screens is an aspect of Windows 7 that I like.
Posted on Reply
#141
trparky
lexluthermiester
That's another annoyance. The taskbar on both/all screens is superfluous, an irritation and a waste of screen real-estate. So yes the lack of taskbar on additional screens is an aspect of Windows 7 that I like.
Disagree! I find that having a taskbar on secondary monitors adds to my productivity.

I love how all I need to do is press Windows Key+K and I can reconnect to previously connected Bluetooth headphones with ease. In Windows 7 this was a complete pain, no wonder why using Bluetooth headphones weren’t that popular back then.

That and having native AptX high definition Bluetooth audio also helps tremendously.
Posted on Reply
#142
lexluthermiester
trparky
Disagree! I find that having a taskbar on secondary monitors adds to my productivity.
Doesn't do anything for me. I find it gets in the way more often than not in 10. But everyone has a different way of and style of computing. This is why I feel Microsoft needs desperately to focus on customizations and giving us users the choice as to how, when and why things work.
trparky
I love how all I need to do is press Windows Key+K and I can reconnect to previously connected Bluetooth headphones with ease. In Windows 7 this was a complete pain, no wonder why using Bluetooth headphones weren’t that popular back then.

That and having native AptX high definition Bluetooth audio also helps tremendously.
On this we agree completely!
Posted on Reply
#143
trparky
Even while sitting at my desktop I'll use Bluetooth headphones, I love not being tethered with a wire. Yes, I know... the audiophiles will call me some kind of heretic and other such nonsense but as with all things, you have to trade something for usability and convenience. With AptX Bluetooth audio became a lot better than previous generations of Bluetooth audio. Even me with my ears that I blasted while sitting next to loudspeakers in my youth can hear the difference; much of the high frequencies have more definition and the lower frequencies have more punch.

This is why I have no problems with how many of the smartphone manufacturers including Apple and Samsung are taking the headphone jacks out. I can already hear the audiophiles sitting up and getting ready to call me all sorts of names.
Posted on Reply
#144
lexluthermiester
trparky
Even while sitting at my desktop I'll use Bluetooth headphones, I love not being tethered with a wire. Yes, I know... the audiophiles will call me some kind of heretic and other such nonsense
I'm not going to say that. Current gen Bluetooth sounds very good(and has since BT3.1 IIRC). My issue is that the batteries run down too fast.. With a set of corded headphones I don't have to worry about the charge going dead and the system switching back to the stereo system in the middle of the night. When I get an insomnia episode, I'll sit down to a gaming session and just jam. I generally play at a decently loud volume so it has to stay quiet for the rest of the household. BTHP's disconnecting suddenly is completely unacceptable.

But I digress, we're WAY off topic...
Posted on Reply
#145
Octopuss
Chomiq
Yeah that's perfect for online gaming... not.
Why not? I have Samson C01U and have been using it for years while playing online stuff.
Posted on Reply
#146
trparky
Well, I can finally say that one of those Windows Updates broke my system. KB4517211 (18362.387) left the Action Center completely broken along with the Bluetooth reconnect pane when you press Windows Key+K. I've since put a pause on updates until November 3rd to give Microsoft some time to fix this shit because this last update broke some really important OS functionality for me.

I had to uninstall the update for my system to function properly again.
Posted on Reply
#147
lexluthermiester
trparky
Well, I can finally say that one of those Windows Updates broke my system. KB4517211 (18362.387) left the Action Center completely broken along with the Bluetooth reconnect pane when you press Windows Key+K. I've since put a pause on updates until November 3rd to give Microsoft some time to fix this shit because this last update broke some really important OS functionality for me.

I had to uninstall the update for my system to function properly again.
That sucks. I cringe every time I see/hear someone say something like this. So as you might imagine, I cringe alot. Glad you got it sorted out. :toast: You're lucky that you got it solved quickly, much of the time it's not so easy.
Posted on Reply
#148
trparky
I remember that it was the last thing I installed on my system so by the process of elimination, it had to be it that caused the issue. I went into the area where you can uninstall an update and when the system came back up those areas of the OS functioned again.
Posted on Reply
#149
lexluthermiester
trparky
I remember that it was the last thing I installed on my system so by the process of elimination, it had to be it that caused the issue. I went into the area where you can uninstall an update and when the system came back up those areas of the OS functioned again.
Nice. Usually troubleshooting is alot more involved.
Posted on Reply
#150
trparky
When you generally leave your system alone and you don't go tweaking crap all the time with new software, settings, and other various garbage it can help make narrowing down how and when problems crop up. I have my system configured the way I like it, no need to change it. I did install a new version of Visual Studio but that doesn't have any effect on core OS functionality.
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