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Larry Osterman: Windows 7 Audio - What's New

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The great Larry Osterman discusses what excites him most about Windows 7's new audio features. Of course, we talk about all things audio as Larry is a 24 year veteran of Microsoft and best known as the developer who makes Windows go ding.  He's also an avid blogger.

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  • BasBas It finds lightbulbs.
    I really don't get the problem described in the beginning of the video. If I plug in headphones, I get sound over my headphones and the speakers cut out. If I pull the headphones out, I get sound over my speakers again. I've never had a dialog saying something went wrong. Not in Vista, nor in XP, and I can't recall seeing it happen in earlier versions of Windows either. So what is this solving?
  • Me too, Bas.  With that said, the "communication default" definitely makes sense.
  • Nice to see Larry on again.

    Just switched audio between my onboard AC97 chipset and my Audigy, with this video running.  Normally you'd have to start up the video again, but on 6801 it keeps on going. Smiley Nice.

    @Bas depends on the hardware, if you've got a headphone out jack on a soundcard or an amp, it'll switch over in hardware.  If I understand right - if this is handled in software you could even with headphones plugged in - switch over to speakers, which you can't do if its handled in hardware on the soundcard or amp.  Then of course you've got USB and Bluetooth devices, which the bulk of this I suspect is aimed at.

  • I just don't have a free hour, but subject is very exciting. Please, make videos shorter.
  • Thank you very much Charles and Larry for this video!


  • Tom StackTyphoon87 Facilitator of our reality
    There is a typo in the link of his name. it goes to madn.com
  • CharlesCharles Welcome Change
    Fixed... Been a long week.
    C
  • @Bas, as daSmirnov already mentioned muting /unmuting your rear audio jack when you plug in to front ports is handled by device, not by your OS.
    Earlier your OS never realised what kind of audio play back system you have. And it played all audio through the default device you have out there. Now what I can imagine is you can decide which audio stream goes where.. In Vista you were able to see what audio streams are out there, and choose the individual volume, if the legend continues in W7 we will have an option to choose which play back device will get a perticular stream. That is what Larry mentioned when he said "this bluetooth thing will not handle music" pointing to a hands free kind of thing which is suitable for audio calls but not for music.
  • Tom StackTyphoon87 Facilitator of our reality
    Charles still goes to a bad page.
  • MinhMinh WOOH!  WOOH!
    55 ms? Larry? Are you using GetTickCount? Wink

    Also, I'm curious about the disapperance of "Wave Out" as a recording device in Vista. Does Vista do anything fundamentally different that makes having that really difficult?

    Are device manufacturers colluding w/ the RIAA for what they deem an analog hole around the DMCA?
  • CharlesCharles Welcome Change
    Fixed. I promise Smiley
    C
  • If I understand you correctly Minh, what you want is still in Vista.
    Right-click on the speaker icon in the notification area and then click Recording Devices.
    Right-click the whitespace and click Show Disabled Devices.
    If supported by your audio device, other recording devices such as Phone Line, Mono Mix, CD Player, and Stereo Mix will appear.
    Right-click the Stereo Mix device and click Enable.
    If you set it as your default recording device, you'll be able to record the audio being played through your soundcard.
  • Awesome interview, awesome guy.

    I only recently noticed the mute button on my laptop was powerless when logged out/screensaver and it bugged the hell out of me (and my wife!), though I blamed HP!

    Great to hear you guys are now focusing on a bit of 'bling' instead of pure mechanics as in Vista, though that was abviously a neccessary process to move further ahead of competing systems - its just that the majority of users have no idea how much work was done and for what.

    Once Windows 7 is in the wild, the world will realise what Vista was all about and how superior it was.
  • MinhMinh WOOH!  WOOH!

    Both my desktop & laptop had the "Stereo Mix" as a recording source in XP, but when I upgraded them to Vista, both lost that source. I don't know if Vista makes it especially hard to have a "Stereo Mix", or there is some sort of conspiracy to get rid of Stereo Mix. I'll check my "Disabled Devices" when I get home, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't there anymore...

  • Hardware Loopback is a function of the hardware and the driver.  Some drivers support it, some don't.

    On one of my test machines, hardware loopback is supported, on another it isn't.  There's nothing particularly "difficult" about supporting it in Vista, it's supported exactly the same as it is in XP.



  • To be clear: The HID keys not working at the logon screen wasn't a "vista" thing, it was a "windows" thing - it's never worked in any version of Windows before Win7.

  • No, we're not using GetTickCount.  It's 53 milliseconds, not 55 millisecond, and the test cases in question were using USB, so they included a fair amount of driver overhead as well.

    The relevent bit is that we've shaved more than 25ms of latency off the audio pipeline (if the driver supports low latency mode).
  • Larry, glad to hear about stream switching. How about sending an audio stream to more than one device, simultaneously?

    Lots of people really, really want this:
    http://www.ben.geek.nz/vista-audio-device-management-sucky/
    http://www.realgeek.com/forums/can-vista-ultimate-output-multiple-audio-devices-215876.html
    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1023781
    http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid=27&threadid=2228549
    http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/1/158117/ShowThread.aspx

    thanks a bunch, liebezeit
  • Regarding that muting the speakers while locked out feature: you've just made every student that ever popped open their laptop in the library with speakers blazing very, very happy. It was getting annoying fumbling around looking for headphones to try to muffle a yelling Kanye West Smiley

    Thanks for the great work
  • Good stuff!  Thanks!  A feature I'd like to see is the ability to have the audio play based on the monitor it is on.  Basically if I drag WinDVD to the HDMI monitor (big screen), I'd like it to automatically select the digital output.  If I drag it back to the laptop's LCD, the audio should come out of the laptop's speakers.  I also think the laptop should automatically deactivate the LCD monitor when it is closed and reactivate it when it is opened.  Right now my Sony does that, but they use a special "Sony" service (that is poorly written) and the screen flashes 2-3 times while the drivers flake out and recover a few times.
  • Just hope that the audio in windows 7 does not go cracking  poping and loads of static with windows Vista 64bit and 4gig of ram.This is a big issue and no one at Creative seem able to fix with a stable driver maybe you guys at microsoft could withdraw cert there audio drivers until they sort out this issue.Millions of home users affected by this issue Creative just do seem to care about this issue.Just hope this issue is not present in windows 7.I will not be byeing windows 7 until I know this issue has been solved.
  • @ the people who said about speakers cutting out etc when you plug in headphones... I think it really depends on the capabilities of the chipset and software you're using for your audio.

    I know on this laptop if I plug in a jack the laptop realises, I get a small prompt from the actual software installed for the specific audio chipset that "I've plugged a jack in". Windows itself does not recognise that anything different has happened, so the quotes from Larry in the article are 100% correct.

    If your system is capable of already doing this it is because the hardware/software is capable, not because Windows is doing it. I guess Windows 7 will change this? Although I doubt you'd need to carry out loads of surveys with people for this... it's just basic functionality that has been built into software specific to related hardware that can be copied and put into the OS, it's hardly a new novell concept however useful it is.
  • I just tried this out on an HP Touchsmart. It turns out these audio drivers are setup to recognize the 3.5mm headphone port as a separate device. This is very cool.
    I noticed that, by default, the headphones were treated as a communication device. So the audio from this video didn't actually switch over until I went and set them as the primary default. I guess I would have expected the obvious. Now to try it out with my bluetooth headset. Smiley
  • @Bas
    Like daSmirnov said, swithcing over to headphones when you plug them in is usually handled by the hardware.
    Larry was talking about USB and Bluetooth headphones/speakers which the OS treats as a whole new audio device just as if you had plugged in a new external soundcard basically.
  • Which Audigy or X-Fi driver did you use? I downloaded the latest Vista driver & Creative Media Player applications, but when I installed, it wouldn't recognize the X-Fi Audigy Pro card I had installed. I've turned on the motherboard chipset until I get the X-Fi Pro working, but I'd prefer of course to use the X-Fi Pro. I'm on a dualboot with XP.
  • I know I'm reviving an old thread very close to the release of this OS, but I'm wonder if I've missed something...

    As others have described above, I'm trying to run streams through different outputs simultaniously:

    1. I want my windows sounds through the "High Def" 3.5mm output on the back
    2. I want Media Center to play back via the SPDIF header (through my video card through the HDMI to my TV)
    3. My Skype/Live Messenger via my MS LifeChat 3000 headset

    I can achieve the 1 and 3, or 2 and 3, but not all three. I'm not seeing how I can select a "stream" to a particular output aside from the afformentioned.

    Am I asking too much of my high end expensive machine?? Devil

  • You're asking too much of your high end expensive machine Smiley

    Many applications (Skype, Live Messenger, WMP, etc) have UI which allows them to redirect their audio to any device, as does the Windows Sounds stuff.  Unfortuantely the Media Center team hasn't chosen to add this support to their application which prevents you from getting your scenario to work.

     

     

  • LightRiderLightRider I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad

    Greetings Larry,

    Excellent video! I'm always excited to hear about the underlying media technologies in Windows and the scenarios they enable.

    I did have a problem though and was wondering if you had any ideas on how to solve it.

    I'm currently using Win7 x64 with the 226 Realtek drivers, and I am unable to get the FrontMic to record any sounds. I've tried adjusting every slider and tweaking every checkbox and radio button, but cannot get it to recognize my voice or record any sounds at all. Pumping up the gain just gets me a loud buzzing sound. I've been trying to get help on this from other sites, but no one else appears to have a solution, so I decided to ask the main sound man. I would appreciate any tips.

    Thanks again!

  • Windows 7’s audio behavior still seems targeted at limited use cases, and it can be VERY annoying! Larry used words like "probably" and "maybe" in describing what users might want to happen--there’s not enough consideration given to the endless number of other scenarios. Yea, it’s nice that things SOMETIMES happen just right in particular situations, but there are countless others. My Plantronics 855 stereo headset provides great music quality, but I’m forced to turn off the speakers to use it; and after using it, plugging the Bluetooth dongle in can silence the speakers. I’m forced to switch the default audio device back-and-forth between Bluetooth and speakers. I DON'T WANT IT TO WORK THAT WAY. Why not allow me to output audio to MULTIPLE DEVICES if I want to? That’s user hostile. Windows too often annoys by making stupid decisions for me, without asking, or allowing me to change that behavior. Many others are also complaining about this awkward switching of the single audio output online. Hope to see this improved before Windows 7’s release.

     

  • You're describing a feature that we've discussed several times before (the ability to output to multiple devices simultaneously).  There are some serious technical challenges getting this to work in all scenarios (for instance if you're outputting to an AV receiver and headphones, the sound may be several milliseconds out of sync which sounds crappy) and as such it hasn't made the bar for features (there have always been higher priority features to implement).

    In Win7 when you plug your headphones in, audio will be automatically redirected (assuming that the app hasn't explicitly said that it wants to render to your desktop speakers), and when you unplug them it will be automatically redirected to the desktop speakers.  We've done a lot to make sure that everything works smoothly but we've not yet implemented all the features we want.

     

    Part of the reason that I use weasel words like "probably" and "maybe" is because these features DON'T work in all circumstances.  For instance the stream switching behavior intentionally only works if an app uses the default output device - that's because we're not going to override the choice of the application - if the application said that it wants to render to the speakers, we're not going to override the app's choice.

  • Hi Larry,

     

    Lately, I have run across many people that are hooking up their main computer to their TV, which resides in a different room.  For these folks, the audio becomes problematic.  They want to be able to do on their TV, exactly what they do on their PC.  They have PC speakers (via their PC sound card), and they have TV speakers (via their HDMI video, w/sound, output).  Ideally, they want to be able to hear everything (not just from a specific program), no matter which screen they are using.  Without simultaneous streaming to multiple devices, this is much more difficult.

     

    Switching the default audio device would solve this, but from my recollection, this is not a quick thing to do (i.e. One or two clicks of the mouse).  Rather, it takes delving into the control panel to get it done, which is more time than most people are happy spending every time they switch back and forth.

     

    Is there a way to programmatically (C#, VB, or C++) change the default audio device?  If this could be done, then I could at least offer them a small utility in the notification tray that would make their lives easier.

     

    Any other ideas (programmatically, or otherwise)?

     

    Thanks!

  • As I understood, win7 take the decision. Like on mine Vaio: the internal microphone works WHEN WINDOWS WANTS. Yes, under linux I can choose which one works. Not under windows, where I can choose just the external (but internal also works sometimes) and that's why I have to keep on tap the external microphone. not so nice Sad

     

  • DJ BENJIDJ BENJI

    ok so after lots and lots of looking online and trial and error i am lost.
    If not already obvious I am a DJ (to be blunt)
    i like to be able to have audio sent to my main FOH speaker system (mono audio)
    also to my Headphones
    to my PC speakers
    To my lighting console using music beat-match (requires a medium audio level only)
    and to my home entertainment system.
     
    i would like to have THE SAME audio at my pc speakers AND my entertainment system AT THE SAME TIME.
    when i am on msn chat i can allready have audio go thru my xbox headset (thanks MS)
    but when DJing i want FOH and Headphones to be able to play 2 diferent audio sorces on 2 different sound cards from the same program at the same time. (yes the program supports this)
    BUT the BIGGEST PROBLEM i have is now i have upgraded and am using win7 home prem i can output my audio to the Home Ent system without mucking around in the settings.
    I want to be able to be playing an MP3 or even Gamming one second, launch a video eg. AVATAR, the next and have the video and audio go to the tv and the only "setting" i change is turning on the Home Ent system,
    Can we please have a;
    Many to 1,
    1 to Many,
    1 to 1,
    Multiple 1 to 1's,
    AND Many to Many options avaliable ASAP.

  • PaulPaul

    @Bas: You may mention your analog headphones. In this case speakers will be cut off regardless of operating system running on the PC as this behaviour is due to hardware design. You simply invoke a contact by plugging headphones' plug and it breaks the circuit. In this case your headphones and speakers are driven by the same audio device - built in sound adapter.
    What Larry said concerns a system with multiple sound devices, for example two. One of them is built-in audio device, other (as in my case) an USB headset which acts like a separate sound card. I can make this headset the default audio device and sound will come out of its headphones. Then I unplug it from USB, and Windows 7 thinks a little and switches the audio stream to another (second default) audio device instead of breaking the playing process with a critical error.

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