Audio in Windows 8

    General discussion

  • What is new in audio for Windows 8? I came across this document: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/br259116 which says hardware accelerated audio/hardware offloading is returning to Windows 8 but it would require new Port Class (PortCls) WaveRT-based drivers. Is there backward compatibility or changes to make the DirectSound API hardware accelerated again if you have PortCls WaveRT drivers? I didn't see any PDC session on audio acceleration. Also, there are some issues related in audio in Windows 7 which need to be addressed:

    1. You cannot output audio simultaneously to multiple audio devices/endpoints. For example, if I have my PC in my bedroom but another set of connected speakers in the living room, I can only play audio on either one of the speakers at a time. In Windows XP, I could send audio simultaneously to both set of speakers.

    2. Built-in input monitoring for line-in. This seems to be device-specific whereas in XP, it worked for all audio devices. When I plug in something to my line in and audio is playing on the connected device, I want to be able to hear it without starting recording.

    3. Several small issues with the volume mixer. I know that in Vista and Windows 7, the full volume mixer by design doesn't open on double click because the main volume has to be shown immediately on single click. But why not have the best of both worlds? Just re-arrange the "Mixer" link so when you single click, the "Mixer" link appears exactly under the mouse cursor. That way, a single click would open it right away, but a double click would also open the mixer. Another problem with the mixer window is it doesn't save its position and size. And it cannot be minimized. Please fix this.

    4. There is no way to select a different MIDI soft synth other than the default system-supplied "Microsoft GS Wavetable" synth licensed from Roland which doesn't sound great. If I install my own MIDI softsynth or have a sound card which has hardware-based MIDI synth, I want to be able to switch to it from the Sounds control panel. The ability to select the MIDI synth was removed in Vista and is one of the blocking issues for me. For MIDI-related work, I therefore still use a Windows XP-based system.

    Monday, September 26, 2011 4:24 AM

All replies

  • 1, 3, 4.  That has to do with the removal of direct-hardware access in the audio stack, starting with Windows Vista - it broke a lot of custom applications that used non-standard APIs (such as EAX).

    2.  Input monitoring - this is an application-specific issue.  Some applications (notably Creative SmartRecorder) support exactly that option - and have through Vista, 7, and now the Developer Preview.

    Monday, September 26, 2011 5:45 AM
  • Only 1 has got to do with the removal of direct hardware access in the audio stack. 2 and 3 are just volume mixer and sound control panel issues and 4 is do-able through the registry, they just removed the UI for it. They just assumed no one uses MIDI soft synths any more and removed the user interface to switch the MIDI synth. They should bring it back. There are many third party utilities for Vista/7 which allow selecting MIDI output device but they don't work as reliably as the XP control panel does (sometimes apps don't use the correct MIDI device after using these third party tools)
    Monday, September 26, 2011 6:21 AM
  • 2) was added as an OS feature in Windows 7.  For the first time you could monitor any input on any output, even if they weren't exposed by the same audio driver.  To activate it:

    • Open the Sound control panel
    • Switch to the Recording tab
    • Double-click the device you want to monitor
    • Switch to the Listen tab on the daughter window
    • You can turn monitoring on and off, and set various other options.

    Matthew van Eerde
    Monday, September 26, 2011 6:16 PM
  • But because it's software-based, the "Listen" feature adds a latency/delay which is not good.
    Tuesday, September 27, 2011 3:11 AM
  • Hardware-based input monitoring is a hardware feature which should still work in Windows 8 if the hardware and driver support it.  Instead of going to the Recording tab, go to the Playback tab.  Double-click the device you want to use to monitor the input.  Switch to the Levels tab.

    There will be a main volume slider (and mute button) which controls the gain on the output.

    Below this, if the hardware and driver supports analog mixing, there will be an additional slider (or additional sliders) for each input that can be monitored on this output.

    Matthew van Eerde
    Tuesday, September 27, 2011 3:31 PM
  • Okay thanks for clarifying that. So it's device specific, that is, input monitor will appear on the Playback tab if the drivers support it? (most hardware does already). In my use of Windows Vista/Windows 7 over the past 5 years, I have used many different PCs with sound chips based on Intel's HD Audio/Microsoft's UAA class driver architecture (Conexant, Realtek, IDT/SigmaTel, SoundMAX etc) and none of the devices (or their drivers) expose input monitor on the playback tab yet with these same PCs, in Windows XP, I can see an input monitor for playback and recording mixers. Maybe MS needs to work with these HD Audio codec manufacturers to make sure their drivers expose the proper endpoints in the Sound control panel. I just know that I have working input monitor for playback and recording in XP but not in Vista/7 with the same hardware.

    Another UI improvement MS needs to make is incorporate the "Levels" tab and balance/per channel volume feature into the volume control/volume mixer because it is a very frequently accessed feature.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011 4:18 PM