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[x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

X200, X201, X220 (including equivalent tablet models) and X300, X301 series specific matters only.
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SurrealMustard
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[x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#1 Post by SurrealMustard » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:42 pm

I bought this x200 tablet last year and didn't notice the problem until it was past the warranty period, so it's pretty minor, but easily repeatable, and rather annoying when trying to consume multimedia with a strong baseline. What happens is that anytime any lower sound is played, there is some crackling in the audio (through the speakers and headphones), as described precisely in this thread. If you have an x200, try playing the song suggested by that thread and see if you can hear the crackling in the beginning of the track through your headphones. The first 10 seconds or so of that song showcase the problem very well, but it is audible on-and-off throughout the rest of it too.

I thought at first that maybe it was just a caveat of an inexpensive sound system, but I was unable to replicate the problem on any other laptop or desktop computer or even on my smartphone (using the same headphones to test on all of them of course).

Any ideas as to what could be causing this and if there is any way to fix it aside from replacing the mainboard? Is it a problem in some X200 tablets or all of them (my unit is one of the earlier 2009 models with the frameless, wacom only screen)?

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#2 Post by brchan » Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:51 pm

Have you tried other audio drivers?
Current Thinkpads: W530 (functional classic keyboard mod), X301, T61, T60, T43, A31p, T23, 600X, 770
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not tried yet

#3 Post by SurrealMustard » Fri Jun 26, 2015 7:22 pm

brchan wrote:Have you tried other audio drivers?
No, just using the one from Lenovo's website. Can you recommend any alternative drivers?

Update: Tried the generic Microsoft "High Definition Audio Device" driver as well with the same results.

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#4 Post by Vix » Sat Jun 27, 2015 12:06 pm

I have an x200s and the song sounds fine.

I'm using Windows XP and I had installed drivers from the Driver Packs. My drivers are Conexant 20561 SmartAudio HD version 3.64.15.0 (2011-9-20).

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Interesting

#5 Post by SurrealMustard » Sun Jun 28, 2015 3:24 pm

Vix wrote:I have an x200s and the song sounds fine.

I'm using Windows XP and I had installed drivers from the Driver Packs. My drivers are Conexant 20561 SmartAudio HD version 3.64.15.0 (2011-9-20).
Interesting. Mine also identifies itself as "Conexant 20561 SmartAudio HD", but has a version number of 4.92.12.0 (bigger number), but a date of 10/6/2009 (older). Looking at the product support page, it looks like there is a separate driver for XP/Vista as well as one specifically for 7.

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troubleshooting progress

#6 Post by SurrealMustard » Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:05 pm

The last thing I plan to try before ruling out software/driver issues is booting from a live CD or USB of linux and trying to listen to audio in there. If the issue does not clear up there, then I'm thinking it has to be a hardware problem. On that topic:

I did some more research and preliminary findings indicate that the sound system might actually be on a separate board (The "I/O Card" as indicated by the service manual on page 92: FRU 42W8011, pictured in this ebay listing at the time of this posting). The reason I think this might be the case is because it appears that the computer's built in speakers connect to this card instead of directly to the mainboard.

Does anyone else think that replacing this card might solve the audio quality issue or is it more likely to be something inherent with the mainboard?

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#7 Post by Billaboard » Sun Nov 08, 2015 10:46 am

For some reason I can't hear the track suggested, but it would be worth checking that this isn't the Microsoft sample rate conversion fault that afflicted Windows 7 but not XP.

The simple test is to check what is the sample rate of the audio you are playing, and then go into the Advanced part of the Audio playback properties in Control Panel and check that the default sample rate is set to that value.

I am not sure whether Microsoft have addressed this on a permanent basis or whether one still has to apply the patch at

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2653312

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progress and identification tips

#8 Post by SurrealMustard » Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:23 pm

Billaboard wrote:For some reason I can't hear the track suggested...
(original text below, but scroll down to the bottom of the post for a better method of testing)
Upon followup, it appears that the video that the track was sourced from is gone from YouTube, but if you just search up "Daft Punk - Around the World" on YouTube, somebody has a video posted that is just a picture of the album cover with the song playing in the background. As for actually hearing the issue, I've found it helps to not try to listen at full blast (even though the sound card in the X200 isn't that loud at full blast compared to my N200). Instead, turn the volume down somewhat (YouTube player on full blast, Windows volume control at about 1/4 power).
Billaboard wrote:...but it would be worth checking that this isn't the Microsoft sample rate conversion fault that afflicted Windows 7 but not XP.

The simple test is to check what is the sample rate of the audio you are playing, and then go into the Advanced part of the Audio playback properties in Control Panel and check that the default sample rate is set to that value.

I am not sure whether Microsoft have addressed this on a permanent basis or whether one still has to apply the patch at

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2653312
Interesting. I was not aware of that issue, but did test by playing the song in a Linux distribution (OpenElec to be exact) with comparable results (actually, it introduced an occasional loud "pop" every few seconds in addition to the quiet buzzing) to rule out any kind of Windows or Windows-driver-related oddities, so I think it's safe to say that it's a hardware issue (unless Linux has a sample rate conversion glitch like you described). The question is if they are all like this or if it's just mine.

UPDATE:

Here's an even better way to test for the problem. Play this frequency sweep YouTube video with the player's volume all the way up and the Windows volume down low to 14-17% (7-9 as reported by the ThinkPad on-screen display). The issue will manifest as a distinct buzzing sound that is most obvious at the beginning, but persists obnoxiously through nearly the entire video.

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#9 Post by IMAKYA » Thu Nov 12, 2015 8:34 pm

I have a crackling sound which I am troubleshooting on my T61. The sound is evident for a second on the YouTube video you suggested. Other than that I don't here anything else. I'm concluding some sort of loose connection with the speakers which at certain frequencies or noise levels would cause this but it is very intermittent.

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Conexant woes

#10 Post by SurrealMustard » Fri Nov 13, 2015 10:23 am

IMAKYA wrote:I have a crackling sound which I am troubleshooting on my T61.
From a quick search, it doesn't appear as though the T61 uses the exact same Conexant audio as the X200, but it does use a similar one (20549 versus the 20561 in the X200), so the issue could very well affect both cards. Since posting the last follow-up, I have ordered a new I/O board (which appears to have an embedded sound card) for the X200 and hope to get it in and install it early next week and will post my findings here.
IMAKYA wrote:The sound is evident for a second on the YouTube video you suggested.
Were you watching the "Around the World" video or the Frequency Sweep?
IMAKYA wrote:I'm concluding some sort of loose connection with the speakers which at certain frequencies or noise levels would cause this but it is very intermittent.
Are you hearing it just through the speakers, just through the headphones, or in both?

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#11 Post by IMAKYA » Mon Nov 16, 2015 1:32 pm

I watched the YouTube link suggested and heard the problems on both the headphones and the speakers. What's the implication of my findings?

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results of the sound module swap

#12 Post by SurrealMustard » Mon Nov 16, 2015 4:41 pm

Well, I bought a replacement card and am still getting the same thing. Not sure how many of these things I'm going to try to buy before getting one that works. Maybe all the X200 cards are bad. Or maybe the audio processing functionality is actually built in to the motherboard, contrary to what I originally thought.
IMAKYA wrote:I watched the YouTube link suggested and heard the problems on both the headphones and the speakers. What's the implication of my findings?
If you didn't hear any buzzing while watching the frequency sweep video at between 14% and 17% volume (7-9 as reported by the ThinkPad on-screen volume popup), then your computer's sound is working properly. Are you using an X200? I'd be very interested in hearing from any X200 owner (tablet or otherwise, they both use the same sound module) who isn't getting the buzzing sound.

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#13 Post by Billaboard » Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:49 am

I have dug out an X200T model 7453 that has a newly installed Windows 7 and played the two tracks. I haven't done any alterations to the basic setup, and the W7 was from a Microsoft x64 installation file, not a Lenovo version. The X200T has no battery, so it was running from the mains adapter.

I have run the Lenovo update to get a clean Device Manager, but, for example, don't have the on-screen volume display. If I display the Microsoft volume display and use the up/down buttons, I do see the MS display follow the level setting. I used some good quality Sony headphones rather than speaker, as it's early morning here. I tried with the MS display at various settings including 15 on the scale of 0 to 100 (not sure whether this is linear or logarithmic).

I hear no buzzing on the Daft Punk track. On the frequency sweep, I had some crackling on the first play. On the second run through, there were only one or two minor clicks.

I then ran LatencyMon, which indicated that there were latency problems caused by the ndis driver, so I disabled the wifi in Device Manager. The sweep was then absolutely clean. Switching wifi back on brought back the minor clicks.

I'm happy to run more tests.

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#14 Post by axur-delmeria » Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:55 am

That's interesting.
What wifi card is in your X200T and which drivers does it use?
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Backup: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#15 Post by Billaboard » Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:29 am

The wifi card is an Intel 5100AGN, and the drivers are listed as Intel 13.0.0.107.

I have done quite a bit of sorting out audio glitching in laptops, although not these particular machines. It is no surprise to find that switching off the wifi reduces glitching, the other first thing I would often look at is acpi power management, but that doesn't seem to have been necessary here.

I seem to remember that if trying things out it is normally important to disable the wifi driver in Device Manager rather than just switching off wifi on the switch.

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Audio test

#16 Post by SurrealMustard » Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:45 pm

Billaboard wrote:The wifi card is an Intel 5100AGN, and the drivers are listed as Intel 13.0.0.107.
Same here. I think that is the card that came with the machine.
Billaboard wrote: I seem to remember that if trying things out it is normally important to disable the wifi driver in Device Manager rather than just switching off wifi on the switch.
Billaboard wrote:I have dug out an X200T model 7453 that has a newly installed Windows 7 and played the two tracks. I haven't done any alterations to the basic setup, and the W7 was from a Microsoft x64 installation file, not a Lenovo version. The X200T has no battery, so it was running from the mains adapter.

I have run the Lenovo update to get a clean Device Manager, but, for example, don't have the on-screen volume display. If I display the Microsoft volume display and use the up/down buttons, I do see the MS display follow the level setting. I used some good quality Sony headphones rather than speaker, as it's early morning here. I tried with the MS display at various settings including 15 on the scale of 0 to 100 (not sure whether this is linear or logarithmic).

I hear no buzzing on the Daft Punk track. On the frequency sweep, I had some crackling on the first play. On the second run through, there were only one or two minor clicks.

I then ran LatencyMon, which indicated that there were latency problems caused by the ndis driver, so I disabled the wifi in Device Manager. The sweep was then absolutely clean. Switching wifi back on brought back the minor clicks.

I'm happy to run more tests.
Interesting. I tried all of those things. Watched the video with the wireless off both by the switch and disabled in device manager, with just the battery and no adapter, and finally with just the adapter and no battery, but it still sounds exactly the same every time. So it seems as though this affects some X200 units, but not all. I wonder if it is maybe just an issue on the older models. My x200 tablet has a manufacture date on the sticker of March 2009; what's yours?

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Re: Audio test

#17 Post by Billaboard » Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:15 am

Mine is April 2009, so pretty close.

Have you tried "LatencyMon"? It really can be very useful in showing clues to audio problems. Run it and poke around, especially looking at the Drivers tab. It almost certainly will say that the machine isn't capable of running glitch-free audio, but ignore that and dig into it. Remember that it will cause latency so, again, ignore anything that might be related to that.

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Re: [x200t] Sound Crackling/buzzing quality problems

#18 Post by geka3250 » Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:40 am

Same here. Have audio distortion problem when WiFi activity high. If connected by Ethernet I have no sound problems.
My unit is 7450-WMU(WiFi Intel 5300AGN), using Win10 X64.
340CSE | 380XD | 770 | 770X | 770Z | 390E | 600E | 600X | T23 | X30 | T30 | T41p | T43 | T60p | X200t

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different problem

#19 Post by SurrealMustard » Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:40 pm

geka3250 wrote:Same here. Have audio distortion problem when WiFi activity high. If connected by Ethernet I have no sound problems.
My unit is 7450-WMU(WiFi Intel 5300AGN), using Win10 X64.
You might actually have a different issue then because we're hearing the same problem always, regardless of network activity or connectivity.

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Re: different problem

#20 Post by geka3250 » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:58 am

SurrealMustard wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:40 pm
You might actually have a different issue then because we're hearing the same problem always, regardless of network activity or connectivity.
I noticed exactly same problem some time ago. Noise appears at volume about 20...36%, very noticeable when listening to piano or ambient music. Maybe I haven't heard it before when listening on low quality headphones.
Also I listened my friend's W500 - noise problem here too. Assume it is hardware audio chip problem, in our case it is CX20561.
I found next generation of Thinkpads with Core i-Series CPUs and CX20585 audio chip doesn't have noise issue. On X200t...201t audio chip soldered on IOSUB board, so I decided to swap this from X201t. It fits without problem, drivers are installed automatically. And it seems noise problem is gone! USB and Cardreader are working, but microphones mixed up to right<->left.
340CSE | 380XD | 770 | 770X | 770Z | 390E | 600E | 600X | T23 | X30 | T30 | T41p | T43 | T60p | X200t

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Closure & Following Up

#21 Post by SurrealMustard » Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:31 am

geka3250 wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:58 am
SurrealMustard wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:40 pm
You might actually have a different issue then because we're hearing the same problem always, regardless of network activity or connectivity.
I noticed exactly same problem some time ago. Noise appears at volume about 20...36%, very noticeable when listening to piano or ambient music. Maybe I haven't heard it before when listening on low quality headphones.
Also I listened my friend's W500 - noise problem here too. Assume it is hardware audio chip problem, in our case it is CX20561.
I found next generation of Thinkpads with Core i-Series CPUs and CX20585 audio chip doesn't have noise issue. On X200t...201t audio chip soldered on IOSUB board, so I decided to swap this from X201t. It fits without problem, drivers are installed automatically. And it seems noise problem is gone! USB and Cardreader are working, but microphones mixed up to right<->left.
Good find. I'd almost forgotten about this thread too, but I suppose now is as good a time as any to report that the fault lied more in the defective earbuds I was using than anything else. After switching back to my better earbuds, (or proper headphones) it was found that the problem is far less pronounced and almost unnoticeable.

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