Last weekend the audio on my Asus Z97-A motherboard started outputting very noisy and uneven sound. Apparently it’s a common issue with this model, but with no obvious solution other than replacing the motherboard. My favorite way of describing the problem is from one thread on Tom’s Hardware:
Sound from the back panel of a MSI Z97 Gaming 5 sounding like a Sega Genesis.
The Genesis comparison is not intended to be click baity. It’s literally the best comparison I have to explain how it’s sounding.
When connecting the speakers to the front connector on the PC – usually destined for headphones, the problem disappeared. So it was a hardware problem with the rear port.
The motherboard has 5 ports in total. If the only one that went bust was the green “2 Channel Output” port, that still leaves 4 other ports to use instead. If I could do this in software, through the Realtek Audio drivers, I could fix this. After some time searching around, I had good news and bad news.
The good news: remapping audio ports in software is a common thing, known as “connector retasking”. Knowing what something is called makes it much easier to research it. And I learned something today.
The bad news: my research showed that a lot of people have been trying to retask their Realtek Audio-powered connectors for years, but all the threads were left with no answer. Apparently Realtek had nuked this functionality from their drivers years ago, and it never came back.
An old article from 2012 kept coming up in discussion threads. It showed how to retask connectors from the Windows registry editor. Thinking that was it, I got to work and started fiddling with those registry keys, but to no avail. Reading through the comments, that trick apparently stopped working years ago. Sad trombone.
After hitting many dead ends, I almost gave up and started looking into getting a cheap sound card. Just before clicking the checkout button on my shopping cart, I decided to give it one last chance. I found some threads about a Windows Store app called Realtek Audio Console, which acts as a UI for the audio drivers instead of the built-in one. And it looked like that UI had the connector retasking functionality!
However, the app refused to install on my computer. Back to Google. Apparently, the app requires a newer version of the Realtek Audio drivers, called Universal Audio Drivers (UAD for short). However, those drivers only became available in the last couple of years. Consumer hardware being what it is, the latest driver update for the motherboard I had bought in 2015 was released in… 2016. So much for long term support.
After some more information-hunting, I found a repository on github, with what seemed to be a backport of the UAD drivers to be usable on older hardware.
The install instructions are a bit finicky, since you have to remove all traces of the official Realtek drivers and disconnect the internet during the install, but the instructions are detailed enough to follow.
After installing the drivers, I could then install the Realtek Audio Console app and use it to retask the connectors. I can now enjoy my sound without having to get new hardware.
The only remaining issue is that the settings don’t get saved between reboots so I have to do that every day, but I’ll take it.
But hey, it still ended up as a win. And now maybe if some poor soul finds themselves searching around for a solution to this problem, maybe this post will help them :)