The Notebook Buyer's Homepage

Lilla's notes on Inspiron 7000 - Sound - Last updated 13Dec98

[Introduction] [Main] [Display] [Sound] [Drives] [Modem/NIC] [Power] [OS] [Accessories] [Physical]

ESS 1968 Chipset - Benchmark Results

ESS Maestro-2 ES1968S (Diamond Sonic Impact) - based upon same chipset as used in I-7000, so performance might be indicative. Mostly poor-to-good marks.

Sound related Links

Dell Specs for Sound card

ESS summary of Features & Product Brief Click on link at top of Maestro-2 column for Product Brief.

Troubleshooting the Sound Card

A: You may want to test the sound on the system. First, let's make sure the audio controller works. Boot to the Dell Diagnostics Diskette and choose to run specific tests. Arrow down to the AUDIO test, hit the spacebar to select it, and then go to the RUN menu. Choose to Run Selected, and the audio test will start. If this fails, then the audio controller has died and needs to be replaced. If it passes, then we are still looking at a software problem. Dell/Brian McCullough, Webtalk

A: There are known problems related to Dell's AC Adapter. Go to top of this document and select POWER section of these notes to read about that. It includes a workaround which may help in some situations. Lilla


Q: Hardware or software wavetable?


A: This notebook has 3-D surround sound, provided by ESS Technology's Maestro-2 PCI audio accelerator (which supports hardware wavetable). Headphone, microphone, and line-out jacks--as well as a volume-control thumbwheel--are located on the left side of the machine to ensure easy access. PC-Mag Review

A: Dell i7k owner... did u know... that.. your sound system has 4 mb sound library? The default is set on 2 mb. To change it go to: Control Panel --> Click on System icon then on system property click on sound, video and game controller. Pick Maestro Wave/WaveTabel Synthesis Devices (double click on that). Click on Audio Setting tab and click on 4 MB system memory. Then Reboot! Your midi sound will sound better (although just litle bit:) Have fun! Prasetio Tjondrokusumo, newsgroup

Internal Speakers

Q: Are speakers in wristrest where hands may block sound?

A: Sturdy unit with comfortable wrist wrests to each side of the touchpad. Speakers are at the front East and West sides [so not blocked by hands]. Bruce A. Mallett, Newsgroup.

A: The rep who said there are 4 speakers is nuts. The 2 speakers are located under the palm wrest but are covered by plastic and ported thru two small slits on the sides. The speakers vibrate and distort at louder volumes and especially distort voices. For some reason it actually sounds better if you cover the slits with your hands. But, thru headphones or a stereo system, the sound is great. DougD2000, newsgroup

Q: I'm running Win '98 on my I7 and notice that when I bring up the volume control settings that there's no advanced button for me to adjust treble and bass. There's one for the microphone, but it is disabled. Is there a way for me to adjust treble and bass? Thanks, Peter

A: Peter - The Bass and Treble controls are disabled and not available on this system. Brian McCullough

A: I understand that the Microsoft USB speakers are wonderful and fully digital!!! ...and "may not work with the DVD drive." Hans E. Omli, newsgroup

Internal speaker problems, almost universal "weak left speaker problem"

Status: As for the "left speaker quieter than the right" problem, we are currently looking into that. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available. Dell/Brian McCullough, Webtalk 2Dec98

Status: For anyone with a problem involving the internal speakers (in particular, low volume in the left speaker), Dell engineers have acknowledged the problem and are working on a set of updated drivers. The problem appears to not be hardware, which is good news. So watch for new audio drivers. Jeff Hale, webtalk 3Dec98

A: I seem to be fortunate in that my speakers work well on both sides! unfortunately they seem to emit a high pitched buzzing noise all the time - a problem which is very irritating. The high pitched squeak is barely audible, and stops under processing activity or when I click the left mouse button, but as soon as I let it go it returns. Any suggestions from anyone at Dell, as I posted a similar message a week or two back and no response has been forthcoming. Do any other Inspiron 7000 owners share this problem? Toby Watson, webtalk

Q: I've had my I 7000 for about 1 week. Twice when I have booted the system up the left internal speaker doesn't work. It wasn't the balance control, I checked that. The only thing I could do to get sound out of the left speaker was to reboot. This happened the first time I booted up the system and then again last night. Later he writes... I've had the left speaker fail about 3 or 4 times over the last month. Rebooting always cures it, but there ought to be a real fix for this. Kip Dondlinger, webtalk

Q: Brian or other Dell Rep.: The left channel audio problem just occurred on my computer again today...this time I did a little investigation.

  1. Only .wav sounds seem to be affected (if I put in a CD I hear sound out of both speakers).
  2. Again, it is NOT an internal speaker problem (I don't hear left-channel .wav audio through HEADPHONES either).
  3. Through the headphones I can hear very faint amount of .wav sound from the left (but so low in volume it is barely detectable).
  4. As usual, rebooting solves the problem.

    Brian, I'm not yet convinced that I should accept your suggestion that I send the unit in, because the above symptoms seem to indicate that this is NOT a hardware problem. Isn't this likely a problem with one or more drivers? Also, there continues to be posts from MANY other users with what sounds like the same problem. When can we expect Dell to address this issue?? Remember, I first posted a note identifying this problem over 5 weeks ago. Can you please get someone at Dell to investigate this issue? Kip Dondlinger, webtalk 5Dec98

A: Had a similar incident [nothing from left speaker], and if I rebooted the speaker worked fine. Then I downloaded the new I7K Windows 98 Sound Driver from Dells file library and the problem hasn't surfaced since. Vic Oros, webtalk

Q: About the internal speaker. The sound from the left one is much weaker than the right one. The result is when I play CD, the sound seems come out from only right speaker. It works fine when I use headphone. I use the Audio winbench downloaded from the pcmag webpage and it seems all tests are passed without glitch. I called the dell support yesterday night and the guy insist it has some problem with the dvd rom I have and he already sent me one to replace mine. Later Bin writes...There is a new theory from dell guy today when my machine's speaker suddenly give out a very high frequency sound (not heard through head phone). He said the reason of unbalanced speaker is probably because of the problem of the DVD ROM. It might be a design problem because the sound route is different to headphone jack and to the internal speaker. So it is possible that the DVD ROM did not pickup enough signal for the left speaker. Therefore, he said sending me a replacement of DVD drive is the first step. I think it is not a bad idea to try a new DVD ROM :). About the weird sound, he said might because the DVD ROM interfere somehow with some device. Bin Hu, webtalk

A: [Reference Point] I have just setup 3 Latitude CPi D300XT with 24x CD, wav files play fine but audio CDs play only from the left speaker. Swapping with an older 20x CD from another Latitude CPi (D266XT) swaps the problem to the D266XT. Any suggestions gratefully received. Daniel Templeton, webtalk [Note: while not about i7000, it does make me wonder if the no/weak (usually left) speaker problem in i7000 might be tied to drive. Lilla]

A: I have the same left speaker problem with my machine and tech support said I would need to send my unit back to be checked out. I really don't want to do that after waiting so long for the machine. I am performing a series of test with DOS utilities to see if the problem is a windows driver or maybe just the sound card. Another thing I noticed about the left speaker is that its output is Tinny. If you move the balance control slide to the far left and play a sound, you can hear what seems to be a quantization problem, like the left channel doesn't get sampled at the same rate; weird. Jeff Hales, webtalk

A: I too noticed a similar problem with my left speaker, though not as pronounced as what you describe. One time, however, I got no sound from it during wave playbacks. After reading several other posts regarding this, I went to the Dell file library and downloaded the new audio drivers for the I7. My audio playback seems fine now, but I do notice the speaker volume to the left is just a tad lower than the right. I don't believe there is anything wrong with the speaker. I think this is a design thing. The placement of that speaker must prevent it from resonating as well as the one on the right. Try hooking up external speakers and headphones. I bet you'll get flawless audio. So the slightly tinnier, slightly lower sound from the left is probably a design thing. Were I you, I'd try the drivers first before returning the unit. Peter Telep, webtalk

A: Mine does it sometimes (4 times so far) and it is the right one. On a side note, it is the right channel just not the speaker as I tried it with earphones and the right side just doesn't work until reboot. later! Rob Service, webtalk

Sound Driver

Updated DVD driver increases audio level from internal speakers

Q: The audio level from the DVD drive in my new I7000 seems to be unusually low when using the internal speakers. Output to headphones or external speakers is perfect, but when playing a DVD the internal speakers are barely Audible even with the volume dial and sliders at max. I've adjusted the various volume levels in the mixer control, and am not experiencing any similar problems with either WAV, MIDI, or CD-audio sound. It doesn't appear to be a problem with the DVDs themselves, either. Both of the discs I have handy (_Forbidden Planet_ and _Blade Runner_) seem to sound fine on my desktop system (a Micron Millennia 400). I'm using the included Microsoft DVD player [part of Win98] on the Inspiron, and Diamond Maximum DVD on the Micron. Bryan Costin, Webtalk

A: There is a Dell supplied beta DVD driver in Search for files by description. . . Type in 7000 (to assure you find ALL entries, see below) According to Brian [Dell], the 7000 is shipped with the DVD volume set to medium. This driver will set the volume to High. I installed with no probs. BTW there are other drivers and a BIOS update if you search by the above method. For some reason if you go to "Troubleshoot Your Dell System" and click 7000 and then click "All files for this system" it says there are no files were found. Dave Nichols, Webtalk

A: That beta DVD driver definitely helps. I would still prefer it a little bit louder, but this is certainly more than serviceable. Most of the time I'll be using headphones or speakers anyway, but I wanted to be certain this wasn't a flaw in my system. That file library searching glitch is very annoying--the first thing I did was check for new files by system, and, of course, nothing came up. Hope they fix that soon! Bryan Costin, Webtalk

Problem: No Audio after suspend in Win98- with Fix

A: I just reinstalled win98 into a new folder and installed the latest audio drivers from the web. Everything works fine until I suspend (to RAM) and then wake up the machine. My sound is now gone until I reboot. If I open the mixer I can see the meters moving but I don't hear anything. Later James writes... I fixed it. The problem was that you must force Win98 to install drivers from a specific place i.e. c:\audio. Now my audio wakes up just fine (under win98) James Clark, webtalk

Problem: Audio drivers get corrupted or erased

A: I am encountering a sound problem when I play DVDs. It sounds very tinny like there is too much treble. If I reinstall the sound drivers (I am using the updated ones) and then restart the machine, it sounds great. But every time I go to play a disc I need to do this. It seems that the drivers get either corrupted or erased. If anyone has any ideas on this I would like to know. Also I am using the beta DVD driver if that helps. Peter H, webtalk

External Speakers or Headset

Q: How to get audio to external speakers?

A: To get DVD audio to external speakers run a cable from the headphone/speaker out jack. Dell/Max Murphy, WebTalk

A: The solution provided at this point would only output Stereo (2-channel), that solution was to buy a cable that took the line-out (head phone jack) and convert it to the RCA standard right and left outputs, and then to plug that into the back of your TV or VCR, or Sound System. Chris Wilson, Webtalk

A: It works, I've done it. .. get a mini (submini?) to RCA adaper from someplace like Radio Shack. - Bruce Mallett, Webtalk

Q: Best portable speakers?

A: If you really need portability, I can suggest a good pair of headphones. The Grado SR-60 at $69 is a hell of a good bargain. If you can spend a bit more, the Sennheiser HD545 is a great pair at around $140, sounds just as good as the Grado, but slightly more comfortable for extended wear. From personal experience, the headphones sound much better IMO than the speakers. Find them at: Farul A Ghazali, newsgroup

A: If you really mean 'portable speakers', I think the best are the New Media ones that clip onto your laptop. Murray Zaharia, newsgroup

A: Just bought a pair of New Media speakers from Onsale for $10 + S&H; They look pretty cool.  Definitely a steal. Floyd Vergara

Q: Best desktop speakers for under $100?

A: The best sounding speakers (under $100) IMO are the Cambridge Soundworks PC Works, for around $69. It's a sub/sat arrangement however, not very portable, but not very big either. Cambridge Soundworks is at Farul A Ghazali, newsgroup

A: I second Farul's recommendation for Grado headphones with laptops; they have a very high efficiency for the power produced by the computer's amp - much more than Sennheisers (in my experience).  If you are thinking about headphones, I suggest a look at (a very cool site for headphone information and sales). David A. Ross, newsgroup

External Microphones & Voice Recognition Software

A: The Andrea does not work, with or w/o the power adapter. A very odd situation given that it both is a stereo mic (has the correct plug) and that it works (with the power adapter) in other systems here. However, I went out this AM and bought an el-cheapo microphone from a local computer store. It has the stereo jack. It works in the I7000. Don't ask me to explain it, I just report it :). But I am very relieved: I like this system a lot and would not want to have to give it up for a minute. Bruce A. Mallett, Email

A: Voice recognition software is very sensitive to (a) microphone quality, (b)cpu speed, and (c) memory, more or less in that order. Most laptops have dreadful mikes - getting a quality external will make a big difference. has some useful information. David A. Ross, newsgroup

A: I have Via Voice Gold that came with Lotus SmartSuite Millenium edition; It seems to work quite well. I only have a cheap little headset/boom mike, but after about 2 hours doing the training session to teach the software my Aussie accent, I'm getting about 90% accuracy. And it's supposed to get better the more you use it. Pete Wragg, Email

A: I use it fine [Dragon Naturally Speaking]. But, I've experienced a very odd problem with my headsets. I have 2 - both Andrea. The one at the office is not working effectively. The Audio setup reports very poor sound quality. A cheaper unit at home works great and the Audio setup reports excellent quality. Does not seem to be affected by using A/C or battery or by using or not using my network card. Just seems to be the headset. Edmond Gregory, webtalk

A: I can tell you that nearly all of these voice dictation and also the voice navigation and command and control programs will require special "noise cancellation" microphones. These microphones feature electronic circuitry to eliminate ambient noise pickup, and thus "enhance" the inteligibility of what they do pick up and transfer into the input circuitry of the computer. On most laptops, there is a built in microphone, and it cannot be disabled by plugging in a separate headset type noise cancelling variety. Additionally, the built in mic is often located physically close to a source of mechanical noise and vibration, such as a hard drive or a cooling fan, thus exacerbating the problem considerably. All laptops do contain an input plug, and it is invariably a "line input" variety. This will work just great for the purpose. BUT, the line level input will require a signal level in the range of 250-750 millivolts, with an undetermined input impedance. A microphone will output in the microvolt range, not millivolt range. Therefore, you will need to have a separate microphone amplifier circuit or device in addition to the noise cancelling mic. This kind of defeats the purpose of a laptop, if you have to carry around an external mic. It may be worth it to you. Valentin Guillen, newsgroup

A: Andrea makes Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) microphones and they come with a little amplifier adapter like what Valentin (see above post) tells us about. This adapter is very small, maybe 1.5" long and as bug around as your little finger. However, some problems have been reported using Andrea mic's on i7000. Lilla

A: Dragon OEMs LABTEC's mike headset. I've used the packaged Dragon headset, as well as, multiple LABTEC units (that say on the packaging they have been certified for use by Dragon systems), and they work very well. Tony Maddonna, webtalk

A: I got Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred and installed it on my I7000. I haven't been using the included microphone, because I'd prefer to not have to carry it around.... SO.... I've tried it using the built in mic on the laptop. In all... it's an interesting program.... works ok, but I need to practice and train it more. I think the main problem I'm having is that the laptop internal mic is not high quality enough for this application. Particularly when the fan comes on, the accuracy of the spoken words decreases significantly. Marc, newsgroup

A: Marc, in order to use provided Noise cancelling microphone/headset, it is necessary to purchase a small adapter/booster which boosts the signal output of the headset/microphone up from a few microvolts, which is what a MIC input accepts, up to a voltage level of between 250-750 Millivolt. This is an order of magnitude of amplification. The Line Level input commonly found on laptops requires this nominal .5 volt (250-750millivolt) input to function correctly. So, you would need to purchase a small little amplifier box to plug the mic into, and the output from the small amplifier box plugs into the laptop Line Level input jack. This tiny battery powered is commonly available where they sell this type headset. I should be orderable at CompUSA and other locations. If you look at the paperwork which came with the MIC, you will probably find a company web site where you can order the small amp box. Taking the time to do the registrations (training the program) ESPECIALLY with the noice cancellation microphone is what makes this program usable. When it actually understands everything you say, at that point it becomes a very usable program. I have used three of the IBM Voice Recog Programs for several years, and the versions which I have allow you to not only do dictation, they voice enable any legacy programs you may already own, and further, allow for Command and Control of the computer. That is to say, you can do your file maintenace, Web surfing, etc, (everything) by voice. Quite some thing!! Valentin Guillen, newsgroup

Internal Microphone

Q: I can't seem to get my internal mic shut off on my I7K. This of course causes a squeal in my speakers with the volume turned up. (Positive feedback at work). I can't find a way to shut the Mic OFF. It started when I selected audio inserts in a powerpoint presentation, but will not go away - mic stays hot - even after rebooting. Bruce Green, webtalk

A: I found a setting that contributes to the feedback problem which seems to be what you're referring to as the "open mic." Making the change below fix the problem for me. Pat

  1. Start-->Programs-->Accessories-->Entertainment-->Volume Control. "Mic" should be among the slider bars available. If it's not, select File|Properties and check the block for the Mic. Click okay and then check to see if "Advanced" appears below the Mic slider bar. If it doesn't, go to File and click the "Advanced Properties" item.
  2. Click the "Advanced" button, and the look at the box labeled "1 20dB setting." Check or uncheck it, as the case may be.

Making Sound Recordings

A: There's lots of hum or background noise when you record using either the internal or an external mic. The noise may also affect the speed of the modem connection. The problem can be solved by operating the notebook on battery. Otherwise, you have to ground the Ik7. It's enough to connect a printer or another device which has a 3-pole plug (grounded). I think Dell should provide a grounded power transformer instead of the 2-pole (ungrounded) one. The noise coming from the CD still remains though. When playing DVD, you can mute the CD, but when you want to listen to music CD you are out of luck.... Stefano Catarsi, webtalk

Videoconferencing & Internet Phone

A: Videoconferencing works fine on my I7000 using MS NetMeeting 2.1 Ted Galatis, Webtalk

A: The sound card is full duplex because I can record while playing back a wave file. Mike Pak, Webtalk

Text-to-Voice Software

A: has a free program that can read text files (WillowTalk) and output in voice. The interface is really nice. Stefano Catarsi, webtalk

Summary of Sound output Options... by Chad Pankratz

Chad Pankratz wrote ... Well, here's the final word on sound output options on the Inspiron 7000, gleaned from posts on this newsgroup and Dell's webtalk forums and conveniently summarized for your reading pleasure.

The machine has a single standard headphone-out jack that outputs a Dolby Pro Logic stereo signal. You can plug headphones or computer speakers into this jack just like any other system, and get standard stereo sound.

You can also get a headphone-to-RCA jack adapter cable, which will allow you to plug it into a TV, VCR, or stereo and get stereo sound.

Since the Dolby Pro Logic signal is encoded within the standard stereo signal, you can instead plug the RCA jacks into a Pro Logic receiver and get 4 channel surround sound (2 front speakers, 1 center, 1 rear <same signal is sent to both rear speakers>). Virtually all receivers and many bookshelf systems can decode the Pro Logic signal.

You CANNOT get Dolby Digital (AC-3) sound from the I7000. AC-3 differs from Pro Logic in that it delivers 6 channels of surround sound (2 fronts, 1 center, 2 <separate> rears, 1 subwoofer) to your receiver. The AC-3 signal cannot be encoded within a normal stereo signal like Pro Logic can. It typically requires a separate port, which Dell neglected to provide on this system. (Theoretically it could be output from the standard audio-port, and simply require an adapter cable, but this cabability isn't available on the I7000 either.) So, although the I7000 does in fact support AC-3 INTERNALLY, we can never hear it, since we can only get 2-channel stereo from the laptop or headphones, or 4-channel surround from a receiver....

Idea for the future: Since the decoder chip itself does support AC-3, someone (Dell, Luxsonor, or some caring reader of this newsgroup) could probably write a driver to send this signal instead of the stereo signal through the audio port, and we could get the proper cable adapter....

(Actually AC-3 isn't too big a deal -- after all, an AC-3 capable DVD player can be had for 300 bucks or so. But, since I'm buying a laptop anyway, thought I might be able to delay the DVD purchase for a while -- oh well. Plus, it's the principle of it -- Dell advertises AC-3 capability on its web site -- this a FALSE claim if there is no way to actually get the signal out of the machine.)

Chad Pankratz, newsgroup

User Comments about AC-3 Output (or lack of it)

A: The last word I rec'd from Dell... - There is NO AC-3 output! - There is NO 5.1 Channel AC-3! - There is a Dolby Digital decoder... but no 5.1 channel speakers to take advantage of it! - The '2' stereo speakers apparently do take advantage of '2' Channels of AC-3...But if you have ever heard 'TRUE' AC-3 audio...These speakers can't come close! - The stereo speaker surround sound effects sound cool though. Brian D. Irwin, Webtalk

A: I went through this whole controversy when I ordered my I7000. My understanding was the 3200 with the decoder card, or the 7000 on the board. Neither provide 5.1 ac3. I think the logic of the advertising campaign is that all DVD's are AC3. AC3 is a codec. Even though you only get 2 of the 5.1 available channels, you're still decoding AC3. <unknown>

A: It's hopeless for the 7000 with the internal card, but the 3200 PCMCIA card (which is the same on the 7000 if you get the card option later, or you can probably request this) will have an AC3 output dongle. It's $75, ordered directly from Margi (the maker of the PCMCIA card). has contact info. Even if you have the internal card on the 7000, you can disable it and use the Margi card if you choose to buy one. Rik, newsgroup <Sep 24 1998>

A: Here is my 2 cents on the Dolby AC-3 stuff on I7K... I wrote to Dolby labs tech for info on this software / hardware support on AC-3 inside devices but providing no output source. According to them, if a device be it hardware / software is capable of decoding AC-3 from its source then it is certifiable. So the I7K has AC-3 decoding, but it "down mixes" it to a Dolby 4 channel Surround and sends the encoding through the speaker out port. If you connect the speaker out feed into a Dolby Pro Logic decoder and take the output then you will get 4 channel output. Madhu, Webtalk