Hardware Audio clipping (maybe boosted?) over HDMI

Nazosan

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So I've had something quite odd going on with my original Switch for quite some time now. At some point it started having audio clipping when played through the HDMI. It also seems a bit loud, so I think for some reason audio is being boosted through HDMI. It really is annoying and can ruin the audio of a lot of things -- especially when I'm listening to music. Interestingly it is only the HDMI. If I plug an analog cable into the headphone jack (even to the same amplifier with the same volume set) it sounds normal with no clipping. It does this with multiple devices and even multiple HDMI cables (not that they should make a difference, but I tried anyway to be sure.) I only have one dock to test on, but it is the official dock.

It didn't do this in the past, so I've been wondering if it was something an update did. I can't exactly say when it happened because, depending on what I'm doing it sometimes isn't as obvious and it took me quite a while to even realize why I felt its sound wasn't very good anymore. What is really interesting is that it does it both in CFW (Atmosphere) and OFW, but my CFW is as up-to-date as my OFW (and Atmosphere doesn't replace all functions.) I thought maybe there was some sort of setting somewhere that could have defaulted to on after some update, but I never found one. Plugging it in directly via analog bypasses the problem, but can be very inconvenient and annoying -- plus it creates its own set of problems. I'd really like to figure out what is causing this and fix it if at all possible, but I have pretty much exausted all options and searching doesn't help at all so far.
 

Nazosan

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I'm not using a TV. It's actually a monitor. I have a SPDIF-to-analog converter that I have been using for a number of years (since before I even had the Switch,) so the sound never goes to the monitor in the first place.

I reiterate, the problem is new. It did not do this in the past. None of my hardware has changed in the time since it started. (Even the HDMI cable is the same.)
 

elk1007

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I'm not using a TV. It's actually a monitor. I have a SPDIF-to-analog converter that I have been using for a number of years (since before I even had the Switch,) so the sound never goes to the monitor in the first place.

I reiterate, the problem is new. It did not do this in the past. None of my hardware has changed in the time since it started. (Even the HDMI cable is the same.)

So, to be clear, when you plug an HDMI cable into the Switch dock, the speakers on the console are producing distorted and/or loud sound?
 

Nazosan

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No, the speakers on the console are silent when I plug in an HDMI cable because the system outputs through HDMI. The sound output through HDMI is what has clipping and seems to be boosted past 0dB.
 

elk1007

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No, the speakers on the console are silent when I plug in an HDMI cable because the system outputs through HDMI. The sound output through HDMI is what has clipping and seems to be boosted past 0dB.

Well you had said you were using a monitor, so I was confused.
I would check all sound settings, including an equalizer setting.
Also, if you can plug auxiliary speakers into the TV, this will tell you whether the problem is the signal or the TV speakers themselves.
 

Nazosan

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Well you had said you were using a monitor, so I was confused.
I don't see why the confusion. I also said I'm using a SPDIF-to-analog converter. It doesn't really matter what settings the not-TV has because they would not apply. I also said that the hardware hasn't changed since this started. I guess to clarify, there are no setting changes -- mostly because there are no settings at all.

I would check all sound settings, including an equalizer setting.
There are no sound settings. There is no equalizer. I'm using a SPDIF-to-analog converter. Digital sound data goes in, analog sound comes out. That's the only thing it does. It doesn't have anything to process the sound in any way and never has introduced clipping in any form (basically lacks the ability to.) From there straight to a standard amplifier. Again, to be absolutely clear, this is the same SPDIF-to-analog converter I've been using since I got my Switch in 2017. And no it doesn't do it on any other devices. The converter itself is still working 100% normally with no clipping on anything else.

Also, if you can plug auxiliary speakers into the TV, this will tell you whether the problem is the signal or the TV speakers themselves.
I'm not using a TV. I'm using a monitor. I can't plug speakers into it at all because it is not a TV, it is a monitor. But as far as confirming it's not the speakers or amplifier, I said in the first post that I have plugged the same system directly into the Switch's headphone jack with no clipping present when I do this. This presents a number of problems however and I would like to correct the HDMI audio issue.
 
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I'm using a SPDIF-to-analog converter. Digital sound data goes in, analog sound comes out. That's the only thing it does. It doesn't have anything to process the sound in any way and never has introduced clipping in any form (basically lacks the ability to.)

This sounds really familiar...

The Switch OS doesn't let you turn down the *digital* volume, so it's always outputting the "raw" audio data.
That's quite bad if you have a cheap shitty DAC, especially if the digital data itself is already near-clipping.

That's important to note, because that means that it'll drive the DAC much harder, and some poorly designed DACes go basically from range to range, which causes huge distortion even just being near the clipping point.

Reading back the posts, you don't seem to mention anything about having anything else plugged into your converter.
I remember having to plug in a microUSB charger into my HDMI to VGA adapter, because I was getting distortion similar to what you explained. While it did NOT fix the issue, it did make it slightly better. Though it could've been just my adapter, completely irrelevant of your issue. Not supplying enough power to the DAC is asking for trouble with distortion on basically almost every device though.

In any case, it's annoying that Nintendo doesn't let us change the volume in digital out mode, because that should DEFINITELY fix issues on some devices, especially where the digital data is fed straight to the DAC instead of having a normalization stage to reduce this very problem.

Also I wonder, what is your "TV Sound" setting set to? You can find it at the bottom of "TV Output", which is at the bottom of the settings list on the left in the Settings.
It seems like that setting it to mono makes the sound quality better sometimes. Although there is also a bug where it keeps resetting to stereo regardless, so it doesn't last long, but I'm very curious if just setting the audio mode to mono does anything to the sound quality without touching your DAC.
 

Nazosan

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Reading back the posts, you don't seem to mention anything about having anything else plugged into your converter.
I remember having to plug in a microUSB charger into my HDMI to VGA adapter, because I was getting distortion similar to what you explained. While it did NOT fix the issue, it did make it slightly better. Though it could've been just my adapter, completely irrelevant of your issue. Not supplying enough power to the DAC is asking for trouble with distortion on basically almost every device though.
Ok, but I did say is the hardware hasn't changed in the years since I've had my Switch and that the converter has zero clipping with every single other device that I own and always has. The Switch didn't clip before, now it does. Still nothing else does. The problem is not the converter (or its power supply.)

Also I wonder, what is your "TV Sound" setting set to? You can find it at the bottom of "TV Output", which is at the bottom of the settings list on the left in the Settings.
Stereo. (The converter does not support surround, so I manually set it to stereo.) I have it hooked up to some decent quality speakers and listen to music via Youtube as well as some games with good music, so I don't want to degrade it, and in my experience downsampling to mono always sounds kind of weird with even high quality software downsamplers. Later I can try setting it to mono to see if it still clips, but even if it does stop the clipping I need to figure out why stereo has clipping now when it did not before even if that is the case. This is a very simple device, so it might be it might not even accept mono (never since I bought it have I ever tried mono,) but I'll see what happens later today.

BTW, to be clear, I usually can hear difference between RFI-caused distortion and audio clipping.


I really want to bring people back to the consideration that this has to be an issue in something in software that has changed. The hardware hasn't changed since 2017 (classic first generation original Switch that required me to get up super early and wait in line to get back in the day,) but of course the firmware has changed many many times since. I get this in both CFW and OFW, but the CFW is also pretty up to date firmware-wise (my CFW is on an emuMMC so can be desynced.) I didn't notice exactly when it happened, but I'd swear it was actually that recent big update (10.0 I guess? I forget now.)
 
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