I’ve done a little digging, and I’m guessing the reality here isn’t great but, I figure I would ask in case others have run into this…
On Windows many audio device manufacturers supply some kind “audio enhancement” effects; typically things like EQs and spatial audio processing. These effects flavor sound output on a system-wide level. Of course this is terrible for any kind of transparent mixing in a DAW, and I assume most DAW users on Windows uninstall/remove drivers/disable audio enhancements to avoid such problems.
But depending on the audio application, asking end users to uninstall/disable system audio and potentially audio drivers is a big ask, so I’m wondering if anyone has experience with more graceful ways around this?
I have a use case in which adjustments to the outgoing audio stream via such effects can actually cause a receiving device’s performance to degrade, and in some cases fail, if the signal is altered too much in the high frequency bands, and I’m trying to find a sane solution.
Unrelated to this use case, but anecdotally, I had a PC where I was making music in a DAW, and I noticed that for some reason when I played the bounced track in Slack of all places, it sounded very different. Upon further investigation my sound card driver did have a bunch of enhancements enabled, and oddly enough Slack was somehow bypassing them during playback, but my DAW was not. Seems backwards, but that’s what happened. I’ve also seen some posts on forums about Microsoft Teams also bypassing Windows audio enhancements.
So I’m wondering what is it about these applications that allows them to magically bypass the enhancements? One thing I can think of is that they can both function as a video/audio conferencing app, and audio enhancements can get in the way of algorithms like echo cancellation, albeit more so for microphones. Does anyone know if there is a way to tell Windows that an application should bypass audio enhancements?
I’ve also seen some chatter online about ASIO and WSAPI drivers bypassing audio enhancements, but it seems like only in exclusive modes. I suppose that’s probably about the most graceful workaround I can hope for if it is true. Some say WSAPI in general, others say WSAPI in exclusive mode. But that can’t be what Slack or Teams is doing since other apps can share the sound device.
Seems like it’s kind of a mess. I would rather not have to direct users to do something like this.
Also, I’ve never run into anything like “audio enhancements” on macOS, iOS, or Android; installed by default, does that seem accurate?