Sound Blaster 16 not playing nice with other audio devices

Discussion about old sound cards, MIDI devices and sound related accessories.

Sound Blaster 16 not playing nice with other audio devices

Postby red_avatar » 2019-8-12 @ 17:35

So, I have the following problem:

I have a SB16 CT2230 + new quality studio speakers. When I hook them together, I get BEAUTIFULLY clean and crisp sound.

I have a myriad of audio devices from external USB sound card Xonar U7 to a Fiio X1 MP3 player.

I also bought a mixer - the Behringer 802 which allows me to add 3 different stereo inputs and to mix it into a single output + allows me to set the EQ on the fly.

What I want to do is mix the Sound Blaster 16 with any of the above! The idea is to use the same speakers for both the Sound Blaster 16 & any other input device. My laptop uses the Xonar U7 for MT-32 and SC55 emulation, the Fiio MP3 player is handy for playing certain music over games that lack music to add atmosphere to the experience, etc.

If I hook up the laptop and the MP3 player, it works fine. In fact, if I hook up ANY two devices, it works fine - nice, crisp sound with no noise. The MOMENT I hook up the Sound Blaster 16, I ALWAYS get noise from the Sound Blaster's side. I know this because with the mixer I can mute each channel. The moment I remove the other device, the sound from the Sound Blaster 16 turns clear again.

I've tried pretty much everything - different cables, added an amplifier between the soundcard and the mixer (hoping the noise would not get amplified but it does), switching from speaker-out to line-out, disabling everything in MIXERSET (you can set everything to zero, the noise remains), ... nothing helps. EDIT: also tried swapping to different ISA channels. Oddly enough, even with the PC turned off, I get this noise.

Since I KNOW quite a few people use mixers to combine the MIDI modules with soundcards, I know this is possible without the noise so something I'm doing must be wrong. I know too little of the technical aspect behind sound to figure this out myself though. Does anyone know what is going on? (and please don't say "Sound Blasters are always noisy" because I get perfectly clear sound when I don't combine the output with any other device). Thank you!
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IBM PS1 386SX25 - 4MB
IBM Aptiva 486SX33 - 8MB - 2GB CF - SB16
IBM PC350 P233MMX - 64MB - 32GB SSD - AWE64 - Voodoo2
PIII600 - 320MB - 480GB SSD - SB Live! - GF4 Ti 4200
i5-2500k - 3GB - SB Audigy 2 - HD 4870
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 not playing nice with other audio devices

Postby Tiido » 2019-8-12 @ 18:08

This is a ground loop caused issue, there's no good fix for it unfortunately... Balanced inputs will be able to help but all devices need to use them.
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 not playing nice with other audio devices

Postby red_avatar » 2019-8-12 @ 18:35

Tiido wrote:This is a ground loop caused issue, there's no good fix for it unfortunately... Balanced inputs will be able to help but all devices need to use them.


That makes a LOT of sense actually. I just tested it and yep: if I use my SB16 exclusively with my MP3 player, no noise. Since the MP3 player is not hooked up to a mains, it causes no loop. Thing is, my laptop's battery died ages ago (which is why it's now a glorified MIDI player) so there's no way for me to run off battery. I did try plugging everything into the same outlet but that didn't fix it.

I did find a vid that recommends buying a Ground Loop Isolator for €9 so that seems by far the easiest solution.

Thank you very much for the help - I'd never have found that on my own.
Retro game fanatic.
IBM PS1 386SX25 - 4MB
IBM Aptiva 486SX33 - 8MB - 2GB CF - SB16
IBM PC350 P233MMX - 64MB - 32GB SSD - AWE64 - Voodoo2
PIII600 - 320MB - 480GB SSD - SB Live! - GF4 Ti 4200
i5-2500k - 3GB - SB Audigy 2 - HD 4870
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