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TheStreet Open House

Microsoft's Windows 8 Poses Audio Problems

Stocks in this article: MSFT

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - We're beginning to hear of some serious problems with Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) new Surface tablet computers and the just-released Windows 8 operating system.

This morning, The Verge published a story about hardware problems concerning Surface tablets and user reports on Microsoft support forums of splitting Touch Covers (with built-in keyboards). A story in The Guardian reports there are some Touch Cover hardware issues too.

There's also mention of widespread audio problems as well. The Verge calls them "random muting and audio stuttering". But those audio problems are not confined to Surface tablets. They go a lot deeper.

Actually, it's Microsoft's new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems that are the culprits. In our testing, TheStreet found major problems with the way the new Windows OSes handle - or in this case mangle - digital audio.

We encountered audio problems as far back as the first Windows 8 beta. Especially when trying to use a number of outboard digital-to-analog music converters or DACs, which improve the audio quality of digital music files. Laptops and digital music players do have built-in DAC circuitry, but it's almost always cheap and of lesser quality than outboard units. DACs which operate on the USB 1.1 standard, such as the Audioquest DragonFly and Audioengine's D1, produced loud clicking sounds after playing for a minute or two.

DACs which utilize the USB 2.0 standard had different problems. Since previous versions of Windows didn't support USB 2.0 audio right out of the box, you always needed to install special drivers. The Windows 8 betas wouldn't run those drivers.

Since I'm aware of all the possible problems trying to make beta software work, I figured Microsoft would fix the audio problems with its official release of the OS. I was only partially correct.

Using the same Lenovo IdeaPad U260, now running a full release version of Windows 8 Pro, and using either USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 DACs, the intermittent clicking - streaming via Spotify or Windows' built-in music software - was still apparent, but its level had been somewhat reduced.

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