Audio Agony: Addressing Distortion Issues in Windows 11


Could you provide guidance on resolving choppy audio issues in Windows 11, which seem to persist despite updating drivers and disabling non-audio related services? After replacing a failed SSD and reinstalling the operating system, the audio was initially fine in safe mode but has since become distorted. The disabled services include Xbox, printer, Bluetooth, and smart key services, and the headphones in use are Arctis 7s with a USB dongle. Additionally, two “High Definition Audio Controller” devices appear in the device manager, one from Intel and the other from Nvidia, but disabling them or searching for drivers has not remedied the problem. What drivers or services that do not run in safe mode could be interfering with the audio quality?


Choppy audio can significantly disrupt the user experience, especially after a fresh installation of Windows 11. If you’re encountering persistent audio distortion despite updating drivers and disabling unrelated services, here are some expert recommendations to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.

Firstly, ensure that all audio drivers are up to date. This includes checking the manufacturer’s website for the latest drivers for your Arctis 7s headphones and the audio controllers listed in the Device Manager. Windows Safe Mode doesn’t load third-party drivers, which is why the issue wasn’t present there. It’s crucial to identify if any third-party service related to audio is causing the problem.

Step 2: Inspect Audio Settings

Sometimes, the audio format settings can cause issues. Navigate to the Sound Control Panel, click on the Playback tab, right-click the default device, and select Properties. Under the Advanced tab, test different audio formats and see if the issue persists.

Step 3: Disable Audio Enhancements

Audio enhancements can sometimes interfere with sound quality. In the same Properties window, under the Enhancements tab, check the ‘Disable all enhancements’ box and apply the changes.

Step 4: Check Power Settings

As some users have reported, changing to a High-Performance power plan has resolved their audio issues. Windows 11 may revert to a balanced power plan upon restart, so ensure the High-Performance plan is active.

Step 5: Run Audio Troubleshooter

Windows has a built-in audio troubleshooter that can detect and fix common problems. Access it through Settings > System > Troubleshoot > Other troubleshooters > Playing Audio.

Step 6: Perform a Clean Boot

Interference from other programs can cause audio issues. Performing a clean boot can help identify if background programs are the culprits. You can do this by using the System Configuration tool (msconfig) and disabling all non-Microsoft services on the Services tab.

Step 7: Check for Hardware Conflicts

Hardware conflicts, especially with the motherboard’s integrated audio and external audio interfaces, can lead to choppy audio. Ensure there are no conflicts in the Device Manager, particularly between the Intel and Nvidia audio controllers.

Step 8: Update Windows

Ensure your Windows 11 is fully updated, as patches and updates can resolve known issues.


If the problem persists after following these steps, consider seeking further assistance from Microsoft Support or a professional technician. Remember, audio issues can stem from a variety of sources, including software conflicts, outdated drivers, or even hardware problems. Patience and systematic troubleshooting are key to resolving choppy audio in Windows 11.

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