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Sound problems: help please?

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Alright, a quick Google didn't turn up anything useful by any stretch, so I'll see if someone here has some wisdom on what is going on with my machine :)

I have 2 sound cards in my machine:
 - Onboard Realtek HD Audio (rear and front panel used, latest drivers)
 - Creative X-Fi Fatal1ty Gamer Pro (PCI, infrequently used, latest drivers)

The problem is with the former (the latter has it's own share of problems, but that's for another time) - if I launch an application, one of two things will happen:

 - Normal operation, no problems whatsoever (minus usual program bugs and whatnot)
 - Normal operation, without sound (everything else works fine) :huh:

There is no connection to anything else (any other problems) on the computer - the whole thing runs fine except this. The problem is, it seems once a program has this "glitch," every 2nd launch it fails to supply sound. For example:

* Friend wants me to race on Need for Speed: Most Wanted
* I launch NFSMW, works fine
* I close NFSMW, and resume work/play/writing/whatever
* Friend wants a rematch
* I launch NFSMW, get to the "wear your seatbelt <insert stuff no one above 12 listens to here>" and there is no sound output
* Close NFSMW via Alt+F4 (for other apps, a "normal" close works as well)
* Relaunch NFSMW, sound is present once again
* Repeat as necessary
And it is not limited to that one game: Miro is doing it now, and VLC requires a similar approach:

* Play media file, no problems
* Media file stops
* Drag new media file onto VLC
* Media file plays, without sound
* Stop playback (not pause), Resume playback
* Sound resumes as normal
What the f*ck is going on? Firefox does not seem affected by this yet (knock on wood), as YouTube videos play fine - but I close FF so often that it could actually be every other "good" launch for all I know. :tellme:

As soon as I post this I'm going to switch off to my X-Fi and see what's going on. Thanks in advance for any ideas or input :)

Last-second-edit: Also, sometimes when plugging in/removing headphones from the front jack, Windows Explorer will lockup and if I open Vista's sound controls, it too will freeze. The sound icon will also vanish from the taskbar when Explorer recovers.

Afterthought edit: This has only been occurring for about a week now. I haven't made any significant changes to anything (just moving files and whatnot, no drivers/devices/hardware changes) around the time it began. The most recent change was about a week and a half ago I attempted to install my old Dynex WGP-USB dongle, failing (no Vista drivers); I removed all traces of that though.

Maybe your on board sound card is dying? try your other one and see what happens.

The X-Fi card is running fine so far... I don't see why the onboard sound would be having issues though. The machine is only about 20 months old (I got it summer of 2007)... strange. :o

The CPU did seem to overheat a few days ago (an uncommon but expected occurrence: 100-115 (F) degrees on a typical day (was about 85 or so today- not quite summer- coupled with the computer being in an enclosed area), but not to the point of the computer doing anything but lagging due to CPU sleep commands. The computer is running cool right now though (and was earlier with the issues), so I doubt that is related. :-\

Your problem sounds somewhat familiar. Here I use an onboard soundcard, together with an USB 5.1 headphone which has it own hardware on XP SP2. After plugging that one in I have to restart whatever app that uses sound.

Makes sense, hardware needs to be initialized and recognized by the OS before the apps are able to use the intended hardware.

With that in mind, do you check which sound hardware is initialized by the OS at the time you start a game? Since you have two sound cards and every other time the right hardware is used, it looks to me that your OS is switching between hardware.

Connect a set of speakers to one card, another set of speakers to the second card and start a game several times. If each time only one set is playing you'll know in which way you have to find the right solution.
There was a thread on DC here about switching between multiple sound cards with some AHK scripts. Get lucky in that thread I would say  ;)

Vista's volume "center" (the control panel applet) and the tray icon both report the correct volume and device (Realtek HD Audio) immediately at boot. It is also the "Default," so Vista should use it automatically (no need for the AHK app with Vista). Might try disabling everything else though - didn't think about that.

Last second edit: A friend *just* asked me to voice chat - I plugged in my mic and went to Xfire's Voice options to check the devices. It crashed. This doesn't look good :tellme:


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