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Update on root cause of Digital Audio Service error

Update on root cause of Digital Audio Service error

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I posted a blog entry about a month ago about an issue that started appearing after customers install Update Rollup 2 for Media Center 2005.  Sometimes, while playing back live or recorded content, Media Center will stop displaying video and show a blue overlay screen with the text Digital Audio Service.  When I originally posted my previous blog entry, I had only heard from 2 people who were running into this issue, and both of them were able to resolve the issue by updating video and TV tuner drivers on their systems.  Since then, I have heard from many more people, and updating drivers has not helped in most cases (as you can see in the comments on that previous blog post).

Unfortunately, I don't have an exact root cause or fix to pass on yet, but I have been able to learn more about what we think is happening in these scenarios.  Some of this is still speculation because we are trying to reliably reproduce this issue in our test lab and are so far basing our investigation on the diagnostics reports that some of you have been kind enough to send me so far.

There is an algorithm in the stream buffer engine (SBE) that detects dropped frames and attempts to synthesize replacement frames to minimize glitches and freezes while watching video from analog signals.  Once the dropped frame rate gets high enough, this algorithm stops being effective because there are not enough good frames to use to synthesize replacements from and we will halt video playback.  Media Center sets a threshold for dropped frames to decide when to stop trying to create replacement frames in this scenario.

The Digital Audio Service overlay message is a new message introduced in Update Rollup 2.  It is designed to catch and report low frame rates in DVB-T signals as opposed to letting the video glitch and freeze.  There is a different threshold that controls when Media Center decides to show this Digital Audio Service overlay than the threshold I previously described in the stream buffer engine for analog signals.  It appears that the threshold for this frame dropping rate is set lower than the frame rate threshold for the stream buffer engine for analog signals and therefore Media Center shows this error prematurely in some cases.

Possible causes for high dropped frame rates include the following:

  • Outdated drivers
  • Older tuner cards
  • Non Media Center processes running on the system that are CPU-intensive (because processor time otherwise used to process video frames is being spent elsewhere)
  • Weak signal strength

In cases where the Digital Audio Service overlay appears, you will see that playing back the same video in Windows Media Player will work because WMP does not have this frame replacement algorithm or varying thresholds.  However, it is likely that you will see some type of glitching around the same time in the video playback as you start seeing the overlay in Media Center.

The frame dropping thresholds that I mention above are all controlled within Media Center code, so unfortunately that means there is not a way to configure a registry setting to make the Digital Audio Service overlay appear less frequently or never.

We will be spending more time trying to isolate a repro case and determine possible fixes or workarounds for this issue and I will post additional updates as I get them.


  • The problem reported on UK TV re ITV Channel appears to have been resolved, however I have no indication as to what has provided the remedy.
  • I can concurr that the ITV1 issue has resolved here. But users still got ITV1 on their digi boxes whereas they could not in the MCE. So there must be something about they way the MCE processes the signal.

    Also my other highlighted problem ( Live TV -> Recorded TV -> Live TV ... losing signal) has also been resolved by reverting back to the original Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1300 drivers that came with the card. This appears to be a problem with the latest Hauppauge 3.1A drivers and the original 2.9 version works OK.
  • We have found another possible root cause of Digital Audio Service overlays in Update Rollup 2 for Windows...
  • glad i found this.  i started having the same problems after installing rollup 2, the xbox 360, and the media center extender.  live tv works fine, recorded tv doesn't give me a picture, just the "Digital Audio Service" message on a bright blue screen.

    another related problem.  i have the 360 universal remote.  before i got the 360, that remote worked fine with media center on the pc.  after getting the 360 and installing media center extender, that remote will only work media center when going through the 360.  anyone know how i can get it to work again in media center on the pc?

    overall, i'm very aggravated with rollup 2 and the media center extender.  my media center pc worked perfectly before i installed all this and now it barely works at all.  the most important thing i use it for, recording tv, is now completely broken.  
  • Hi Charlie - there are a couple of other blog posts I have made regarding the Digital Audio Service error that might apply to your system.  Can you please check them out at http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2005/12/02/499643.aspx and http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2006/02/06/526186.aspx and see if either of them help in your scenario?

    I'm sorry to say I'm not familiar with the remote control issue that you describe.  You may want to try to install the most recent IR rollup package from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=b39d53f1-0ac9-433b-b488-4cab82f31dc8&DisplayLang=en and see if that helps.
  • I have this very problem Please keep me posted on your results . I love my brand new dell I've had for a year the only reason I spent so much is the fact I was able to record programs & play them back now that doesn't work at all. I can still watch tv ok but since the roll up I get the digital audio service  error  I have chatted with dell but they want me to contact software support & pay to repair NOT FAIR I PAID QUITE A BIT FOR THE COMPUTER & ITS NOT WORKING PROPERLY BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THEY DID i BELEIVE THEY SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE DON'T YOU?
  • I'm sure everyone is resolving this issue now but I wanted to let you all know that once I updated the angel drivers from the link posted in the blog, the silly "Digital Audio Service Error" went away and all viewing worked perfectly again.  Coincidentally or not, I also have a xbox360 and installed the extender.  That seems to be when my problem started as well.
    Thanks for the research Aaron!
  • Hi John - I am not sure if you have seen them or not yet, but can you please take a look at the other blog posts I've written about the Digital Audio Service error at http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2005/12/02/499643.aspx and http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2006/02/06/526186.aspx and see if either of those apply to your system?
  • I have this same problem with MCE 2005. I find that when this overlay comes up, if i fast forward, then close and re-open Media Center, that it will usually play fine when i resume it. It is only if it hits the one frame that this error happens.
  • A couple of months ago, I posted an item about Digital Audio Service errors that can be caused with Update...
  • I have a Gateway GT5040 and have a Visiontek Theatre 550 Pro Tuner card for Windows MCE. This was working fine until I installed the Media Center Extender for Xbox 360. Now I get the Digital Audio Service screen pretty much all the time when playing back recorded programs. I find that I can get rid of the blue screen by switching to "Live TV" then back to the recorded program which will then play fine for a while, but if I use the back/forward skip buttons this seems to bring back the blue screen. I haven't tried uninstalling MCE extender to see if that will fix the problem. This is so frustrating, I am considering dumping Windows MCE and going to Linux/MythTV.
  • Hi Craig - I'm very sorry for the problems that you've been running into with your Media Center.  Do you see the Digital Audio Service overlay when you watch recorded content on the console, or on your Xbox 360?  This overlay can happen if there are other CPU-intensive processes running on your system.  You may want to check and see if you have other background processes or services running that might explain this.  Also, if you haven't already, I would suggest trying to update the drivers on your system to see if that helps.
  • It happens when watching it on the PC and via the Xbox 360. The GT5040 is pretty new and came with MCE 2005 pre-installed with rollup 2. The VisionTEK Theatre 550 Tuner card was installed after I bought the PC. It was the version specifically for MCE (with the MCE remote). My system is an Intel duo core running at 2.8 Ghz with 1GB of memory. I had this configuration running for a couple of weeks, with no problems playing back recorded programs. I am pretty sure that it was when I installed MCE extender the the problem started happening.  Monitoring the system while it was playing back recorded programs via the Xbox 360, the system was idling at 8% most of the time. No other processes were running at the time and the problem still happens... particularly when I use skip back/skip forward. The problem seems to have gotten worse, as now I cannot watch any recorded programs without the overlay popping up numerous times, which makes it pretty much unusable.
  • Hi Chris - I'm afraid I'm not sure what the cause of this issue on your system might be.  I would suggest contacting Xbox 360 technical support or your computer manufacturer for more detailed troubleshooting steps.  I'm sorry I'm not able to be more helpful here.
  • PingBack from http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/articles/487537.aspx
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