Streamed Video Audio Sync Problems on Windows 10 / Realtek Sound

I have been watching streaming video for a very long time. It always worked beautifully, in high resolutions and from any site: YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, you name it. Then suddenly I started to notice lip sync issues, probably around autumn/winter 2016. The longer a video played, the more the audio would get out of sync with the video, making watching and listening increasingly awkward. Recently I finally found the time to analyze these audio/video sync problems. Read on for a playback troubleshooting methodology followed by a workaround for the issue at hand.

In sync by Jochen Spieker under CC

Troubleshooting Steps

Start at the source and work your way towards the affected device or software.

Streaming Service

As mentioned above the issue happened with all the video streaming services I tested: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube. However, not all of these services were affected in the same way. In other words, the rate at which the audio diverged from the video varied between services. One aspect was always the same, though: the audio would precede the video.

Amazon Prime Video was affected the most. After only about 10 minutes of playback the audio was far enough ahead of the video that the delay was easily noticeable and quite annoying. The sound of a door closing would be heard while the door was still visibly open, and when people were talking their lip movements did not match the words coming out of their mouths at all.

Given that multiple streaming services were affected, the root cause could not have been with any single service. So I moved on in my analysis.

Internet Connection

I have a pretty fast internet connection with a provider not known for traffic shaping/throttling of any kind. Also, playing streaming video on our iPad never showed any issues. Finally, I used our user-experience monitoring product uberAgent to analyze my network connections for signs of trouble, e.g. high latency, reconnects or retransmits. There were none.

Wi-Fi / Local Network

As a next step I considered my local network, albeit only briefly. Most of the previous paragraph’s points apply here, too. On top of that the issues happened not only over Wi-Fi connections, but also when an ethernet cable was plugged in.

Playback Software / Browser

When something is not working as expected in one browser the first reaction is typically to try another one. That is what I did, too, only to find that this audio/video sync issue was occurring in all (major) browsers. I tested the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Edge. I also tested the Netflix Windows app. They were all affected in the same way.

Computer Used for Playback

While I tried to reproduce the issue on multiple computers I noticed a pattern: the affected devices were all running Windows 10 version 1607 and had a Realtek High Definition Audio device. The one machine still running the earlier Windows 10 version 1511 was working correctly, as was a tablet running 1607, but equipped with an Intel SST Audio Device instead of the ubiquitous Realtek audio.

Even though one laptop with Windows 10 1607 and Realtek audio was unaffected, I began to suspect that the combination of Windows 10 1607 (or later) and Realtek sound was somehow responsible.

Configuration Changes

Focusing on the audio I experimented with various configuration changes, starting with Windows’ diagnostics troubleshooting wizard find and fix audio playback problems. It performs some useful tests and makes suggestions for changes like the following:

  • Disabling all enhancements
  • Replacing the Realtek audio driver with Windows’ generic audio driver

Since those did not help I tried suggestions found on the internet (some of which are of very dubious value):

  • Changing the default audio format (e.g. to something other than 24 bit, 48000 Hz)
  • Disabling exclusive mode (“allow applications to take exclusive control of this device”)
  • Disabling Dolby Digital Plus

Of course I also updated the (Realtek) audio driver to the latest version. Nothing made the asynchronicity go away.

Finding a Workaround

Then I had an idea when I noticed that a wireless headset I am using for web meetings shows up as a playback device:

By configuring my Platronics headset as default device I routed all audio output to the headset. Its embedded audio chip now provided all the functionality while the machine’s builtin Realtek audio was ignored. And bingo – the delay was gone!

I tried with another headset, a different model but also with built-in driverless USB audio. It also worked correctly, on both computers where I had experienced the sync problems before.

Workaround #1: USB Audio Device

As only Realtek audio devices seem to be affected a workaround/solution requires a secondary audio device which is used in place of the built-in audio. A quick search showed that external USB audio devices are cheap and easily available. Apparently they are standardized in the USB specifications so that all relevant operating systems support them without requiring additional drivers.

I ordered the Ugreen USB external sound adaptor for 7.99 € – to verify my hypothesis, but also to be able to enjoy a movie again.

Setup is more than simple: plug the USB end into your computer and your headphones into the 3.5 mm jack. Then bring up the Sound dialog and make the new device the default.

That fixed the audio/video delays for me – for the time being.

Workaround #2: Edit Power Plan Setting

Multiple readers commented that switching the power plan from balanced to high performance resolved the issue. Unfortunately that also reduces battery life and overall power efficiency, so I did not bother with it until commenter Aaron figured out the relevant setting: minimum processor state. I verified that the audio video sync problems go away if you change the minimum processor state of the balanced power plan from 5% to 100%.

While this works and is easy to change it is but a workaround, not a solution. I am still waiting for Microsoft and/or Realtek to fix the issue for good.

2017-05-02 Update: Windows 10 1703 (Creators Update)

Windows 10 1703 (Creators Update) does not fix the audio/video sync issues described in this article.

, , ,

48 Responses to Streamed Video Audio Sync Problems on Windows 10 / Realtek Sound

  1. verk March 29, 2017 at 22:59 #

    I had this same problem. Re-installing Windows 10 didn’t help, but moving from Windows 10 Home to Enterprise did (I assume Enterprise is based on W10 Pro?). Was just googling if this issue had been resolved since I downgraded from Enterprise to Home version again and boom, the audio delay issue comes back after months. Nothing else changed with the computer in question.

  2. Dare April 14, 2017 at 02:03 #

    Hey, thanks for this info. I just enjoyed a full movie for the first time in about 8 months.

  3. Rodrigo April 20, 2017 at 15:39 #

    I upgraded from Pro to Enterprise, now on Creators Update my sound output is out of sync. I was using a Xiaomi Bluetooth speaker which works perfectly on other Operating Systems except this Windows, maybe it is Creators Update or Windows edition as you suggest in comments.

  4. Scott April 29, 2017 at 02:53 #

    I’m having this issue as well. It started happening out of the blue and nothing seems to resolve it. So annoying!

  5. Ethan Hunt May 15, 2017 at 05:15 #

    I can also confirm this is a Windows issue and using an external USB sound card fixed my sync issues too. I opted for a Dtech sound card which costs around USD$10. Prior to this I tried reinstalling audio drivers, video drivers, uninstalling random programs, windows updates, installing different players, codecs, trying different sound settings just like the author. Nothing worked. My out of sync issue affected all media players (VLC, MPC, WMP etc), and all browsers for online streamed video. I was able to get video and audio to sync temporarily by changing the display resolution or switching sound profiles, but it would only last 10 mins or so before going out of sync and unwatchable again. Not the most elegant fix but nonetheless it’s cheap and effective!

  6. Roman May 24, 2017 at 07:36 #

    Using a different audio device does work.

    • Karl November 18, 2017 at 06:24 #

      It also worked for me. I switched to my big HK Onyx Sudio speaker driven by bluetooth and it works fine now.

  7. Kenny May 31, 2017 at 02:49 #

    I have the same problem. Is it a faulty connection or is it far more complex than I thought? The thing is
    never had this problem before so why are Realtek and Windows 10 getting worse :(

    My problem is I get delays and tinny noise when it’s a drum sound or muffled like I can’t hear the sound infront.

  8. Christian June 5, 2017 at 23:23 #

    The solutions is actually quite simple. Just download and install the newest version of flash player and do this after:

    Go here on chrome:

    chrome://settings/content/flash

    And press the “allow flash automatically”. Unclick “ask before”.

    Now you can restart your chrome and your videos will work perfectly

    • Mandy August 23, 2017 at 22:10 #

      So simple! Thanks. Was getting ready to throw my laptop out the window!

    • mike smith September 28, 2017 at 03:29 #

      didn’t work for me :/

  9. Marco June 9, 2017 at 14:48 #

    Same problem here (Win 10 Pro with Conexant SmartAudio HD).
    Sync on Chrome YouTube gets noticeably out of sync after playing ~10min.
    Work-around I’ve found is to refresh the page and jump to the same time.

  10. Glenn June 13, 2017 at 02:15 #

    I’m having this problem on a Dell XPS L702X which isn’t technically certified by Dell to run Win10. It has Intel 6230 wifi-n and realtek audio. I have two solutions, either use a USB speaker/bluetooth headphone (just don’t use internal audio chip) OR use a different USB wifi dongle (I had it laying around, which is a Realtek 8191SU). These solutions fix the sync issue in Youtube, Netflix, or other streaming flash/HTML5 videos.

  11. Andrei June 16, 2017 at 09:36 #

    Solved by switching to the High Performance plan in Power Options. I don’t know how or why, I don’t ask these questions when it comes to Windows.
    (The funny thing is I switch between two HDDs on the same computer, same OS build installed on both; one had the video lag and the other worked fine. Fiddling with the video and audio drivers did nothing.)

    • Nisse Persson July 13, 2017 at 20:11 #

      Thx! The High Performance Plan may work. Used to loose synch after 10 minutes but now watching Barnaby 40 minutes in fingers crossed.

      (Windows 10 on a Mac. Not Realtek but Cirrus Logic)

      • Thank You July 27, 2017 at 19:21 #

        It looks like High Performance plan may have worked for me too. Had problem with YouTube videos (desync of about 0.1-0.2 s per minute in a video).
        I have Dell Inspiron, Windows 10

    • thedude August 10, 2017 at 21:45 #

      Thanks, it worked for me too

      Like others, I had been struggling with this for months and had tried almost everything but this did the job. My laptop generally feels better across other applications too. My power options were set to ‘Lenovo Optimized’. I found the High Performance Plan under a small drop-down.

      I got close a couple of months back by playing with some power options but hadn’t noticed the drop-down.

  12. Devi June 21, 2017 at 11:39 #

    I was able to fix it by disabling the advanced option “Give exclusive applications priority”

    Dunno why. I may look into the power settings next like Andrei mentioned. That’s a likely place I hadn’t thought of yet.

    • Quasar November 8, 2017 at 04:55 #

      Exclusive Access was the problem! Thank you so much Devi!

    • Kevin S. November 9, 2017 at 03:03 #

      This worked! Switching to the High Performance Power Plan didn’t do the trick, but disabling “Give Exclusive Applications Priority” under the Advanced tab for High Definition Audio Device properties in the sound control panel worked like a charm.

    • David November 9, 2017 at 21:09 #

      Great! Worked for me…

    • Peter Jordan November 22, 2017 at 06:15 #

      Thank YOU!! OMG it was driving me crazy. Happened out of no where

    • Ellie November 23, 2017 at 00:01 #

      I did this and also disabled all enhancements. Re-boot and it is now working perfectly. Why did Microsoft not test their updated software before releasing. Used to be able to roll back drivers but not anymore.

  13. Glenn June 22, 2017 at 00:01 #

    I found a solution to the audio/video sync problem. It wasn’t the Realtek sound drivers, it was Intel Wifi drivers for me. What I did was just download and install the latest Intel drivers 19.60 for wifi under windows 10, install it, and then update driver for the wifi manually, and select browse and Have Disk. It will bring up a list of currently supported wifi cards. Select one that is closest to the current unsupported wifi card, and force it. Windows will list it as the new Wifi card. For example, I have a Intel Advanced-N 6230, so I chose the 6235, where they are both 2×2 N and both have bluetooth. Another laptop has a Intel Wifi 1030, this was tougher because it is a 1×2 N card, so I chose the Intel Wireless-N 135 which is a 1×1 N. Both work, are fast on Speedtest, and there are no more audio problems in streaming media!

    • Helge Klein June 30, 2017 at 02:18 #

      This issue also affects one of my machines connected by Ethernet cable, so I am not sure changing the WiFi drivers can have a substantial impact.

  14. Lynne June 28, 2017 at 05:54 #

    Thanks for this. I am able to watch video with the sound in sync for the first time in months by using a bluetooth speaker instead of the Realtek audio on my laptop.

    • Karl November 18, 2017 at 06:19 #

      agree; same here

  15. Konrad July 9, 2017 at 15:42 #

    I found a solution that works for me but I have windows 10 Pro build 1703 not the one mentioned in the article. I went into Update & security -> Troubleshoot -> Playing audio -> Run the troubleshooter then chose my device and pressed “No, do not open Audio Enchancements” and after that I used “Play test sounds” and chose that the sound was bad until it suggested “Microsoft default audio driver” or something like that (dont remember exactly). Hopefully this can help others too.

  16. Aaron September 5, 2017 at 19:10 #

    Setting the power scheme to High Performance works for me to stop the video from lagging.

    I have found that the relevant setting is actually the “Minimum Processor State”. The balanced scheme has it set to 5%. If you leave it on “balanced” scheme, but set minimum processor state to 100%, then the lag goes away also.

    • Helge Klein September 14, 2017 at 13:54 #

      Thanks, Aaron. I have confirmed this to work for me as well.

      • Eric October 17, 2017 at 17:41 #

        Is there any risk to that?

    • SL November 7, 2017 at 20:53 #

      Wondering the same thing as Eric below. It looks like this at least made the audio/video desync less noticeable, but will it have any detrimental effects on my CPU?

  17. Joe Nord September 14, 2017 at 16:26 #

    A blast back to my prior lives in audio device driver business. I really don’t miss these problems. The above screams bug in the Realtek sound device driver, incorrectly reporting “stream time”, probably in a case where some data arrived late. The audio driver let it’s definition of time drift forward when it didn’t have data to go with it. Stream time and host system clock time are distinct and they do not necessarily advance at the same rate and here, it looks like the Realtek driver is assuming they do. Audio is time master by definition. When video runs behind, video is supposed to drop frames to catch up. In your case, video is concluding that it is still “aligned” even when it is not and that is probably the fault of audio driver reporting time based upon where the host system clock says it should be vs. the amount of audio data consumed divided by data rate. The later is the right definition and will keep time aligned.

    > switching the power plan from balanced to high performance resolved the issue
    Just masks the problem by increasing the likelihood that audio data will not arrive “late”. When audio data arrives “late”, time is supposed to “stop” until the data arrives.

    Switching to USB audio device gave you a new device driver for calculating stream time (Microsoft driver) appears to not have the same errors in stream time. Its a arguably an expensive fix for something that SHOULD work out of the box. But, cheap wins.

    It is possible to write testcases for this, but interestingly “time” from Windows is not a useful measure. Measurement must have a reliable clock (external) and then throttle the data in and see how “stream time” reacts. We used to use logic analyzers for this (picosecond accuracy) and it then became interesting when you could fail WHQL stream time tests when you KNOW time reported is accurate.

  18. Luca September 14, 2017 at 20:03 #

    Very interested analysis which explain the root cause of the problem but …. is there any solution ?!?!
    Realteck audio drivers are quite popular and Microsoft shall provide an update in the driver, if this is the issue.
    Any alternative? For example using a different driver?

  19. magiceye October 7, 2017 at 23:47 #

    Windows 10 Pro Realtek HD audio headset problem, very similar to ones described in the article and comments, fixed by simply turning the power management option to High Performance. Really really simple solution. Go high performance power settings.

  20. xuo October 12, 2017 at 08:46 #

    If you’re using hyper-v, try stop all VMs.

  21. JPC October 26, 2017 at 14:20 #

    This is the most accurate thread on the internet that describes my issue. This is driving me nuts. Started with the Creator’s update. The power setting fix doesn’t work on my setup. Yes, a USB device fixes it but I want my on-board ASUS/Realtek drivers and hardware setup to work as they should!

    Has anyone heard or found a fix for this issue?

  22. Mike November 4, 2017 at 19:45 #

    “Setup is more than simple: plug the USB end into your computer and your headphones into the 3.5 mm jack. Then bring up the Sound dialog and make the new device the default.

    That fixed the audio/video delays for me – for the time being.”

    Does this mean I have to listen through ear phones or can I unplug them and have normal speaker sound?

    I’ve tried changing the power settings (option #2) but it made no difference.

  23. Steve S November 5, 2017 at 02:44 #

    Thanks for the analysis and report.
    The “minimum processor state to 100%” approach worked for me.

    • SL November 7, 2017 at 20:54 #

      Looks like it’s working for me as well, I’m just hoping it doesn’t have any detrimental effects on my CPU.

  24. Pedro November 5, 2017 at 23:49 #

    In my case, I only watch videos on my HDTV, so I plug my laptop using an HDMI cable. My laptop had a blue screen few months ago and after that I only have balanced as energy plan. I modified it to work on 100% as you wrote but it didn’t worked.

    I have an external usb sound dongle but when I plug it, select as default and plug an earphone in it, I don’t get to have the sound coming out from my tv.

    My solution so far is pausing the streaming like every 10 minutes.

    I really want a final solution for this and if someone know how to help me, please tweet me @pedropinheiroo

  25. Some Dude November 7, 2017 at 21:08 #

    For People having issues with CPU Power on 100%
    Disable Virtualization and VT-d in Bios and Reinstall Microsoft HD Audio Drivers
    This fixed my Delay on the Realtek Chipset on an Asus Z270-A

  26. Roland K. November 12, 2017 at 22:58 #

    Thanks for your in-depth research, my big problem here in Germany with Sky and Netflix was solved. Thanks a lot, my pöd ThinkPad T510 is still working…

  27. MRW November 13, 2017 at 15:56 #

    Thanks much for this find! Been going nuts with a/v sync issues and other artifacts like jumpy video and audible “clicks”. Even bought a new graphics card… The minimum CPU power setting finally fixed all of my issues. At 75% my system was at the border of fixing everything so bumped up to 80% for a little head-room. Really appreciate your input on this issue.

  28. Miguel Hood November 16, 2017 at 15:26 #

    Windows 10 is really becoming frustrating for me. From microphone to headphones and now audio sync. I always have one problem or the other with this windows. I’ve actually tried all you mentioned but no

  29. Pep November 21, 2017 at 14:02 #

    I’m on a desktop pc, win10.
    This issue started sometime after creators update. Been noticing it the past 3-4 days.

    I haven’t tried the external soundcard or similar yet, but all of the above fixes doesn’t solve the issue for me. They do reset the “timer” however.

    What fixes it for me, at least until next reboot, is to uninstall the audio drivers so that windows installs it’s own driver for it.
    But then the next day, after a reboot, the desync is back, so I have to uninstall the drivers(win drivers) again and it’s fixed.

    Fun.

  30. Peter Connell November 25, 2017 at 12:07 #

    I had the issue using firefox but it disappeared using edge. Can’t help feeling M’soft tied firefox’s shoelaces together. Also. SkyGo is not a vintage system.

  31. Rasmus Pitkänen November 25, 2017 at 23:56 #

    The power or the Give Exclusive Applications Priority didn’t do it for me but what did, was that I changed the speakers from my Realtek to my monitor HDMI. My monitor also has a 3.5mm output so I plugged my speakers into that. That would only work for people with that kind of monitor but it might help some people.

Leave a Reply to Thank You Click here to cancel reply.