Enable audiophile sound in Windows with ASIO4ALL
ASIO4ALL is a free universal (hardware independent) low latency ASIO driver for WDM audio devices. It uses WDM Kernel-Streaming and sometimes even more sophisticated methods to achieve its objectives, i.e., to connect the sound source (media player software) directly with the sound card or DAC, bypassing the Windows audio mixing kernels. Please note that if you use ASIO you will lose the option of changing the volume level through keyboard shortcuts, multimedia keyboard keys, etc.
ASIO4ALL is just a driver – you need to have a media player that can communicate with ASIO4ALL. There are, for example, ASIO plugins for Winamp adding to the “Output” section of Winamp an option to use ASIO instead of DirectSound or WaveOut. When you install such a plugin, you might need to experiment a while with the configuration (which is very simple), even close and restart Winamp until you make it work.
ASIO4ALL will not replace your existing sound card drivers or mess with them in any way, and it will not install any kernel mode components that could potentially affect the stability of your system. ASIO means “Audio Stream Input/Output”. It is a soundcard driver protocol for digital audio specified by Steinberg, providing a low-latency and high fidelity interface between a software application and a computer’s sound card. Whereas Microsoft’s DirectSound is commonly used as a stereo input and output for non-professional users, ASIO allows musicians and sound engineers to process their audio via Windows computer software instead of external hardware.
ASIO offers a relatively simple way of accessing multiple audio inputs and outputs independently. Its main strength lies in its method of bypassing the inherently high latency of Windows audio mixing kernels (KMixer), allowing direct, high speed communication with audio hardware. Unlike KMixer, an unmixed ASIO output is “bit identical”, that is, the bits sent to the soundcard are identical to those of the original source, thus having higher audio fidelity.
Check also the Winamp Kernel Streaming plugin in case that it works better for you.