Sigmatel audio chip lacks Vista drivers

UPDATE | Installing the Sigmatel driver released by Dell didn’t do anything on the Optima Viiv Media Center – either using the Setup or just pointing the driver update wizard to the folder with the actual drivers in them.

Funnily enough what did eventually get the drivers working was applying the latest Intel chipset and graphics platform drivers. It seems that some Intel-based systems might not respond as expected with Vista’s out of the box drivers.

However even this didn’t quite work as the device was recognized only as a “High Definition Audio Device” rather than as a Sigmatel audio device and only enabled two speakers rather than the actual 5.1 speaker configuration.

What did eventually work was to go to the Intel Download Center and then a driver search under the specific desktop board contained within the Optima – in this case an Intel D945GPM. Although Optima hasn’t release Sigmatel drivers for this system Intel HAS released Sigmatel audio drivers for this particular motherboard and they work a treat. They installed straight away with full 5.1 functionality restored. Kudos for Intel!

So if you’re having trouble with a particular onboard chipset and the system manufacturer hasn’t got anything for you pop the lid check out the exact specification of the motherboard and go to THAT manufacturer’s website. You could be in luck.

When does “Vista Ready” not really mean “Vista Ready”? Well there’s a few circumstances and if your system has Sigmatel-powered audio that’s one of them.

While Creative has been roundly criticised for not scheduling final driver for Windows Vista until at least after the release of the Home and Ultimate editions Sigmatel users are in an even trickier situation.

The Sigmatel STAC92xx HD audio codec is a popular audio system found on many machines. However your ability to get support for this under Vista is entirely dependent on the system manufacturer. Because Sigmatel themselves don’t manufacture audio devices but just the integrated circuits which the manufacturers then use they don’t provide any sort of driver support directly.

So where does this leave you as a user? Possibly in a nasty situation. Unlike Intel hardware which manufacturers integrate in all sorts of varieties and for which there are standard drivers available from the Intel site systems running Sigmatel audio will simply have to wait until the individual manufacturer gets around to it.

One manufacturer which seems a bit ahead of the game is Dell. They have released an audio driver for Windows Vista for the Inspiron E1505 and is available on this page. I downloaded the package and extracted the contents – the embedded driver files are actually signed by Sigmatel so there’s a potential that these drivers will work for non-Dell systems. My next stop is to install Vista on an Optima Viiv-certified Media Center and see how it goes – stay tuned.

However it’s ridiculous to have to jump through these sorts of hoops to get the final release of an operating system installed. This is one aspect of Vista’s release which doesn’t seem to have been handled too well – manufacturers waiting for the commercial released to provide full support for their products (like Creative and even Logitech) even though Vista is actually out.

It’s not really Microsoft’s fault -– you can hardly argue that the Vista beta process has been a closed shop. The beta run was so long it’s hard to forgive any manufacturer which doesn’t have a final release driver ready to go.