I broke my mp3 collection =(
December 31, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

I accidentally booted my two mismatched WD SATA AHCI drives in a RAID0 array and now the audio output from the media stored on those drives is static-filled and echoing (when it plays at all). Have I hosed my mp3 collection completely?

The audio output from my computer has been frustratingly varied since I correctly re-arranged the BIOS.

Streaming audio is no problem, same for that accompanying streaming video. Unless I've been attempting to play something from my media storage drive, then streaming media experiences the same problem of poor audio quality, doubling, echoing, and low max volume.

As of right now none of my media players will output any audio. Rhythmbox and Banshee hang forever when I press play. Same for VLC. When I put video from the storage drive into VLC I get a picture but no accompanying audio. I'm going to reboot and see if I can at least restore the 'plays crappy audio' state. Confirmed audio output has resumed, although in the degraded state. Streaming media remains OK.

The file structures remain intact as far as I can tell. Rhythmbox reports a full media library. I can actually burn a disc from Rhythmbox that comes out fine (whew! mix swap disaster averted!) but if I attempt to just play the list from the HD I experience problems.

I'm just knowledgeable enough to be dangerous so, if you please, explain your theories and proposed solutions as you would to Auntie Clueless. Who's running Ubuntu Lucid. Full disclosure dictates that I mention replacing my CPU/mobo/RAM recently, and that getting my internal drives to be recognized correctly was in part the source of the initial RAID0 mistake.

So, what can I do to save my precious (huge) mp3 collection? Am I even somewhat correct in my assumptions about what's gone wrong? This is a maddeningly specific situation that I can't seem to find support on from anyone yet.

Your helpful suggestions are greatly appreciated, thank you.
posted by carsonb to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
If I am understanding you correctly, when you burn the music from the raid array to a CD, it will play fine off the CD?
posted by geoff. at 10:42 AM on December 31, 2011

Response by poster: Again, I changed the array type back to AHCI in the meantime. While the drives are capable of RAID, they're from different origins and have different stuff on them (one is my system drive, other is storage) and so it's my understanding that switching to RAID to use them in conjunction as one drive is Not Good.

So they're AHCI again, and booting fine.

But yes, I can burn a disc to play in a CD player from the audio files that works great.
posted by carsonb at 10:50 AM on December 31, 2011

Response by poster: I should also clarify that this is a misstatement:

The audio output from my computer has been frustratingly varied since I correctly re-arranged the BIOS.

The trouble started after I mistakenly switched to RAID0, and has persisted through the change back to AHCI.
posted by carsonb at 10:53 AM on December 31, 2011

I think your data is likely intact. If there were errors in the data, they would I think be distributed randomly, and would result in missing or corrupt files, and possibly digital noise, which sounds like clicks, scrambled audio or screeching, or simply silence -- but most likely the files would simply not play. Static and echo are I think analog noise, which means the problem is occurring after the digital data is retrieved from the disk and converted to an analog audio signal which is then passed to the speakers.

I can't begin to isolate the problem, but since your system sounds like a mess I would recommend sticking the drive into another known working computer and copying the data to a different hard drive. Once the data is safe you can worry about the root cause.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah. This sounds like it has nothing to do with your hard drives, unless you somehow managed to mess up your southbridge while messing around in the BIOS.

Try booting off of an Ubuntu LiveCD, and see if your problems persist. This sounds like a driver or configuration issue to me.

Also, understand that you *can* usually safely RAID a set of mismatched drives, with the almost sole exception of WD's consumer-level drives, which don't like being RAID-ed at all. It's becoming common practice for the server vendors I deal with (Dell and HP) to supply larger/faster/different drives when performing warranty replacements.

Usually when you RAID together a set of drives, you lose the entire contents of both drives. I'm honestly not sure how you went to RAID-0 and back without losing all of your data. This shouldn't be possible. My best guess is that you simply told your southbridge's SATA controller to present itself to the OS as a RAID device instead of a plain AHCI SATA controller. As long as your OS supports the controller's RAID mode (ie. it has the right drivers installed), this setting really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. AHCI mode is simply more compatible. My guess is that you had your RAID "controller" configured to present the two disks individually to the OS, rather than as a single array (commonly referred to as 'JBOD'). In this configuration, it's possible to switch back and forth from RAID and AHCI without losing your data.
posted by schmod at 12:13 PM on December 31, 2011

The audio effect has nothing to do with those drives. The data is binary and if corrupted, you would not see the files or even the partitions at all.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:19 PM on December 31, 2011

What happens if you boot up, then copy an MP3 from your media library drive to the /tmp folder (which will almost certainly be on your boot drive) and play it from there before attempting to play anything directly from the media library drive?

I'm wondering whether transfer errors caused by a carelessly connected SATA cable have caused the kernel's AHCI driver to throttle back its access speed progressively until it's now using programmed-IO mode, the CPU load of which will definitely be enough to screw up audio rendering.
posted by flabdablet at 5:21 AM on January 1, 2012

Response by poster: Problems persist using a live CD.

I've tried the copying-over thing already, flabdablet, and the problem persists. Plus, playing files already on the system drive has the same result.

Before next boot I'll snug all the cables properly, just to be sure.

I still have my old (perfectly fine) mobo/cpu and another case lying around somewhere. As soon as I can scrape together the other peripherals I'll check out plugging the drive into another computer. Because it's looking more and more like it might be an issue with my new hardware.

I haven't been able to run any BIOS/driver updates on my new motherboard yet, since MSI only provides for updating in Windows. This might be enough to make me give WINE another attempt. This wound up being such a clusterfuck of a mobo/cpu combo, it's nearly enough to make me want to chuck the whole shebang out the window.

// tangent: If you're reading this down the line and considering a CPU that requires an FM1 socket, make hella sure that CPU has an integrated graphics controller on it! That's the whole point!!!

*resigned sigh*

No. No defenestration today. Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'm pretty sure the data is intact now and that the issue must reside somewhere in the hardware I'm using. Will keep the thread updated, if anyone's curious. You've given me hope, and a few more directions to muddle through. Thank you thank you thank you!
posted by carsonb at 9:48 AM on January 1, 2012

Just to rule out anything else inadvertantly changed, have you tried reverting your BIOS to factory settings? That would knock out any timing tweaks or IRQ conflicts (which are rarer today than they used to be). Might be worth a shot since the LiveCD exhibited the same symptoms.
posted by samsara at 10:33 AM on January 1, 2012

I've tried the copying-over thing already, flabdablet, and the problem persists.

Okay. How about playing, once again from the system drive, an MP3 copied from a known-good source?

At this point, though, I'm inclined to believe there's nothing wrong with your hard disk subsystem and I'm starting to look sideways at PulseAudio, which has never been particularly robust in any Ubuntu I've ever seen - works a lot better in Debian.

Have you in fact ever had clean audio from Ubuntu Lucid on this mobo?
posted by flabdablet at 4:43 PM on January 1, 2012

Response by poster: Have you in fact ever had clean audio from Ubuntu Lucid on this mobo?

I don't believe I have had that, no.

Here's the question I started on LaunchPad:

And I'm about to start one on the MSI forums, I'll link to that when it goes up.

Here's my system setup list (this is like the first thing they have you do at MSI forums, heh):

AMD Athlon II X4 631 2.6GHz
Galaxy - NVIDIA GeForce 8400GS 512MB DDR2
160GB WD Black (System)
1TB WD Caviar Green (Storage)
Ubuntu 10.04.3 Lucid Lynx

I'm giving this one more big shot before I bite the bullet and buy a new computer.
posted by carsonb at 11:55 AM on February 11, 2012

Response by poster: Here's the MSI Forums question.

So far the recommendation is to disable PulseAudio altogether. I'm gonna try that as soon as I'm sitting in front of my computer again.
posted by carsonb at 1:54 PM on February 11, 2012

As I mentioned earlier, the way Ubuntu sets up PulseAudio quite often causes trouble. And disabling PulseAudio in Ubuntu is hard, because lots of things expect it to be there. So if you make no headway with Ubuntu, before replacing your whole computer I'd advise trying Debian; I've never had PulseAudio issues on a Debian box.

Linux Mint Debian Edition would probably work fine as well.
posted by flabdablet at 3:42 PM on February 11, 2012

Response by poster: I found this walkthrough for disabling PulseAudio that looks fairly simple to implement. I don't have the knowledge to evaluate its effectiveness, but if it does what it says on the tin I believe it'll work.

And if it doesn't? Then yeah, I'll probably give that link for Mint Debian a click.
posted by carsonb at 5:54 PM on February 11, 2012

Response by poster: Alrighty then. Disabling PulseAudio made sound output worse.

So here I go with your LMDE suggestion!
posted by carsonb at 9:42 AM on February 12, 2012

This is a long shot, but if this is a custom built PC, it might be worth pulling out the mainboard to make sure nothing is touching up against the back or front sides. I had a similar issue on a PC awhle ago where one of the riser screws was misplaced and was intermittently shorting out the audio chipset. Of course I found out after days of re-installing the OS and tweaking BIOS settings. If these files play fine on another PC, I'd consider any physical hardware problems along with what has been suggested above.
posted by samsara at 5:13 AM on February 13, 2012

Response by poster: You know? I probably should go ahead and re-mount the board. Going from micro atx to mini atx meant I had wonky numbers of spacers floating around. That'll have to wait until the current fiasco has resolved though, since I seem to have borked my HD while mucking with the partition table trying to get LMDE installed. (Ran it off a live USB and had similar audio issues, but wanted to give Mint a shot anyway.)

I'm considering lighting the rig on fire next; that might help.
posted by carsonb at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2012

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