the crackling? seems it really is a latency issue. installed asio, and the asio foobar plugin, routed it through my realtek drivers
(latest version), jacked latency samples to 96 on both in/out, unchecked resample option, turned buffer offset to 0. boom, no more crackle.
set output in foobar back to directsound. bam, crackle was back.
that asus tech had no idea what they were talking about, or is under orders to blame someone else, or something equally stupid.
latency can be a pain.
run; DPC Latency Checker
while playing audio, if it spikes above the green line, you've got a latency issue. period. so if you have crackle, that should spike above the green line, etcetc.
try it, see. you may be surprised.