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Realtek PC Beep Hidden Register
This file documents the "PC Beep Hidden Register", which is present in certain
Realtek HDA codecs and controls a muxer and pair of passthrough mixers that can
route audio between pins but aren't themselves exposed as HDA widgets. As far
as I can tell, these hidden routes are designed to allow flexible PC Beep output
for codecs that don't have mixer widgets in their output paths. Why it's easier
to hide a mixer behind an undocumented vendor register than to just expose it
as a widget, I have no idea.
Register Description
The register is accessed via processing coefficient 0x36 on NID 20h. Bits not
identified below have no discernible effect on my machine, a Dell XPS 13 9350::
| |h|S|L| | B |R| | Known bits
|0|0|1|1| 0x7 |0|0x0|1| 0x7 | Reset value
1Ah input select (B): 2 bits
When zero, expose the PC Beep line (from the internal beep generator, when
enabled with the Set Beep Generation verb on NID 01h, or else from the
external PCBEEP pin) on the 1Ah pin node. When nonzero, expose the headphone
jack (or possibly Line In on some machines) input instead. If PC Beep is
selected, the 1Ah boost control has no effect.
Amplify 1Ah loopback, left (L): 1 bit
Amplify the left channel of 1Ah before mixing it into outputs as specified
by h and S bits. Does not affect the level of 1Ah exposed to other widgets.
Amplify 1Ah loopback, right (R): 1 bit
Amplify the right channel of 1Ah before mixing it into outputs as specified
by h and S bits. Does not affect the level of 1Ah exposed to other widgets.
Loopback 1Ah to 21h [active low] (h): 1 bit
When zero, mix 1Ah (possibly with amplification, depending on L and R bits)
into 21h (headphone jack on my machine). Mixed signal respects the mute
setting on 21h.
Loopback 1Ah to 14h (S): 1 bit
When one, mix 1Ah (possibly with amplification, depending on L and R bits)
into 14h (internal speaker on my machine). Mixed signal **ignores** the mute
setting on 14h and is present whenever 14h is configured as an output.
Path diagrams
1Ah input selection (DIV is the PC Beep divider set on NID 01h)::
<Beep generator> <PCBEEP pin> <Headphone jack>
| | |
+--DIV--+--!DIV--+ {1Ah boost control}
| |
+--(b == 0)--+--(b != 0)--+
>1Ah (Beep/Headphone Mic/Line In)<
Loopback of 1Ah to 21h/14h::
<1Ah (Beep/Headphone Mic/Line In)>
{amplify if L/R}
| |
{21h mute control} |
| |
>21h (Headphone)< >14h (Internal Speaker)<
All Realtek HDA codecs have a vendor-defined widget with node ID 20h which
provides access to a bank of registers that control various codec functions.
Registers are read and written via the standard HDA processing coefficient
verbs (Set/Get Coefficient Index, Set/Get Processing Coefficient). The node is
named "Realtek Vendor Registers" in public datasheets' verb listings and,
apart from that, is entirely undocumented.
This particular register, exposed at coefficient 0x36 and named in commits from
Realtek, is of note: unlike most registers, which seem to control detailed
amplifier parameters not in scope of the HDA specification, it controls audio
routing which could just as easily have been defined using standard HDA mixer
and selector widgets.
Specifically, it selects between two sources for the input pin widget with Node
ID (NID) 1Ah: the widget's signal can come either from an audio jack (on my
laptop, a Dell XPS 13 9350, it's the headphone jack, but comments in Realtek
commits indicate that it might be a Line In on some machines) or from the PC
Beep line (which is itself multiplexed between the codec's internal beep
generator and external PCBEEP pin, depending on if the beep generator is
enabled via verbs on NID 01h). Additionally, it can mix (with optional
amplification) that signal onto the 21h and/or 14h output pins.
The register's reset value is 0x3717, corresponding to PC Beep on 1Ah that is
then amplified and mixed into both the headphones and the speakers. Not only
does this violate the HDA specification, which says that "[a vendor defined
beep input pin] connection may be maintained *only* while the Link reset
(**RST#**) is asserted", it means that we cannot ignore the register if we care
about the input that 1Ah would otherwise expose or if the PCBEEP trace is
poorly shielded and picks up chassis noise (both of which are the case on my
Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to get this register configuration wrong.
Linux, it seems, has gone through most of them. For one, the register resets
after S3 suspend: judging by existing code, this isn't the case for all vendor
registers, and it's led to some fixes that improve behavior on cold boot but
don't last after suspend. Other fixes have successfully switched the 1Ah input
away from PC Beep but have failed to disable both loopback paths. On my
machine, this means that the headphone input is amplified and looped back to
the headphone output, which uses the exact same pins! As you might expect, this
causes terrible headphone noise, the character of which is controlled by the
1Ah boost control. (If you've seen instructions online to fix XPS 13 headphone
noise by changing "Headphone Mic Boost" in ALSA, now you know why.)
The information here has been obtained through black-box reverse engineering of
the ALC256 codec's behavior and is not guaranteed to be correct. It likely
also applies for the ALC255, ALC257, ALC235, and ALC236, since those codecs
seem to be close relatives of the ALC256. (They all share one initialization
function.) Additionally, other codecs like the ALC225 and ALC285 also have this
register, judging by existing fixups in ``patch_realtek.c``, but specific
data (e.g. node IDs, bit positions, pin mappings) for those codecs may differ
from what I've described here.