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Error # 8: CODEC error -- what is this???

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i have a Win 98SE HP Pavilion PC (667 MhZ, 64MB RAM, Aureal Sound card).
today when i was playing the game "Age of Empires", all of sudden, there was a loud sound from my speakers and the system hung.
the game was installed 3 years back and i am using it regularly without any prolems..
when i restarted the system, the error that showed was:

Error # 11; CODEC failure. Driver not loaded

the real intersting aspect is that: when i remove my speakers (Polk audio) and use other speakers, it works fine.

also, when i use my speakers with another system, my speakers work well.

i would like to hear ur comments on this,
thanks in advance...
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this is probably irrelevant, but just the other day i had problems with both of my age of empires2 demos. the splash screen would display and then the program would exit. age of empires1 worked fine. i dont know what is wrong, but if i run them from a dos window they work fine.
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