Poor quality streaming, video and audio

Something in my HP Compaq laptop is causing poor quality streaming of both audio and video, mostly the audio.
I have eliminated all other factors I can think of: wireless v. direct connection; location in wireless environment; source of stream.
Other computers on the same in-home network work fine.
Recorded media work fine. If I record a streaming video/audio file to windows media or real player the playback is flawless.
Its a real bummer, partly since it hurts the enjoyment of Youtube and prevents me from watching things like netflix online or hulu, etc.
Anyone have any ideas?

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