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AV and Multimedia Related Thread, music tech equipment in Technical; Greetings, We currently use cubase 3 & sibelius 4 with usb midi keybaords, standard onboard audio and asio4all. I have ...
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    music tech equipment

    Greetings,

    We currently use cubase 3 & sibelius 4 with usb midi keybaords, standard onboard audio and asio4all. I have been having nothing but problems with latency and patchy audio running these programs with forced mandatory profiles on windows xp. The lower i get the latency the more patchy the audio becomes or just doesnt work at all. With the rest of the network being win7 im looking to upgrade these machines to that plus the software to cubase 6 & sibelius 7. All the quotes ive received have mentioned using audio interfaces but im not sure what difference these would make bearing in mind we use usb keyboards. Should i be looking to upgrade or can anyone suggest a solution to my audio problems.

    Thanks
    James

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    I strongly suggest never using onboard audio. We use Tascam external (USB) devices for just this reason. We had a lot of problems with XP but now we're on 7 and our music machine are identical to the rest other than the tascam kit, the problems have all but gone. Any problems we have are due to an old version of Sibelius (5) and Cubase. Cubase is just pure sh** so that's the entire reason for that. I would strongly suggest finding something else. Cubase in the eyes of many people is not fit for purpose on a network setting. Licensing is a pain (and the reason we haven't upgraded from LE4) and the software itself is shoddy.

    For note we're also using USB midi keyboards (M-Audio) - USB pretty much just provides the power and throughput goes via midi cable directly from keyboard to the TASCAM audio interface.
    Last edited by synaesthesia; 24th June 2013 at 11:10 AM.

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    ben604's Avatar
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    What synaesthesia said. Get any USB audio interface, that will process all the audio within the hardware, so you get much lower latency.

    We used to use Lexicon Alpha interfaces with our USB keyboards with no issues, we then upgraded our Keyboards to M-Audio Keystation 49i, which are 4 octave keyboards with a USB interface built in. Saves you a USB port and gives you some more I/O (including two headphone outputs, which is handy).

    If you do go down the interface route, we've got some Lexicon Alphas were not using which you could buy from us?

    Ben

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    ICTDirect_Dave's Avatar
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    Go for a USB / Firewire USB Interface for each machine. Something like the focusrite Saffire or something from M-Audio. You will notice a huge difference.

    Also software can make a big difference. Cubase, whilst excellent it pretty system intensive, whereas Abelton Live (in my opinion the best thing after ProTools) is far less demanding and has a much nicer user interface (I switched to live after Cubase SX4 and now use it for all my audio work)

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    If your PCs are Tower/Desktop, why not consider PCI Audio Interface as well e.g. M-Audio Audiophile? It's a bit of pain to install, but you will save a bit of space on your desk and a USB port.

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    ICTDirect_Dave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supawat1 View Post
    If your PCs are Tower/Desktop, why not consider PCI Audio Interface as well e.g. M-Audio Audiophile? It's a bit of pain to install, but you will save a bit of space on your desk and a USB port.
    The Audiophile cards are lovely! I used to have one in my old XP box at uni. I haven't used a modern one though and I know that there are no win7 drivers for my old one.

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    Funnily enough there's an Audiophile card in my boot waiting for some form of use! Will work in W7 but there's just the issues of size - certainly don't want full height cases anywhere if we can help it Also entirely worthless too.

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    I had similar problems with our music suite. I fitted some 5 pci sound cards and ASIO4ALL drivers and the problem went away. This was 4 or 5 years ago and we are now updating the PCs to include an ASUS Xonar sound card with Asio support.

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    Thanks for your replies everyone, i knew this would be a good place to come.

    I was starting to think the system spec could be the problem with cubase being a little hungry, im running xp on Intel Core 2 Duo E4300, 1.8GHz, 2GB systems. In my opinion theyre a little long in the tooth. When using asio4all to set latency lower then 192samples i start getting breakups and scratching especially when they add video into the mix.

    My only quote so far included the lexicon alpha studio and after looking on a few sites i have seen mixed reviews. Im not after high end, just standard level so it should do the job.. Im a total noob audio setup wise so let me just get my head around it. Am i right in saying if i bought an audio interface i would plug the speakers etc into this as opposed to the onboard and leave the onboard disabled? Will the usb midi keyboard still work in that configuration? I dont have to plug that into the audio interface do i? Can I just use is as a normal usb device and the audio inteface will do the rest?

    Also, whats the general consensus on upgrading these systems? Personally i think i should....

    Thanks again everyone.

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    ICTDirect_Dave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjohnsoncantell View Post
    Thanks for your replies everyone, i knew this would be a good place to come.

    I was starting to think the system spec could be the problem with cubase being a little hungry, im running xp on Intel Core 2 Duo E4300, 1.8GHz, 2GB systems. In my opinion theyre a little long in the tooth. When using asio4all to set latency lower then 192samples i start getting breakups and scratching especially when they add video into the mix.

    My only quote so far included the lexicon alpha studio and after looking on a few sites i have seen mixed reviews. Im not after high end, just standard level so it should do the job.. Im a total noob audio setup wise so let me just get my head around it. Am i right in saying if i bought an audio interface i would plug the speakers etc into this as opposed to the onboard and leave the onboard disabled? Will the usb midi keyboard still work in that configuration? I dont have to plug that into the audio interface do i? Can I just use is as a normal usb device and the audio inteface will do the rest?

    Also, whats the general consensus on upgrading these systems? Personally i think i should....

    Thanks again everyone.
    Yeah you would use the usb interface for all your sound in/out. the midi keyboard will be no problem either.

    In terms of an upgrade RAM is essential for doing music production. I can help you out with RAM for your systems if you like as we have loads of the older stuff here. Also processor upgrades will help if you have the cash as the E4300 is right at the bottom end of the Core 2 scale.

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    Contrary to what everyone else seems to be saying, don't bother with a dedicated audio interface, not at first anyway. Audio interfaces aren't like GFX cards in that the processing gets offloaded onto the card - well not at the level you'll be buying anyway. All you get with a dedicated card is ASIO drivers specifically written for the card*, processing still happens in the CPU. A i5 system with 4gb of ram and a half decent motherboard (with intel hd audio or similar) may be enough for your needs.

    Why exactly are you trying to get below 192 samples? At 44.1k and 256samples the latency is 6ms - do you have a specific reason as to why this isn't enough.

    If you do get a dedicated card go for something by m-audio, focusrite, someone like that, ie a company who specialises in audio interfaces. Don't go for ASUS or general brands like that - you are paying for the drivers, go for a company who knows how to write them.

    I suspect that once you put some up to date software on an up to date PC you will not need a dedicated card.


    *What you really pay for is the extra inputs and outputs and the quality of them.
    Last edited by j17sparky; 24th June 2013 at 04:33 PM.

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    @Dave .. These pc's are about 6 years old now and 3 generations out tech wise too. Its just convincing the powers that it needs to be done. My upgrade advice was ignored based on someone not even associated with the department who said it didnt need to be done. They dont know the problems we have had with these units since we had them and they werent even bought with any consultation with IT. It was a rush decision from higher up based on a company recommendation (before i took over thankfully) and they were low spec when bought..
    @Sparky I can thank the previous head of music who whinged non stop day after day how he was still getting lag even when i had it down to 64 samples. He wouldnt believe me when i said youd never get rid of it completely but he kept complaining to management about it so I had to keep trying. Thats the spec i was looking at, ive had a test pc with that spec and no noticable lag. Im convinced thats what i need to do first, upgrade the pcs.

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    ASIO4ALL needs fine tuning sometimes, if you've invested in professional music applications such as Cubase and Sibeluis I would also invest in some decent soundcards or external USB devices with ASIO drivers as others have said, this from a personal pastime in music composing.

    They can start at about 60 and go into the thousands, you could look at Roland, M-Audio, Focusrite or similar.
    Last edited by Davit2005; 24th June 2013 at 04:39 PM.

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    ICTDirect_Dave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjohnsoncantell View Post
    @Dave .. These pc's are about 6 years old now and 3 generations out tech wise too. Its just convincing the powers that it needs to be done. My upgrade advice was ignored based on someone not even associated with the department who said it didnt need to be done. They dont know the problems we have had with these units since we had them and they werent even bought with any consultation with IT. It was a rush decision from higher up based on a company recommendation (before i took over thankfully) and they were low spec when bought..
    @Sparky I can thank the previous head of music who whinged non stop day after day how he was still getting lag even when i had it down to 64 samples. He wouldnt believe me when i said youd never get rid of it completely but he kept complaining to management about it so I had to keep trying. Thats the spec i was looking at, ive had a test pc with that spec and no noticable lag. Im convinced thats what i need to do first, upgrade the pcs.
    Upgrades are always useful if you have the cash! Again I can help you out there and also save you some money I think. I've helped build a number of studios over the years. And a good PC/Mac was always at the heart of it

    USB Audio interfaces are great for the drivers and also for the extra in/outs you get. It's nice to have preamps and also a monitor channel, plus a lot of them also give you 48v Phantom power should you wish to use a condenser mic.

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    Apparently the untrained ear can't hear a latency less than 20ms. That's not to say he couldn't hear it but 6ms is a seriously low latency. As a reference which may be more familiar to you; you can fit 166 * 6ms into 1 second. Sort of the equivalent of 166FPS in a game. We all know that anything consistently above 40FPS is more than adequate. My bets are it was something else he could hear but couldn't explain what it was so just fell back on latency.

    To get lower than 6ms I wouldn't even be entertaining the idea of using Windows PCs, there's far too much fine tuning to do to make sure nothing else nicks CPU time while the audio is processing. Things such as badly written NIC drivers can hog CPU time so you can easily see how if you start aiming for 1-2ms latency it can become a nightmare fine tuning, and you definitely will need a good dedicated card.

    By the sounds of it he isn't there anymore so I'd just go back to 256samples with ASIO4ALL and see how things go. You can always buy dedicated cards later. In fact I think I would put that option to the powers that be: try it without and buy if needed but IMO you won't need them.

    If I was to add 70+ to each PC for an interface I would probably start looking at mac minis as you get apples superior audio system and garageband for a similar price.
    Last edited by j17sparky; 24th June 2013 at 05:08 PM.

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