15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
mbenigni
Posts: 762
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 3:43 pm

15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by mbenigni » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:44 pm

Partly just a gripe, but also an invitation for advice, hunches, comiseration, general musing:

I've been at this for a long, long time. I've been building Windows-based DAWs since the early 90's, and wasting more time tweaking them than I care to think about. Now it's 2010, I've been through plenty of professional and "pro-sumer" sound interfaces and still... I don't think I've ever had a rig that consistently performs without pops and crackles.

I'm presently running a very fast quad core CPU, Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate edition, and a Mackie interface with drivers that (alledgedly) support this O.S. The machine ought to be completely overpowered for the sort of recording I'm doing, and I've experimented pretty heavily with latency, buffer sizes etc in an effort to cut it some slack. Still, every few minutes, pops, crackles, and hickups. Nothing let's the air out of your sails faster than this, nothing could be more "non-musical".

I have this very vague sense that some of these pops coincide with screen updates and/or mouse movement. "Back in the day" I would have attributed this to an IRQ conflict of some kind, but configuration of these details has been taken out of the users hands in modern operating systems. All I can do is look at the driver's properties, which assure me there are no conflicts...

Am I alone in this? Is anyone else having similar drama? Has anyone overcome similar drama, and if so, how? Are there a very select few sound cards that are known to be stable in Win7? Are certain graphics cards notorious for interfering with them? And if so, are there ways to tame them?

Running out od ideas, patience... music.

mr lovely
Posts: 54
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2006 11:01 pm
Location: S.London
Contact:

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by mr lovely » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:00 pm

I know what you mean - I still get the odd short silence, or crackle when using Live on a PC that is well over-specced. I've changed buffer sizes, updated drivers, etc, but it still happens. I had identified one previous problem relating to a beat repeat on an fx rack, and when I removed all racks from all channels most problems were eliminated, but some remain. If you get to the bottom of it please let me know.

massenmedium
Posts: 414
Joined: Fri May 07, 2010 6:25 pm

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by massenmedium » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:03 pm

Well..... ;)

First of all, what kind of interface are you using for the audio?

Secondly, how many audio streams (channels) are trying to get in and out and what sort of bit-depth and sample rate are you using?

For one thing Firewire can sometimes be problematic, especially on PCs, unless the chipset and drivers behave very well.*

Your problem might as you suspect be related to some other part of the system. I assume you've also been careful to minimise services and drivers that run in kernal mode.

Give this a go: it will give you some idea if your system is capable as it is of handling real-time audio streams without interruptions.

http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml

* I've found PCI or PCMCIA interfaces to be very reliable fwiw.

4.33
Posts: 1198
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:49 pm
Location: Moscow

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by 4.33 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:06 pm

15 years of gripe when you could've just had a mac :lol:

seriously though, i'm using this embarassingly dated XP system. which just works. i've had similar problems with a firewire card once, but ever since i started to use usb cards - my hair is all silky and shiny again.

djsynchro
Posts: 7471
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2005 9:06 pm
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contact:

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by djsynchro » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:33 pm

it just works...

mbenigni
Posts: 762
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 3:43 pm

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by mbenigni » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:11 pm

Thanks for the replies. Well, most of them anyway. ;)
"First of all, what kind of interface are you using for the audio?"
I've used everything over the years. Recently I'm bouncing between a Mackie Onyx Satellite and a Native Instruments Audio Kontrol 1. (I also have a Firepod, but I've only run that under XP and Vista. It gave me hell in Vista, so I haven't tried to drag it into Windows 7 yet.) The Audio Kontrol 1 drivers are not officially sanctioned for Win7 (or even Vista - thanks NI!), so I attributed the problems to that variable and moved on to the Mackie. Thought matters had improved, but in short order, the pops returned.

Maybe you're right, maybe this is attributable to the Firewire chipset on this motherboard. I do have a PCI-Firewire expansion card with the correct chipset (TI?) on it somewhere; maybe I should install and resume testing.
"Secondly, how many audio streams (channels) are trying to get in and out and what sort of bit-depth and sample rate are you using?"
The Mackie and NI interfaces are configured with 2 channels in/ 2 channels out, and I've tried it with and without the additional stereo input enabled in Live. So we're not talking a lot of channels, and I'll sometimes hear problems when I've opened a brand new project, with no tracks at all, not even recording, just monitoring an input. It bears mentioning that I am often running NI Guitar Rig as a plugin, but my CPU load isn't reporting anything out of the ordinary.

Have tried all permutations of 16-bit and 24 bit, 44KHz and 48KHz - I never go any higher than 48KHz. Buffer size anywhere from 128 samples to 512 samples.
"Your problem might as you suspect be related to some other part of the system."
Yeah, I strongly suspect the graphics card. It's an Nvidia GTX 260 and I wonder if it isn't just hammering the PCI bus in a way that ultimately impacts the bandwidth available to Firewire.
"I assume you've also been careful to minimise services and drivers that run in kernal mode."
To be honest, I've got Win7 running pretty much as it had installed itself. With such simple projects running, I expect a rig of this scale to be able to run out of the box. Is that still optimistic, even in 2010?
"Give this a go: it will give you some idea if your system is capable as it is of handling real-time audio streams without interruptions."
Thanks very much for the link, I will check this out as soon as I get home.
"* I've found PCI or PCMCIA interfaces to be very reliable fwiw."
Hmm. Yes, same experience here. My old delta 44 was rock solid, way back when, though of course many variables have changed since. I wonder if it's still kicking around somewhere. Meanwhile, an Echo Indigo IO serves me pretty well on my XP laptop, but that's not much use for my desktop applications. (At the moment the Echo's got a dead channel, so I use that rig in mono as sort of a guitar effects unit. :) )

mbenigni
Posts: 762
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 3:43 pm

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by mbenigni » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:19 pm

4.33 wrote:15 years of gripe when you could've just had a mac :lol:
I'll admit macs are looking better every day, but there have been points in the past 15 years where a whole lot of options in software and hardware were PC-only. If anything, I wish I'd just sat the first 10 years out LOL.

seriously though, i'm using this embarassingly dated XP system. which just works. i've had similar problems with a firewire card once, but ever since i started to use usb cards - my hair is all silky and shiny again.
No doubt, USB 2.0 and XP are a sweet spot. I wish Microsoft had left well enough alone. But I can't keep running half a dozen OS's around the house and I'm bought into Win 7 now, so I've got to get this damn PC cooperating.

shlomo
Posts: 132
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:53 pm
Location: Zagreb,Croatia

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by shlomo » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:25 pm

15yrs...

you should have made a career in a glitch pop since!
Last edited by shlomo on Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Isturite-
Posts: 57
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:08 pm
Location: Sacramento, California

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by Isturite- » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:25 pm

Glad somebody else has this issue... Ill get a short click in my songs a lot... right in the middle of a sustained bass note... and it just kills the rhythm... sounds like my cd skipped (and it's from Live, not a cd)

even the exported file does it... always in the same spot too! Isn't technology better than this these days? Why is Reason so damn solid??
Kevin Welch
[Isturite]

http://www.soundcloud.com/isturite

massenmedium
Posts: 414
Joined: Fri May 07, 2010 6:25 pm

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by massenmedium » Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:31 pm

mbenigni wrote:
"I assume you've also been careful to minimise services and drivers that run in kernal mode."
To be honest, I've got Win7 running pretty much as it had installed itself. With such simple projects running, I expect a rig of this scale to be able to run out of the box. Is that still optimistic, even in 2010?
The important thing to recognise is that raw processing power is not a reliable measure of whether a system can handle real-time low latency audio. You might have the most powerful supercomputer on the planet but if it decided to go and do something else for 5ms every so often you could get drop-outs and pops. And that's exactly what happens with some hardware and drivers.

Definitely try disabling the on-board firewire for a start, that would be a prime suspect, and make sure you have the latest drivers for your graphics card.

I'm not using Windows 7 at the moment, still OK with XP SP3, but I'm sure it could always benefit from a little optimisation.

xristopher
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:39 pm
Location: Adelaide, AU
Contact:

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by xristopher » Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:43 pm

Have you ever tried a new, really nice USB cable? Seriously. Many of these issue might be traced to a cheap, or even mid-range cable. Ean at djtechtools.com sells one that you might want to try. Link- http://techtools.myshopify.com/products ... usb-cables

Cheers,
xris
:)
“Its rhythms were out of stride and seemingly arbitrary. It’s drummers; frozen faced introverts, dedicated to chaos.“ -Ralph Ellison

xri§—†ph€r the drummer

starving student
Posts: 7123
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2004 6:13 pm
Location: right here

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by starving student » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:17 am

goin through it myself right now, if it's any consolation you're not alone in not being consoled.

dredd i knight
Posts: 325
Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2007 6:33 pm

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by dredd i knight » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:31 am

I feel your pain and have experienced similar problems over the years....there's a great thread at the cakewalk forums about tweaks for win 7; when I get internet in my new flat I'll hook you up with the link, and drop 10 bucks for the dim pro racks you've made...very nice!

leedsquietman
Posts: 6659
Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 1:56 am
Location: greater toronto area

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by leedsquietman » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:44 am

http://soundcloud.com/umbriel-rising http://www.myspace.com/leedsquietmandemos Live 7.0.18 SUITE, Cubase 5.5.2], Soundforge 9, Dell XPS M1530, 2.2 Ghz C2D, 4GB, Vista Ult SP2, legit plugins a plenty, Alesis IO14.

mbenigni
Posts: 762
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 3:43 pm

Re: 15 yrs of dig. audio, pops & crackles still driving me nuts

Post by mbenigni » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:57 pm

Again, thanks for all the replies. That's mainly what I'm looking for - the "you're not alone/ you're not crazy" feedback.
Have you ever tried a new, really nice USB cable? Seriously. Many of these issue might be traced to a cheap, or even mid-range cable. Ean at djtechtools.com sells one that you might want to try. Link- http://techtools.myshopify.com/products ... usb-cables
Thanks xris, but IMO there are only two kinds of digital cables: good ones and broken ones. I'm pretty sceptical of "hi-fi" products in general, but hi-fi digital cables are certifiable snake oil.
I feel your pain and have experienced similar problems over the years....there's a great thread at the cakewalk forums about tweaks for win 7; when I get internet in my new flat I'll hook you up with the link, and drop 10 bucks for the dim pro racks you've made...very nice!
Thanks, man. Just a heads up - that dim pro project has gone pretty cold over the past few years, and at the moment there are a few caveats. e.g. VST only (no AU support, or so I've been told), and when I last tested it with Win7 RC1 and Live 8, it didn't work. I need to find the time to reinstall and retest. Anyone who would like to help beta test free of charge, let me know.
OK, that's an incredible deal. I can't believe how cheap these standalone units have gotten. If I were merely putting on an engineering hat, and tracking bands in the basement, I'd be ALL OVER this. Unfortunately, for sitting alone and practicing/ improvising/ composing, I've become pretty dependent on the Ableton workflow. I am 100% in love with Live. Now I just need it to 100% work. :)

Post Reply