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

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

Post by mbenigni » Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:14 pm

casiblake, thanks for your interest and help.

My mobo is a Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R. It was a highly-recommended mobo at the time. I am a little suspicious of its onboard audio drivers, but I've disabled them without any improvement.

I don't have any PCI stuff handy, unfortunately. I do have another Firewire box, a Presonus Firepod. I haven't bothered testing w/ this build because it performed so badly in Vista. I also have a USB 2.0 interface (NI Audio Kontrol 1), but it has no Win7-ready drivers.

Disabling the network card seems to have helped in the distant past, but I think it's a moot point. On this specific build (OS being the major variable) it doesn't seem to have any effect at all.

Thanks again.

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

Post by casiblake » Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:22 pm

Ahh, that would have been my choice of motherboard... if I could have found one of the damned things last year!

It uses the Intel P45 chipset, which is totally solid and has been in a few DAW builds I've put together in the past (one might have even been this board, though I might have used one of the UD iteration). I've never had problems with Intel chipsets, which is why I tend to stick with them.

I might suggest some things that seem obvious, please don't take me the wrong way, but I'm not sure what you have and haven't tried yet so I'm going from the basics...

Gigabyte's main page isn't available as I type this, but here's their UK website for your board:
http://www.giga-byte.co.uk/Products/Mot ... uctID=2842

Have a look here, scroll to the very bottom, and select your appropriate OS for a list of drivers:
http://www.giga-byte.co.uk/Support/Moth ... #anchor_os

Update them all if you can, but at the very least update the chipset drivers. When you reboot, it might be worth taking a brief trip to the BIOS setup and disabling any on-board audio, serial, parallel and unused IDE ports. Personally, I've never had to tweak CPU settings beyond defaults, but it may be worth trying to disable the C1E and "Maximum CPU Value Limit" options. Leave on Intel Virtualisation. Leave all the clock options to Auto.

Try the v5.13 drivers for your Presonus Firepod, they include Windows 7 support:
http://www.presonus.com/media/downloads ... lation.exe
(this is from http://www.presonus.com/products/Detail ... roductId=3 )

The newest drivers from NI for their Audio Kontrol 1 interface are on this page:
http://co.native-instruments.com/index. ... _Kontrol_1
(the read-me's suggest "added support for 64-bit Windows" which is dreadfully un-specific, but it's worth trying them)

Lastly, you've probably already been here, but this is Mackie's page for the newest Onyx Satellite drivers:
http://www.mackie.com/products/satellite/update.html

I realise this isn't necessarily going to solve the problem with your Mackie interface, but there are Win7 drivers for the Firepod and AK1, so give those a try?

If you have been using the motherboard's on-board firewire connectors, perhaps try that PCI card you have?

You might not want to hear this, but my final suggestion would be the most likely to work: try - or better still purchase - a PCI or PCI-Express-based audio interface. I have an RME Multiface II that's rock solid with a socket 775-based system not too much different from yours.

I hope that helps to some extent... Good luck, don't give up, just go for something PCI or PCI-E based!
-- Blake Casimir : Melodic Space Techno / Electro / Ambient Galaxies --
Bandcamp Orbital Station / Soundcloud Nebula / Warp Portal Homepage

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

Post by mbenigni » Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:51 pm

Wow, thank you! I was aware of some of this, but certainly there's nothing to take the wrong way there. Very generous of you to take the time and compile your thoughts, these links, etc.

The Gigabyte-specific drivers seemed a likely solution at first glance. I admit I can get pretty careless about mobo drivers during rebuilds. You start out with the best of intentions, but by the 3rd time you're installing Windows, the CD is long gone and you start hoping Microsoft had received better drivers for distribution anyway. (Which is often the case.)

Anyway, I installed all of their drivers, one by one, retesting after each one, and with no improvement. I was pretty crestfallen. The chipset, and even moreso the SATA/RAID drivers seemed like strong contenders, since I do notice a lot of HDD light activity happening at idle (and I've already disabled the indexing service.) But alas, no improvement. The last thing I installed was the new (onboard) audio driver, and matters seemed - if anything - to have gotten a little worse. Will retest again after re-disabling that part, but I doubt it will matter as it had been disabled prior to the driver update.

But, you've provided a wealth of information here and it will probably take days for me to really exhaustively test my way through it. I guess I will have to bust out the Firepod and give it a second chance. I wish I could justify a new RME interface, but the fact is I primarily use my Audio PC as a practicing/composition tool, and it seems crazy to invest $1K+/- just to track one or two channels at a time.

I think I might have an old Delta 44 or 66 banging around somewhere - can't remember whether that was PCI or ISA it's been so long! I wonder whether there is anything close to Win7 support for that relic. I remember it was rock solid way back in the Win95 era.

As for giving up, there is a big part of me thinking I should just bin this entire a PC and buy a fast laptop, hoping for better chipset/bus integration. But there's never really any guarantee that a new PC will be any better than the old one...

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

Post by dancerchris » Wed Jun 30, 2010 3:02 pm

mbenigni: I can only explain this in terms of XP. But you still need to go in and start disabling non essential devices (starting with your video card) until your problem goes away. Most devices will allow Live to run including your video card, when you disable it it reverts to a standard VGA source. It is not pretty but it is a way of isolating problems. You need to find your culprit. You could also use some of the tools available for latency checking and debugging (MS has one and there is one called something like DPC latency checker.)

Most of people's problems have to do with computer setup/drivers, not hardware itself. Something is usually hogging the bandwidth or sending interupt packets to the bus. The only hardware question that is a slam dunk is your firewire (if that is your soundcard i/o). You got to have a TI chipset. I would chase down a motherboard issue as the last resort (unless of course it had onboard firewire that was not TI based).

My $0.02
Live 8.4.2 / Win 8 Pro 64 bit / Core 2 Quad 2.66 GHZ / 8 Gb ram
Presonus Firepod / Axiom 49 / PadKontrol
Various guitars, keyboards, sax and friends

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

Post by casiblake » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:50 pm

Dancerchris makes some very sensible and sometimes useful suggestions, but the only service I disable is Windows Search on Win7 and Vista (I highly recommend doing this - it won't disable searching, only the indexing which makes searches a bit faster, but at massive cost to drive speed which is completely undesirable of course). Under XP there should be no reason to disable any services, and doing so might cause some problems. Unless you're dealing with an older single-core CPU, in which case there may be some benefits.
mbenigni wrote: Anyway, I installed all of their drivers, one by one, retesting after each one, and with no improvement.
This is diving rapidly into a case of "firewire hell", I'd say. I believe that Gigabyte mobo uses a TI chipset, which is one of the main reasons I prefer GB to Asus. But as you've seen (and I've seen), it's not a completely 100% guaranteed solution.
mbenigni wrote: I guess I will have to bust out the Firepod and give it a second chance.
If you still get crackling with this, try the NI USB interface and see how that fares. My hunch (and it is purely that) is that you might still get crackling with the Firepod, but perhaps not with the USB interface. Or at the least, they will behave differently.
mbenigni wrote: I think I might have an old Delta 44 or 66 banging around somewhere - can't remember whether that was PCI or ISA it's been so long! I wonder whether there is anything close to Win7 support for that relic. I remember it was rock solid way back in the Win95 era.
Try it!! These drivers should support Win7:
http://www.m-audio.com/index.php?do=sup ... ers&f=1061
M-Audio have a shaky rep, but most people tell me that their PCI cards are solid. Very much worth trying, mbenigni.
mbenigni wrote: As for giving up, there is a big part of me thinking I should just bin this entire a PC and buy a fast laptop, hoping for better chipset/bus integration. But there's never really any guarantee that a new PC will be any better than the old one...
Your PC is based on one of the most solid chipsets available in the industry, an Intel one. So far, though, your audio interface has had to pass through a firewire chipset first before the P45 can do anything with it. This can make all the difference.

I can't guarantee results, of course, but if you do still have a Delta 44/66 (they are PCI!) knocking about, please try them!

I hope you have some luck!
-- Blake Casimir : Melodic Space Techno / Electro / Ambient Galaxies --
Bandcamp Orbital Station / Soundcloud Nebula / Warp Portal Homepage

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

Post by mbenigni » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:02 pm

Thanks again, to both of you. casiblake, I will put the Delta back on the list for serious consideration. Wow, never thought I'd find my way back to that card! :)

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

Post by bangaio » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:13 pm

Hey - I don't want to be picky but 15 years of pops and crackles? Bearing in mind cubase vst (no vst instruments) was released around 1996 (v3.0 mac only) and before that digital audio on computers required expensive cards with propriety drivers in some cases or only offered basic audio functionality with midi sequencing I think that things have got radically better.

My macbook runs live with no crackles or pops and I think it isn't really all that bad in context.

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

Post by dancerchris » Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:26 pm

casiblake wrote:Dancerchris makes some very sensible and sometimes useful suggestions, but the only service I disable is Windows Search on Win7 and Vista (I highly recommend doing this - it won't disable searching, only the indexing which makes searches a bit faster, but at massive cost to drive speed which is completely undesirable of course). Under XP there should be no reason to disable any services, and doing so might cause some problems. Unless you're dealing with an older single-core CPU, in which case there may be some benefits.
Hmmmm..... I did not recommend disabling services. (Although you should be setting your services priorities to background). I did suggest disabling devices/drivers. That is different.
Live 8.4.2 / Win 8 Pro 64 bit / Core 2 Quad 2.66 GHZ / 8 Gb ram
Presonus Firepod / Axiom 49 / PadKontrol
Various guitars, keyboards, sax and friends

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

Post by mbenigni » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:36 pm

bangaio wrote:Hey - I don't want to be picky but 15 years of pops and crackles? Bearing in mind cubase vst (no vst instruments) was released around 1996 (v3.0 mac only) and before that digital audio on computers required expensive cards with propriety drivers in some cases or only offered basic audio functionality with midi sequencing I think that things have got radically better.
In terms of features yes, obviously. But that doesn't change the fact that - for some of us - these fundamental problems with audio quality persist.
My macbook runs live with no crackles or pops and I think it isn't really all that bad in context.
Well of course that isn't all that bad. That's fantastic. All I'm saying is that I need to get to the same place.

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

Post by casiblake » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:50 pm

dancerchris wrote: Hmmmm..... I did not recommend disabling services. (Although you should be setting your services priorities to background). I did suggest disabling devices/drivers. That is different.
My mistake misreading you then, my apologies?
-- Blake Casimir : Melodic Space Techno / Electro / Ambient Galaxies --
Bandcamp Orbital Station / Soundcloud Nebula / Warp Portal Homepage

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

Post by mbenigni » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:53 pm

casiblake, dancerchris - if it helps to unruffle any feathers, I'm grateful to the both of you. :)

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

Post by mbenigni » Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:03 pm

Dribble... starting to feel like I'm flogging a dead horse. Apologies for that.

Last night I tested most, if not quite all, of the recommendations above. Some for better, some for worse, but none quite 100%. (Testing is just the worst, since the only conclusive news is the bad news, and I've just been sitting strumming chords and waiting for the *pop*.) I feel like I need to take a big step back and assess whether my expectations are realistic.

Having updated core drivers (and having long since turned off Indexing/Searching), I proceeded to test w/ the NI AK1 in place of the Mackie. Some improvement, but after a few minutes, same old issues. Then I did away with the AK1 in favor of my old Delta 66 (amazed to find it, amazed it still worked, totally amazed M-Audio is still releasing new drivers and UI for this part!) This seemed perhaps a further improvement, but still the occasional pop.

The only way I seem to be able to guarantee smooth audio (and even this is not conclusive yet) is by disabling *everything* - video card, network card, anti-virus software, on-board audio devices, etc. and then opening task manager and killing any processes that don't look essential to what I'm doing. But no single one of these steps helps; it seems more like the end goal is to get CPU usage REALLY, REALLY low. As in, anything above 5% is a liability. If audio is playing and I open a window - particularly a VST user interface, or heaven forbid Internet Explorer, I'm guaranteed a pop, with some residual pops following for a minute or so afterwards.

All of which seems entirely crazy, considering there are 4 x 2.83GHz CPU cores to share the burden.

So this leads to my question: is this how everyone is running their DAWs? With no internet connectivity, no other hardware, background processes brutally gimped, etc. I feel like I'm at risk if I look at this PC the wrong way. This is what digital audio was like 10 years ago, but not today, surely?

I still see that HDD light pinging away, though the performance monitor shows nothing. Totally at a loss. This weekend I'll go back to my old XP system and see whether that's stable. Maybe I just need to get away from Win7 altogether.

Or I could just steal my wife's Macbook (shudder.)
Last edited by mbenigni on Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by mbenigni » Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:07 pm

(Have any of you seen the movie, "Office Space", where they take a printer out in a field and smash it to bits in frustration? I'm getting very close to this point.)

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

Post by casiblake » Thu Jul 01, 2010 7:01 pm

Mbenigni, at this point my only other suggestion would be to try posting about this in a forum such as the PC Tech section of the Sound On Sound forum. Worth looking here as well, but at this point your best bet is to ask as many places as possible in the hopes you find someone who had similar problems with a similar setup. This isn't necessarily a tall order, because you have a popular and common motherboard in your rig.

I'm sorry that you haven't been able to rid your PC of pops, though I would ask, what latency settings are you asking of your Delta? Try and bump it up to 128ms (edit: meant 128 samples)? Try disabling Aero in Win7, or perhaps trying a different sequencer temporarily? I'm throwing out a couple more things that immediately spring to mind, but your best bet now is to ask in a place like the SOS forum for more opinions from other people. Martin Walker might even step in with a few suggestions. Good luck.
Last edited by casiblake on Thu Jul 01, 2010 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
-- Blake Casimir : Melodic Space Techno / Electro / Ambient Galaxies --
Bandcamp Orbital Station / Soundcloud Nebula / Warp Portal Homepage

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

Post by mbenigni » Thu Jul 01, 2010 8:15 pm

Thanks casiblake. I'm guessing you mean a buffer size of 128 samples, which believe it or not, is actually the smallest buffer I've tried. And, yes, I've had Aero turned off for some time, all settings optimized performance, etc. I'll visit SoS, but I'm not looking forward to starting this discussion all over again. Life's just too short and I feel like I've spent half of it doing exactly this with a never-ending parade of computers. If I have better results with my laptop (XP) this weekend, I can see this Win7 rig becoming a big, expensive file server.

Will keep you posted, just for kicks, and thanks so much for the advice.

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