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MIDI vs audio

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:23 am
by 8E
I have question concerning sound cards.
Is a good sound card more needed for audio or for MIDI?
I use mostly only MIDI in Ableton (so far), and do I need a very good CPU or a very good sound card?

If I can go with heavy MIDI tracks (and effects) only with my intern sound-card it would be good.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 12:37 pm
by doghouse
MIDI has nothing to do with audio at all.

Audio interfaces usually come with MIDI ports simply for convenience, one box for both.

Unless you are using external hardware (are you?), you don't need a MIDI interface.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 12:49 pm
by 8E
OK. I work now with Push 1. Is it enough just my computer's CPU, no extra sound card for processing?

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:28 pm
by hacktheplanet
A good audio interface will take some burden off your CPU. It may also improve the sound quality. However if you have a relatively modern computer and keep everything in the box, then an audio interface is probably unnecessary. Meaning, if you're pegging the CPU right now, an audio interface is not going to make a noticeable difference.

edit: your sig says you are running a core 2 duo. if you are having performance issues, that is likely the issue. the i-series processors are considerably faster.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 3:47 pm
by login
If you are on mac you may be good, but both on windows (where it's totally required, since windows audio driver sucks) and Mac an nterface with good drivers improves performance allowing to get more juice out of your CPU, and also improves latency a lot (if you like to play instruments without latency then, yes it can improve that).

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 4:34 pm
by Stromkraft
octo8 wrote:I have question concerning sound cards.
Is a good sound card more needed for audio or for MIDI?
I use mostly only MIDI in Ableton (so far), and do I need a very good CPU or a very good sound card?

If I can go with heavy MIDI tracks (and effects) only with my intern sound-card it would be good.
As I'm on an old Mac, I can safely say a great interface is like night and day when it comes to performance. I decided for the original RME Babyface and haven't looked back since.

In theory the internal should work as well, but when you're on the marginal you need everything you can have. An alternative you probably can get at a lower price second hand are the FocusRites (FireWire mostly).

I've also turned off Intel Speedstep by hacking my system and killed certain processes in order to maximize performance. It's amazing what you can do on older Mac hardware with some work.

Yeah, and I got a 1TB SSD. The difference is ridiculous as everything's that touches the disk is faster (this involves more processes than you would think).

Obviously you need to carefully weigh the interface price against selling and getting a newer MacBook. A 2010 MacBook Pro or later is what I have my eyes on next.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 10:16 pm
by divonic
Your question shows a misunderstanding of the difference between MIDI and audio.

So lets break it down.

an Audio track in live plays back a prerecorded audio file (.wav for example) Live outputs sound.

a MIDI track requires an instrument, whether an ableton instrument or VST or an external MIDI device (like a hardware synthesizer) Live still outputs sound for MIDI tracks. to detail this a little more MIDI is not sound but is the data of what musical notes are being played.

to help demonstrate this drag a midi clip from one midi track to another (they should have different instruments on them) the same MIDI clip is playing but it will sound different. the same notes are playing but the sound is different. an audio clip dragged from on blank track to another blank track will sound the same.

the amount of audio or MIDI tracks in live does not effect how your soundcard performs.

My advice is to use your internal soundcard until YOU figure out if it isn't good enough. Are you having issues with your internal soundcard? if not you don't need an external one. eventually you might decide on a feature or features that you would like to have. At that point it might be time to get an external soundcard.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 12:32 am
by doghouse
octo8 wrote:Is it enough just my computer's CPU, no extra sound card for processing?
What does the CPU meter in Live indicate? If it's under 50% and you're nor hearing crackling, clicks and pops your CPU is powerful enough. I used to run Live 7 on a Celeron which is an extremely wimpy processor.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 4:09 am
by Stromkraft
divonic wrote: the amount of audio or MIDI tracks in live does not effect how your soundcard performs.

My advice is to use your internal soundcard until YOU figure out if it isn't good enough. Are you having issues with your internal soundcard? if not you don't need an external one. eventually you might decide on a feature or features that you would like to have. At that point it might be time to get an external soundcard.
Nevertheless, a great audio interface typically means improved latency, which means you can use a few more devices at a latency low enough to be playable. That's a significant difference if you indeed do have issues without one. On the other hand working smartly and using CPU saving methods can get you a long way.

The machine itself does affect performance more and a new faster one should be the preferred alternative, but a great audio interface may be cheaper than a new machine and certainly doesn't hurt. IMHO it's vital, though actually making music is more important.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:41 am
by 8E
divonic wrote:Your question shows a misunderstanding of the difference between MIDI and audio.
-an Audio track in live plays back a prerecorded audio file (.wav for example) Live outputs sound.
-a MIDI track requires an instrument, whether an ableton instrument or VST or an external MIDI device (like a hardware synthesizer) Live still outputs sound for MIDI tracks. to detail this a little more MIDI is not sound but is the data of what musical notes are being played.
I perfectly understand the difference even before.
Your last word is IN QUESTION. You say: "MIDI is not sound but is the data of what musical notes are being played."
Played by what? A musical synthesizer? If yes, is for that process important a very good sound card? That was my original question, if the synthesizers in Live utilize power of sound-cards.

I have a bit older Mac. Duo processor. And my CPU goes to 120%, with 2 tracks, 2 instruments and 5 effects in total. Of course with the terrible resuts. I have connected my M-Audio M-TRACK QUAD, but that doesn't help.
So that is why I wonder if for my MIDI work I need more powerful computer or different sound card.

If Live uses only CPU for MIDI synthesis and manipulation, than I have to get a new Mac.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 5:59 pm
by divonic
I reread your original post and I totally misunderstood your question. Sorry about that.

I just upgraded from an early 2007 macbook that was finally starting to have issues but it was still doing pretty good I kept the old one. Maybe I'll try a test with it. I'll load a set with and without my firewire soundcard plugged into it and see if it make a difference. I have used it without the soundcard plugged in and I don't remember having any issues but I wasn't looking for it. I don't think that a better soundcard will fix your issue but maybe someone who has dealt with CPU issues might have some suggestions. You might need to upgrade.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:46 pm
by beats me
If you are working entirely with plugin instruments it’s rare that I see people recommend an audio interface to solve performance problems. Usually you get

-Flatten MIDI tracks to audio
-Get more RAM
-Make sure at least 20% of your HD is empty
-Get a better HD
-Get a new computer

Those will probably help more than getting an audio interface.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 12:47 am
by doghouse
octo8 wrote:
divonic wrote:That was my original question, if the synthesizers in Live utilize power of sound-cards.
Not at all.

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:53 am
by 8E
doghouse wrote:
octo8 wrote:That was my original question, if the synthesizers in Live utilize power of sound-cards.
Not at all.
Good, than a new computer is all what I need... :)

Re: MIDI vs audio

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:17 pm
by login
A soundcard with decent drivers is cheap_ Steinberg UR12 for example, 99 USD. No need to break the bank.