Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

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Posts: 16
Joined: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:24 pm
Location: Dallas, TX

Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by randytheking » Sat Jun 26, 2010 7:11 pm

These random and unpredictable skips are driving me insane. Some might call it a dropout, but it sounds more like a skip to me. Here’s what I have:

Model Identifier: MacBookPro5,2
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
Number Of Processors: 1
Total Number Of Cores: 2
L2 Cache: 6 MB
Memory: 4 GB
Bus Speed: 1.07 GHz

Hard Drive:
Capacity: 500.11 GB (500,107,862,016 bytes)
Model: ST9500420AS
Native Command Queuing: Yes
Queue Depth: 32
Removable Media: No
Detachable Drive: No
BSD Name: disk0
Rotational Rate: 7200
Medium Type: Rotational

I’m coming out of the laptop via Firewire into a Profire 2626 which feeds a digital console 16 channels of lightpipe/fiber/tosslink/ADAT…whatever you want to call it. I’m using this rig to play backing tracks for a live band. Everything is pre-recorded in Logic and bounced to wav files for a total of nine tracks. Not every song has nine tracks. Some only have two (click & vocal counts…1234, etc.). By the way, I run everything in Session View.

The random skips don’t have any relation to the number of tracks being played, nor are they related to the length of the song or the physical size of the wav files (clips). I’ve had it skip on short songs with only two tracks (wav files) playing. Then I’ve had it perform flawlessly on twelve-minute complex medleys with nine loooooonnnng wav files going at the same time. That makes NO sense. On top of that, it is not song (scene) dependent. I can play a song many times without an issue and then it will skip one time out of the blue, so I know the wav files aren’t screwed up. When it does skip, it doesn’t just skip one file (clip), it skips all of them equally. So, the tracks are in unison with one another, but they are no longer with the band. The amount it skips is usually very small – like a beat or less. There might be a small amount of silence, but with everything going on in my monitor mix, I couldn’t really tell. Imagine a record player jumping from one groove to another. That’s kind of what it sounds like. All of the sudden, you’re in a different spot.

I don’t watch the CPU meter every second of the show so it could be spiking, but for the most part, it idles between 2% & 3% when playing the tracks. First question, is there a way to log CPU load so I can see if it does spike?

I only use Ableton for playback. As I understand it, the buffer latency only applies to recording. Is that correct? Do any of the settings affect output latency? I’ve tried buffer settings from 256 all the way to 2048 and the skips still occur.

I’ve turned off everything I know how to turn off – screen saver, energy saver, HDD sleep, wireless, Bluetooth, auto backups, etc…

Nothing is in Legato mode, Hi-Q is on for all clips, Fade is off, RAM is off. Warp is on for almost all clips. I do have a few songs that change tempo during the clip so I have Warp off for those songs only. Everything else has Warp enabled. If I enable Clip RAM Mode, does it load all clips into RAM as soon as the Ableton set opens? Or does it only load them into RAM when the scene is launched?

Calling all Ableton gurus. Please help. I really don’t want to ditch this product, but I can’t go on like this.

Posts: 161
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:01 pm

Re: Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by wayfinder » Sun Jun 27, 2010 5:51 am

This sounds a lot like my problem: http://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=143618

I hope they get solved :(

Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:46 pm

Re: Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by Colbys » Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:54 pm


Sounds like you and i are running the same hardware except I am just running out of my headphone jack as of now.

I have had the same issues. I am running backing tracks for a live band. Each song only has one wav file. I make the tracks in logic pan click/cues left and everything else right. Every once in a while usually once every 4 gigs (playing on average 3 hours a gig) ableton will randomly skip throwing the time off. This is a terrible occurrence when playing a club filled with 500 or so people with a ton of people dancing and the skip dispaces the whole band. I have to figure out what is causing as it is seemingly random and when this happens it can be very catastrophic to the performance... I cannot afford such events.

I would assume ableton should be able to run one clip flawlessly!

I have searched the net with no results. I am planning on calling ableton tomorrow.

PLEASE HELP! ANY ADVICE! I need to not be worrying about this on the gig and be able to focus on playing my instrument with a sense of paranoia of ableton possibly skipping.

As you guys said I really like ableton and I dont want to ditch it, BUT ships like this are unacceptable.

Posts: 161
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:01 pm

Re: Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by wayfinder » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:28 am

Did you receive word back from Ableton about this?

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Joined: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:24 pm
Location: Dallas, TX

Re: Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by randytheking » Sun Jan 23, 2011 6:26 pm

Not really. The only thing I can tell you is to get a 7200 RPM hard drive (or faster if you can find one), max out your RAM, and turn off every process not essential to your show (bluetooth, wifi, screen saver, energy saver, hard disk sleep, mobileme, time machine, and anything else running you can shut down).

After doing that, the tracks have not skipped. (knock on wood)

The REALLY frustrating part is that I have a new MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM and a smoking fast hard drive. I've seen it work on an old MacBook with 2GB without an issue...running a similar show. Go figure. :|

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Location: Seattle

Re: Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by Machinesworking » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:35 pm

A couple things.
In a live show where you place the laptop is important. I've always had mine on a stand on a platform on a pad. Lots of separation from the stage, which vibrates like hell from the bass. Your HD could have issues with the bass.

ADAT, I wouldn't use it in a live situation, I don't think enough people use it anymore, and it's an old technology, both those things add up to it being poorly implemented from machine to machine. I could get it running with 4 stereo tracks between two macs, but it did have crackling issues pretty regularly. This was with an RME Fireface and an RME Hammerface.

Neither of you mention if you're using any soft instruments. I use Kore and Guitar Rig, plus Speakerphone and Buffer Override in a 4GB set. I have Live playing roughly 10-12 stereo 16bit tracks and triggering patch changes in Kore. I've had issues with crackles etc when I've done edits with Warp mode over a couple tracks or so. I'm pushing what a dual 2.4Ghz 4GB 7200rpm macbook pro from 3 1/2 years ago can do, so it's tight CPU wise. Mostly it stays at 35-60% but on some songs with say Massive in them, it can get to 70%
^^^^^ BEAR IN MIND, those percentage readings CPU wise are system readings, Live polls only what it thinks it's using and is consistently 20-30% lower than what the system says.

It's a good idea to look at system CPU VS what Live says, especially if you're using technology like ADAT. The biggest issue IMO with crackles and drop outs comes from CPU spikes, which tend to come from instruments and FX, for instance Akoustic Piano from NI never played nice with Live, once you loaded the same samples in Kontakt though, it was no issue. If you've got a lot of FX and haven't rendered your warping in clips to the clip, you could have a lot of ares in your seemingly lean set that are going to spike the CPU.

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Re: Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by kabelton » Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:51 pm

i don't have drop outs, but you can try to turn off all internet services, so deactivate wifi and perhaps ethenet... just one hint.


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Re: Random skips/dropouts are KILLING me!

Post by EX » Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:26 pm

Feel free to totally ignore this stab in the dark, may have nothing to do with your issue, might be an OS thing, a frag thing or all sorts I don't know, but it just occurred to me from your use of the word 'skip'... well, its more of a message to all good men on Earth really:-

Please everyone get SSD. If you can. If you can't, fine, you can't. But otherwise less pain. You want less pain in your life I reckon.