Author Topic: Audio interfaces  (Read 5754 times)

Altus

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Audio interfaces
« on: April 28, 2010, 07:21:36 PM »
Hey all.
I'm using a PreSonus Firebox and not very happy with the output of this thing.  I get random pops/crackles when the harddrive is active (I've confirmed it's not latency problems).  Very annoying when doing final mixes with lots of WAV files playing in the multitrack.

The output is also very noisy.  When the CPU is under load, I hear sort of a squealing noise that changes in tone depending on the load.  I've contemplated sampling it because it sounds kind of cool, but I digress...  I know it's not a shielding problem.  The 1/4" to XLR cables going from the Firebox to my monitors are fine, because the noisy output doesn't happen under I turn on the device.

On the positive side, latency is practically zero.

Anyway, I'm looking for an audio interface that "just works", and would love to hear what you guys are using/happy with.
Oh, to add to my problems, I'm using Windows 7 (64-bit) so getting driver support for a lot of these units narrows down my choices.

Thanks for any advice you might have.
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
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Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2010, 07:53:51 PM »
check out RME.  They are known to have very good value in the mid-segment, and rock solid drivers, good A/D converters and low latency.
Their external audio interfaces are especially popular. If you choose an RME I am very sure you will be satisfied!

Personally I got the the HDSPe AIO, I am very satisfied with this sound card.
Get a latency of 0.7 ms.

ffcal

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2010, 09:29:55 PM »
Altus,

Don't know if this will help, but you might try partitioning your drive, so that any files you are playing back are on a different partition than the one on which you are recording.  I would also periodically defrag the drive, if you like to edit as you go.

Forrest

Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2010, 09:31:19 PM »
DPC Latency checker is an essential program...to solve problems like this...

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

APK

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2010, 11:35:22 AM »
Odd to hear you are having trouble with the Presonus, seems to be a popular choice and don't hear many troubles. Mike (Hypnos) has one of the larger ones and likes it. In that price/quality range it seems M-Audio and Focusrite are the main contenders. RME are a fair bit more expensive, but certainly better.

Heard what you said about latency, but your problem sure sounds typical of latency being set too low. You do say it is "practically zero".
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mgriffin

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2010, 12:37:18 PM »
My Presonus is broken.  I liked it a lot, but now I don't like it at all. 

The problem is that it has a tendency for flash RAM or firmware to go haywire, and once that happens it won't synchronize with your Mac or PC to re-flash the firmware, so you have to send it back to the factory to have them re-flash it.  This is apparently a fairly common problem with the various Firestudio models.  I really had no other problems with it prior to that.
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Altus

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2010, 06:53:05 PM »
Forrest, I have a dedicated drive for OS, another for temp file usage, and the last for music-specific audio file storage.  Oh, and I'm quite anal about keeping on top of file fragmentation.  But it's certainly good advice for anyone.  Thanks!

Blackinfinity, thanks for the suggestion for RME, however their units are overkill for what I'm looking for.  I was pretty sure I tested with that software but I tried again.  It peaked at 100 microseconds during playback, which I believe is normal.  Thank you.

APK, sorry I should have mentioned that the same problems occur regardless of what I have my latency set to.  I can set it to 40ms (the highest option) and still get the random popping.  If it makes any sense, the popping I'm referring to sounds different than latency problems.  I've found latency problems to sound more like grinding.

I'm fairly sure my problems are driver-related, given I'm using Windows 7.

Originally I was looking at the M-Audio Firewire Solo, but I was iffy about it since I've heard a lot of bad things about M-Audio.  The reason I was looking at that device was because they just released new Windows 7 (64bit) drivers, which told me they were still planning on supporting the device.  But delving deeper, I found that anyone using the drivers said they were - for lack of a better word - shit!

So I've decided that if I want results, I need to pay for it.  So I did some checking on the Edirol FA-101, and could only find positive comments, even on tech forums.  Full Windows 7 support, and confirmations from users saying they're rock-solid.  It has way more inputs/outputs than I'd ever use, but not a big deal.

Does anyone have or heard any comments on the FA-101?
I'm still open to suggestions for alternatives.

Thanks again everyone for your suggestions and advice!  :)
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
www.altusmusic.ca

Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2010, 08:02:00 PM »
Have you tried to record in other DAWs ?
Also besides fiddling around with the sound card settings, have you been trying different settings..different buffer sizes for disk cahce etc..
in your DAW...there is usually a lot of ASIO options in your DAW.

I would find it illogical if the DPC latency checker did not show peaks when you get Click sounds or dropouts..
I assume you did have it running while you where recording...

You are far from alone to have problems with Firewire interfaces...
The problem can also be related to your motherboard or bios...or the memory..hdd. But again... DPC Latency Checker should really show some peaks in that case...
if you had problems with any drivers in the system.

100 is ok. I get between 55 and 80. But never over 100 even during full load.
Gigabyte and Intel motherboards are known to have even lower...usually below 10.

I can really recommend Intel SSD G2 80GB for you System/DAW...It is like you get a new computer really..the difference is like night and day.
It is a really good investment.

You have probably done it already (if you run windows that is)..but if you run windows..disable useless services..like system restore..indexing etc.


Altus

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2010, 04:13:48 AM »
Hey Black,
Yeah, the 100microseconds is what I get while it's under load.  I get the same problem regardless of DAW.  And it only happens when I'm playing sound files (such as WAV files) within the DAW.  For example, I could be playing back some music in a DAW that doesn't have any WAV files playing.  Just synth and effect VSTs playing, minimize the program, start copying files from one drive to another, loading up a browser and check my mail all at the same time.  Clean output, no clicks.  I can even use sampler-based plugins that stream samples as they play.  It's only if I drop in a WAV file and the random clicking occurs.

I bought the system a couple of months ago:
Asus PT6
Intel i7 920
Kingston 6GB ram

Now I just took a peek at my devices again, and just realized the Startech firewire card I'm using has a VIA chipset (I thought it was TI).  I've read VIA chipsets can cause problems...  Maybe replacing that could solve some of my issues.  I checked Presonus' website, and they do support some VIA chipsets, but I can't get details chipset info from device manager.  Going to have to do some searching.

Edit:  The chipset is VIA VT6306, which is fully supported by Presonus.  Bah!
« Last Edit: April 30, 2010, 04:18:47 AM by Altus »
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LNerell

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2010, 09:20:41 AM »
The output is also very noisy.  When the CPU is under load, I hear sort of a squealing noise that changes in tone depending on the load. 

Here at work we are having a similar issue with M-Box's in our media lab. We've chased it down to bad shielding in the M-Box at the USB connection, so noise is getting transferred up the USB cable to the box and is getting in the audio line some how. The answer was using a higher quality cable with better shielding then the generic crap one Digidesign gave use when we bought the boxes from them. You might want to give that a try, might be cheaper then getting a whole new interface.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2010, 02:03:31 PM »
well if it is defective by design he should be far from alone to have this problem.
Have you looked around on other forums ?
And see if others experience similar headaches.. that is what I would do...
That Firebox sound card is a big seller...so..should be easy to find others with similar problems.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2010, 02:05:14 PM by Blackinfinity »

Altus

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2010, 05:54:21 PM »
Thanks for the advice, Loren.  I have a number of firewire cables hanging around so I tested them all.  Unfortunately, no change with any of them.  In my forum searches, I have heard of grounding problems with various audio interfaces and had a feeling that might be the case.

I also ran into some instructions on defeating the ground to solve the problem, but I'm interested in opening the box to do such a thing.  Ground wires are there for a reason.  ;)

Black, I have found others who have the same problem (the squealing noise) so I'm not alone.  It seems to be a rare occurrence though.

Who knows... maybe it's just a lemon?  At this point, I really don't care.  I'm just mad at this box, and I'm done trying to get it work properly.  I didn't pay anything for it (it was purchased for me), and I know someone else who could use it, despite its faults.  So I don't see it as a loss.

For anyone curious, I'll send an update once I purchase and test the Edirol.  Fingers crossed everything works out.  ;)
Thanks again everyone for your help and advice.
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
www.altusmusic.ca

Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2010, 06:09:31 PM »
Does not seem very likely it would be a grounding problem...I think the noise would be way more static background noise then..not irregular..But just a Guess.
Well there is so many factors..but I can understand that you are fed up with it and just want to buy a new one... I wish you good luck with the new sound card...let's hope
you will not have the same problems.

Sometimes it is worth to invest extra money on maybe something more expensive in the mid-segment..like RME..sure it is little bit expensive..but atleast you do not need to buy 2 sound cards to be satisfied.
 also a sound card have a rather long life cycle...

APK

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2010, 08:07:46 PM »
Mike
I heard that Windows has gone more towards USB, in which case the edirol UA-101 might be preferable over the firewire version. Seems USB has a history of fewer problems than firewire.

I don't use either, but I do have an edirol UM-880 midi box and it has worked flawlessly for years.
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Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2010, 08:22:01 PM »
Mike
I heard that Windows has gone more towards USB, in which case the edirol UA-101 might be preferable over the firewire version. Seems USB has a history of fewer problems than firewire.

I don't use either, but I do have an edirol UM-880 midi box and it has worked flawlessly for years.

USB by design is known to have more problems...mainly because USB require a certain chip on the motherboard that have to process the data in RT...it make it the process of Real-time audio more problematic.
Firewire does not need this RT processing from what I know.  Anyway I think USB 3.0 looks really promising. I am not sure there is any USB 3 sound cards out there already...probably not.

Altus

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2010, 11:27:52 AM »
The reason I prefer to go with Firewire is because I worry about the other USB devices (mouse, keyboard, midi keyboard, security dongle) interfering with the audio interface.  I like that there's nothing else in the chain to muck things up.  ;)

In any case, I was able to purchase the FA-101 at a decent price ($150 less than MSRP) and almost all my problems are gone.  The squealing sound due to CPU usage is history, and my multitrack playback is clean.  But I still get crackling when using one plugin (video playback for writing music to picture).  Again, no amount of changes to settings for buffering and latency make it go away.

I've also noted in the manual that TI is highly suggested, so I'll just switch out my firewire card and ...hopefully... that'll fix the crackling for that one plugin.
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
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Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2010, 02:26:18 PM »
Could be because of conflicting clock frequency ?
Perhaps the audio or video are not in sync are playing with different clock frequency.
Just an common problem with audio/video software.  My sound card has something called "DDS" which is supposed to solve this.
And you can define a specific clock frequency.

Altus

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2010, 03:03:34 PM »
I can't say if that's the case, and not sure how to find out such a thing.  However, given that the video playback and audio aren't really connected (I'm not using the audio stream from the video file) I don't think it's a problem in that respect.

I forgot to mention that if I use my SB X-Fi card, the problem doesn't happen.  So once again, it's something to do with the interface.  As I said before, I'm hoping that installing the suggested TI firewire card will fix the problem.  We shall see.  ;)
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
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Blackinfinity

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2010, 07:55:12 PM »
I can't say if that's the case, and not sure how to find out such a thing.  However, given that the video playback and audio aren't really connected (I'm not using the audio stream from the video file) I don't think it's a problem in that respect.

I forgot to mention that if I use my SB X-Fi card, the problem doesn't happen.  So once again, it's something to do with the interface.  As I said before, I'm hoping that installing the suggested TI firewire card will fix the problem.  We shall see.  ;)

Well all your problems you are expericing is the main reason why I have never been even considering to buy an firewire or USB interface.
I prefer rock solid PCI/PCIe interfaces.

Are you using Laptop or do you really HAVE to use an external interface ?
ESI have good budget cards...

Altus

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Re: Audio interfaces
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2010, 04:09:32 AM »
Heh, the reason I went with a external box is because a number of other people I spoke to said that internal cards can be more problematic.  Go figure, right?  ;)
It's a desktop system, so there's no reason I couldn't use a PCIe card.

If things really don't work out, I might take back the FA-101 and try that route to see if my problems go away.

Thanks again for your advice.
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
www.altusmusic.ca