Coffeehouse Thread

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reasonable benchmark and review of Win8 from a pro audio PC maker

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  • dentaku

    Here's what a maker of professional audio production PCs thinks about Windows 8.

  • JohnAskew

    That's good news.

    I'm running W7 on my son's quad core, the 32-bit version since I was worried about hardware compatibility. He's got ProTools and a USB wired FastTrack Ultra for inputs from instruments. I don't even know if they will work with 64-bit OS... If they do, then I'd plan to upgrade his machine to W8 64-bit...

    Now that integrated keyboard/workstation you pointed out which runs W7 needs a touchscreen and W8!! 

  • dentaku

    , JohnAskew wrote


    Now that integrated keyboard/workstation you pointed out which runs W7 needs a touchscreen and W8!! 

    Yup, I'm not sure when Open Labs is going to sell workstations with Win8 Pro on them but I'm pretty sure they're testing it right now and there's no reason why it wouldn't work well.

  • spivonious

    That's a nice open-minded review. I agree with everything he said.

  • androidi

    I don't see any latency and jitter measurements*. I suspect anyone reading this thread titled "pro audio" does not need further education about the importance of these. And I know for a fact that even the amateurs/regular joes will be frustrated or atleast not going to enjoy any sort of experience involving real-time input and output if there's jitter & latency. They just can't put it in words but it's like if you had made Google home page open inconsistently in 1-10 seconds back in the day, I suspect the company wouldn't be worth anything now. And it's like if Windows 8 tablet apps open in 1-10 seconds, guess how well that will go?

    Rather than blathering on and on I'll leave you just three videos that prove why music is all about timing and not the number and brand of compressors and such. (Infact I claim also that a single good EQ & reverb (or spaces+mics) are the only thing you need in music production in addition to great ear, developed taste of a perfectionist and mastered skills)

    (I probably linked these once before so maybe you know these by now)


    * (especially during time that systems events, tasks, schedulings trigger - if you have time critical apps running, the user must be able to trivially inform the OS of this so that it suspends OS services that might cause hardware access or other execution that the OS scheduler has no control over and would result in inconsistencies in the audio path execution)

  • androidi

    BTW. Do those videos above play above 10 FPS (in IE8) for you in this thread? They play OK in Youtube site but on this CH9 thread they stuck at 10 FPS (stage & video) and dropping frames like crazy. (right click -> Show video info)

  • spivonious

    No one should use 200 compressors, but it is a good way of measuring the VST performance. I'm assuming that's why he did those tests. I totally agree that good music production is all about recording and cannot be "fixed in the mix".

    I haven't had issues with latency since the Pentium III, so it's not a useful benchmark. I use analog connections, so jitter really doesn't come into play.

  • BitFlipper

    @androidi: Jitter typically isn't an issue with pro music applications. What is important is to keep buffer sizes as small as possible so that latency is as low as possible.

    The reason music applications don't need to concern themselves with jitter is because they pass the processed buffer of audio to the audio driver, which in turn uses the audio hardware's accurate clock to feed the samples into the DAC. As long as the audio application can keep the audio driver fed with buffers of audio, the jitter will purely be determined by the audio hardware. As soon as the application can't feed enough samples to the driver, you will have audio dropouts which is a much bigger problem than jitter.

    Latency is a bigger issue, and it is always a compromise between how much latency you can endure in the particular case vs when you start getting audio gaps.

    Also, latency itself in an audio application is fixed once you choose the buffer size. It doesn't vary depending on CPU usage, no matter how much the CPU usage varies during a song (unless your latency is too low and you start hitting dropouts).

    Now there are some issues with VST plugins that have their own internal timing issues, especially ones that rely on MIDI input (soft synths for example). However these days those sort of issues are very rare and once again this isn't an audio application issue, but a specific audio plugin that could have an issue.

    In addition, if you have done any amount of music recording/production with a music application you would know that you need much more than just a good EQ and reverb. There is a lot that happens to the audio from when it is recorded until you hear it on the radio/internet/TV.

  • dentaku

    Latency is THE most important thing for me and not latency as in recording and monitoring audio. I only use virtual instruments therefore everything is about MIDI controlled sound generation. I don't have a mic and I have only used the audio inputs on my soundcard once since I've owned it.

    I'll probably install Win8 this Sunday if I have time, so I'll be doing to some tests by simply running Trillian or some giant Kontakt instrument (LA Scoring Strings type stuff) to see when it starts messing up.

    I've found that DPC latency is extremely important. I had to stop using one of my ethernet ports on my motherboard and switch to the other one and suddenly everything was as fine as you'd expect from an older Core 2 Duo machine with 4GB of ram while using software that supports ASIO audio hardware. AS I've said in another C9 post, dpclat.exe doesn't work correctly in Win8 but there seems to be other software that works in Win8 that I could use.

    The Win7 Echo Mia MIDI audio drivers seemed to work fine in the old beta version of Win8 I used a long time ago so it should still work. The last driver update was on 12/19/2011 which is actually pretty good considering this is a rather old product.



  • androidi

    The fact that there are specialized PC vendors to build PCs tested for audio use sort of suggests the "state" of things - lots of testing, measuring and tweaking involved that can be unexpected coming from a dedicated instrument. Buy a midi keyboard and some plugs and expect things to just work? Probably the even more common scenario is DJ's, they use midi controllers as well and this trend was obvious over 15 years ago when people started DJ'ing with mp3's on the PC. Yeah.. lots of DPC testing going around in those DJ forums as well.

    On one hand I'd like to see the "state" improved but I'm sure there's a ton of vendors pleased with status quo.

  • BitFlipper

    I upgraded to Windows 8 two weeks ago and finally got around to actually start using my music software again. One major issue I ran into is that my firewire Edirol FA-66 interface is no longer supported. The stupid driver is still at version 1.0 since 2009 and when installing the driver, it says the OS isn't supported. I was able to get it installed using compatibility mode (Win7), but when I run it, it says the OS isn't supported.

    I hate drivers and applications that incorrectly test the OS version number and don't take into account that the same driver/application could work on future OSes.

    TBH, I hated the interface anyway since it wasn't even capable of doing soft sample rate switching. You had to power cycle it, including fiddling with a tiny sample rate switch at the back to change sample rate. It did sound great though once you got it going so at least there was that.

    Now I need to find a good replacement interface that supports at least 4 in and 4 out, including a high-Z guitar and also mic (w/48V) input. Maybe even going to USB this time as I'm sure they improved quite a bit, and driver support might be better.

  • dentaku

    I have always worried about external audio interfaces like that, especially Firewire ones because they're so picky about the type of firewire chip your motherboard has PLUS firewire is quite rare on laptops these days. I remember reading about the fiddly FA-66 in the past.

    At the moment people sees to be happy with the Focusrite Scarlett interfaces but of course you always need to look at forums to see what people are saying about driver updates and support for new OSes.

    When newer computers (mostly laptops) where coming out with ONLY USB3.0 ports people where having trouble with interfaces that previously worked fine plugged into USB2.0 ports of their previous computer. I don't know if that's been addressed these days or not.

  • BitFlipper

    @dentaku: I ended up getting the USB Komplete Audio 6. I've used a lot of these guys' music software in the past but never any of their hardware. I must say this is a really nice interface. I'm getting latency that is much lower than anything I was able to get with the firewire FA-66. Not sure if this is Windows 7 vs Windows 8 or just much better drivers. Basically, if I strum a guitar I can't notice any delay whatsoever. I'm sure total round trip delay must be less than 10ms. With the old FA-66, no matter how small I set the buffers, there was always at least 20ms total round trip delay, if not more. Consider that sound travels roughly 1ms/foot, then with the new interface it is like sitting no more than 10ft from the speaker. Not bad for USB that I was led to believe would suffer from latency issues.

    BTW, Windows 7 has already been able to do very well against OSX when it comes to pro audio. I know this is a bit old now but it is still relevant to Windows 7. If Windows 8 improves on this even more then this is significant for pro audio where there is a constant battle for lower latency. BTW I believe this "battle" will only be over until we can have a buffer size of 1 sample. Still a long way to go but these days we can easily do buffer sizes of 32 samples vs a few years ago where a few hundred samples were considered low.

  • dentaku

    @BitFlipper: NI seems to be good with their drivers.
    I've always wondered if different audio interfaced with different drivers  have any effect on the type of latency I care about since I don't actually record audio.

    Would getting something like a Komplete 6 actually give me better performance when using ASIO software like Ableton Live 8 and lots of virtual instruments?
    Nobody's been able to give me a definitive answer.

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