Author Topic: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions  (Read 754 times)

[Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« on: October 05, 2012, 11:58:39 AM »
So! I'm starting to get frustrated with my laptop's latency issues and general inability to cope with playing/rendering super-complicated multitracked songs. I'm getting occasional clicks and gremlins in the works, and I wonder if any kind VW can tell me if a decent external soundcard will solve both of these problems? Or is it just as likely to be a RAM/processor issue?

I can't tell you right now what my current setup is as I'm at work, but any theoretical thoughts would be gratefully received. It's a pretty new laptop - 4GB of RAM, I think, and a quad-core processor.

mcbpete

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Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2012, 12:04:36 PM »
An external soundcard that supports ASIO will certainly sort out your latency issues but the multitracked song problem with clicking etc. sounds like it could be more to do with processor and/or hard-disk seek speeds. Sometimes an external card does seem to offload some of the DSP work (things seem smoother when composing with my USB2 audio interface than without) but if I've got too much playing at the same time in Reaper (I compose with another DAW so it's only really noticeable when mastering/mixing-down albums) I still get the occasionally stuttering if the sections haven't been buffered to RAM.

Neomod

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Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2012, 12:05:44 PM »
I'll get the obvious stuff out of the way. Make sure nothing is running in the background (you have probably already done this)

I have a dual core with 4GB of Ram and use a PHONIC Firefly 302 firewire external audio interface. I never ever have latency problems with this set up.

Never

Ever

NoSleep

  • feat. Keith Jarrett and his singing parrot
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Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2012, 12:21:05 PM »
An external firewire drive might be the answer for lazyhour. I don't think the drive speed of laptop hard drives is fast enough for extensive multitracking. If your computer supports USB 3.0 then an external drive with that may be the answer (if you don't have firewire).

The clicks would be down to not having the I/O buffer size set high enough, which will cause latency, I'm afraid.
The answer, if you need to do more audio recording on a complex track, is to make a stereo bounce of the track and put that into a brand new song and record the new audio tracks with the I/O buffer set as low as possible (before clicks, etc, appear). Then take the newly recorded audio tracks back to the original arrangement and set the I/O buffer back up high for mixing.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

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Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2012, 12:32:57 PM »
My pc is getting on a bit and struggles with any synth setting with a 1 gig+ soundset. Which granted, isn't all that much, but it does mean I have a lovely piano synth going unused. I took the view that RAM was crucial to getting synthesized sound in clarity with no latency, and processing power and a good hard disk was what improves the performance of your DAW.

I don't know whether it still is the case, but RAM seems to be the underperforming aspect of most laptops, even those with impressive processors. 

Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2012, 03:10:27 PM »
Thank you so much for these responses - very useful! One thing I can add is that the problem doesn't seem to be the raw audio, but too many FX plugins going on at the same time across many tracks - reverb, delay, pitch shift, compression, phaser etc. I wonder if that makes it more likely to be a RAM issue?

mcbpete

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Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2012, 04:09:22 PM »
Ah in that case it'll be your CPU then that's the bottleneck (unless they're reaaaallly heavy memory-hog plugins, which I doubt). As I mentioned sometimes (depending on the DAW and plugin) you can offload some of the processing power onto the Audio Interface (I think) but its's the main processing power of your lappy that counts most.

Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2012, 04:30:23 PM »
Damn.

I was really pushing it with this track.

Nevertheless, this has spurred me on to get something better than this basic built-in soundcard. I'm a professional musician for goodness sake!

Edit: Has anyone had experience with Phonic Firely 302s?

Neomod

  • Oh my genitals | I'm a janitor
Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2012, 06:46:34 PM »
Damn.

I was really pushing it with this track.

Nevertheless, this has spurred me on to get something better than this basic built-in soundcard. I'm a professional musician for goodness sake!

Edit: Has anyone had experience with Phonic Firely 302s?

Quote
I have a dual core with 4GB of Ram and use a PHONIC Firefly 302 firewire external audio interface. I never ever have latency problems with this set up.

No, sorry.

NoSleep

  • feat. Keith Jarrett and his singing parrot
    • Space Is The Place
Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2012, 08:08:03 PM »
Damn.

I was really pushing it with this track.

Nevertheless, this has spurred me on to get something better than this basic built-in soundcard. I'm a professional musician for goodness sake!

Edit: Has anyone had experience with Phonic Firely 302s?

Blimey. Anything; even a Behringer UCA202 (£25); would be better than the native audio in a laptop. Get ready to be shocked when you realise what you haven't been hearing. For one, the bass end is unmixable without a proper audio interface as there is never any punch from the native audio. It'll be like hearing in 3D after having only blurred snapshots to work with.

Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2012, 08:24:41 PM »
Shit, sorry Neomod! I added that Edit after looking at a different website and forgot to check if it'd already been mentioned. How embarassing!

Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2012, 08:26:08 PM »
And thanks for that, NoSleep. I mixed all my music on a desktop PC with a decent (bought by me) soundcard until a few months ago, when the PC died. I'm only now starting to mix on the laptop, and I'm sure you're right - I'll probably be horrified when I realise what I've been working with.

Neomod

  • Oh my genitals | I'm a janitor
Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2012, 10:42:14 PM »
Shit, sorry Neomod! I added that Edit after looking at a different website and forgot to check if it'd already been mentioned. How embarassing!

Ha ha, no need to blush.

Don't know how much the phonics are now but mine has never let me down and as NoSleep says you can hear a massive difference when you monitor/mix through it[nb]other audio interfaces are available[/nb]. Mine is a firewire version so I can't vouch for the usb model.

Dusty Gozongas

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Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2012, 05:12:23 PM »
Some useful optimisation info. It's for Vista specifically but also relevant for Win7/XP etc.

Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2012, 11:12:45 AM »
Thank you so much for these responses - very useful! One thing I can add is that the problem doesn't seem to be the raw audio, but too many FX plugins going on at the same time across many tracks - reverb, delay, pitch shift, compression, phaser etc. I wonder if that makes it more likely to be a RAM issue?
My solution to that is to just 'freeze' effects-heavy tracks once they're more or less locked down (most setups should have an automated option to do this, it's just temporarily mixing the effects down to an audio track), you can always unfreeze if you need to tweak them later. The less real-time processing you have going on at any one time, the more responsive your setup will be, so it's a useful habit to get into.

Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2012, 11:21:58 AM »
lazarou, that's good advice - will see if my version of Acid will do that.

In interface purchase news, I've plumped for this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alesis-Channel-24-Bit-Recording-Interface/dp/B0085BANJE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1349864451&sr=8-2

You can record 4 separate inputs at once! Our live band demos won't know what's hit them!

NoSleep

  • feat. Keith Jarrett and his singing parrot
    • Space Is The Place
Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2012, 12:58:29 PM »
http://www.alesis.com/io4

That looks a bargain at £100. Come back to this thread and share your thoughts on it later. A 4 in/out, including phantom power, for a mere £100? There's got be a catch 8^).

I'm not sure why they have marked outputs 3-4 as "usb" compared to 1-2 being "main". Likewise, the mix pot goes from "direct" (I assume this means latency-free direct input signal) to "usb" (I assume this is what is normally called "playback" on other units).

REVEEN!

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Re: [Muso] Laptop sound solutions
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2012, 06:05:18 PM »
There's got be a catch.
I borrowed my brothers io2 express for a couple of weeks and found it rather harsh sounding compared to the Tascam US-122 I was previously using and the Mackie Blackjack I'm using now. It was like it had an internal treble booster permanently set to 11 but the io2 does seem to be aimed more at podcasters than musicians so perhaps the io4 is different. They do both seem to be made from the same nasty cheapo plastic though.