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Jonah-B

Recording computers and choppy playback

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Hello! I'm a relatively new recording artist stuck with a budget computer. Software wise I tend to stick with Reason and Sony Acid Pro with Rewire. Reason on it's own works fine. I rarely get slow down or choppy playback. Booting up Acid Pro is where the problems begin. The bulk of my mixes are usually created in Reason, with guitar tracks recorded in Acid. Every guitar track that I record slows down the playback. With four or five somewhat lengthy guitar tracks my playback becomes so choppy that I have to toggle tracks off to work with it. I like to use the Guitar Rig 4 VST to add effects to these tracks. While that does make playback even worse, I still have playback problems when I don't use any plug ins. This really limits the number of guitar recordings I can work with. Here are some specs.

OS: Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3 (Build 2600)
Memory (Ram): 2039 MB
CPU Info: Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 3.00GHz
CPU Speed: 2928.0 MHz
Sound Card: SoundMAX Digital Audio
Hard Drives: C: 465.8GB | F: 465.8GB
Hard Drives (Free): C: 98.8GB | F: 51.3GB
C Drive: Maxtor 7h500f0 (7200 RPM)

The other drive is a Seagate USB External drive. I have a Line 6 POD x3 connected to my computer that is used as an external sound card so I don't know if the SoundMAX Digital Audio card plays any role in my playback quality. I'm looking to make some upgrades to this computer to make it more suitable for recording. Any advice? Should I just go with a new computer entirely? Thanks!

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Hello there Jonah!

That's quite a bad problem you have there. I know the feeling, had the same issue when I started out on FL Studio 9.

Things you should check:

  • Is your audio driver set to an ASIO Driver within your DAW? You might need to take a look into your manual where you'll find the option. If there's no option for an ASIO Driver you should get one at http://www.asio4all.com/ What it does is basicly raise the priority of the audio in your system's internal processing chain to avoid the very problem you have.
  • If you're using an ASIO Driver and still have the problem you should adjust the buffer size in your ASIO driver's panel. A larger buffer size means less crackling but higher latency, hence, you should aim for the smallest buffer size that allows you to playback audio without any crackling or chopping.
  • Make sure you have no unneccessary applications running in the background (this includes any Anti-Virus application) to free up RAM and CPU for your DAW.

    That should probably solve your issue. Post back, though, when the problem still persists after these steps.

    Best of luck!

    Cheers,
    Chris

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Hello,

What driver are you using? Probably the ASIO driver of the Line6 interface, but check that in the audio settings of your DAWs.

When you're sure you're using the right interface, go to the settings of the Gearbox software.
(By the way: your SoundMAX has nothing to do with this - the Pod X3 is now your sound card.)

You should be able to find a buffer setting for your interface, along with an extra setting for the interface's Direct Monitoring.

In short terms:
The higher the buffer, the higher the latency, but also the better the digital-stotter-free playback of the stuff you're working on in the DAW.
The lower the buffer, the lower the latency, but also the more choppy playback caused by the buffer being full.

The trick is to find the right buffer size that enables you to work without stuttering audio but with a latency that works for you.
Some DAWs provide a test tone along with simulated CPU usage in their settings, you might want to make use of that. Read the manuals of your Line6 Pod X3 and your DAW for further instructions.

When you record with the emulation of the Gearbox software, you will have next to no latency because you can monitor it directly without your computer processing it: it's buffer-free, but you can't change the emulation settings afterwards like you could do with Guitar Rig or another emulation VST plugin.

Cheers,
Moritz

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Some other things came to mind:

  1. Most DAWs have a 'freeze track' feature, which will flatten the track with all plug-ins applied, so your CPU won't have to calculate it during playback. When you want to change something, you de-freeze the track again.
  2. Regarding your computer: you can do a lot with that. You might want to upgrade the RAM to 4 GB, that should be pretty cheap. A new CPU will likely need a new motherboard too, so I'd check if that would be cheaper than a new computer altogether if you feel the need of upgrading your CPU after checking your ideal buffer size and the consequential latency.
  3. If you haven't done that yet: buy the software you use. You'll get good support and hassle-free upgrades that might improve performance, and you'll want to know the software and work with it as effectively as possible once you've spend money on it.

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Thank you both for your extremely helpful replies! Changing the buffer settings in particular did help a lot, though there is still a lot of lag when I use multiple instances of Guitar Rig. Unfortunately you need to run a new instance of this VST for every track that uses different Guitar Rig settings. This lag problem really sucks because I'm really fond of heavily layered guitar sounds. I'm not sure, but I don't think Acid has a freeze track feature. However now I can mix down these individual tracks with the effects and layer them like that, though that would be difficult way to work. It is a workable solution though.

Am I just being too demanding of my hardware? Or is there an easy fix, like maybe adding more ram?

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Am I just being too demanding of my hardware? Or is there an easy fix, like maybe adding more ram?

You are at 2 GB already, and 32-bit Windows only really recognises 3 GB - it might help, but I doubt significantly. A single-core processor of that vintage is pretty anaemic when it comes to demanding software...

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Adding more RAM is only useful when you're actually going to use the additional memory.

Open up your biggest project and check on your Task Manager how much memory you're using. If the number is close to or above your physical memory you should definitely upgrade, otherwise the money is better spent elsewhere unless you plan to do bigger projects (large orchestra maybe?) in the near future. There's also the option to get faster RAM but that will have next to no impact on audio latency.

Furthermore, I find it highly unlikely that RAM is the issue in your case, anyway. Guitar Rig 3 uses up maybe 30~60MB depending on the type and number of units loaded inside the VST on my end here, and I doubt GR4 needs significantly more memory. I'm guessing it's simply your CPU reaching its limits. Again, you can check this easily with your Task Manager.

Oh, and also, other Acid users suggest that you turn off the Media Manager under the options tab since it's "a mere CPU hog" so you might wanna try that out.
-> http://www.sonycreat...usic_June06.pdf
-> http://www.futureproducers.com/forums/hardware-software/software/daw-sequencers-samplers-software/sony-acid-7-running-slow-372366/
-> http://www.futurepro...ng-slow-317474/

Cheers,
Chris

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Given you want to stick with your system a while longer:
Another 1-2 gigs of RAM won't do anything bad, and will probably cost you around 30-40 bucks. (probably DDR2-667)

32-bit Windows XP can address 2.75 - 3.5 GB of RAM, depending on your chipset. I daresay this will make a notable difference.

If you have 2 GB of RAM right now and no dedicated graphic card but a chip with shared memory, half of this will be used even before you load any plug-ins in your DAW. And depending on the data flow of Acid Pro (never worked with it), the rest might be used up pretty soon with four and more audio tracks running.

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