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Bill Phillips

Cakewalk PC Optimization

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I need help understanding and hopefully improving the performance of my DAW PC.  While mixing, I experience more or less constant dropouts though the dropouts aren't so bad as to prevent me from mixing and making adjustments.  At no point do, either the Cakewalk Performance Monitor or the Windows Resource Monitor show any CPU thread exceeding 25%.  Why isn't my CPU working harder? What can I do to improve performance.

I've run through Sweetwater's DPC Latency recommendations and results look good. (See 4 attached results screenshots)

I've run through Sweetwater's DAW PC Optimazation recommendations and provided more details about my DAW PC in the attached PDF summary.

I have Use Multiprocessor Engine and Plug-in Load Balancing ticked. (See attached Audio Driver Settings screenshot) 

My Focusrite 8i18 (original USB 2.0 version) audio interface adjust the Mixing Latency Buffer Size based on a user selected latency in ms. It's usually set to between 15 ms and the maximum  of 20 ms for mixing. A setting of 20 ms sets the Mixing Latency Buffer Size to 883 samples. (See Audio Driver Settings screenshot attached.  Also note ASIO reported latency values which far exceed the 883 samples.

During playback, all threads hover around the bottom on the Performance module. No threads ever goes above 25% but there's a lot of audible popping and cracking and I don't know why. I've only recently started using the iZotope Production Suite which I really like and I suspect that products represent a significant CPU load, but the CPU doesn't seem to notice them. Any ideas why this is happening or what I can do about it?

Mixing projects I'm working on now tend to have 8-12 audio tracks, 8-10 aux tracks and 3 buses.  Sample rate is 44.1 or 48 kbps and recording bit depth is 24 bits.

I usually record no more that 12 audio tracks at a time with no processing  and don't incur any problems. 

Detailed Latency Anal 1.png

Detailed Latency Anal 2.png

Detailed Latency Anal 3.png

LatencyMon Results.png

Cakewalk Audio Driver Settings.png

DAW PC Optimization.pdf

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Bump up your audio buffer size (increase latency) when mixing and see if that helps. If your CPU is not maxing out when you get dropouts, your audio buffer is probably too small.

You could also try freezing several tracks at a time to test for any specific track/plugin combinations contributing to the issue.

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Obviously your drop outs are not related to your buffer settings or any background processing as reported by Latency Monitor. 

You should have no problems working at a mid buffer setting ( Focusrite speak = 10ms )   I've actually read somewhere that turning buffers up too high can cause issues but don't quote me on that one. 

So your dropouts and crackling must be something else.

If it was me the first thing I would do is try these few things  as it is possibly your hardware or your drivers  that are not performing correctly.

The driver you can try and re install.  Go to the Focusrite support page and get the latest.

Also try a different USB cable and/or a different USB port.  Older interfaces didn't like USB 3 ports.

Last thing to try is if  there is someone or a music store you can borrow an interface from try that too. 

For sure turn off your internet while troubleshooting. But I doubt that's an issue judging by your screenshot.

 

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1 hour ago, Cactus Music said:

Obviously your drop outs are not related to your buffer settings or any background processing as reported by Latency Monitor. 

Not obvious. LatencyMon measures DPC (Deferred Procedure Call) latency, and a few other things. Really more of a CPU and hardware driver interaction thing, and nothing directly related to audio processing. But it can impact real-time audio if the DPC queue is backed up and the CPU cannot refill the audio buffer in time. Boom, dropout time!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferred_Procedure_Call

Audio buffer size and audio latency is something entirely different from DPC latency.  Audio buffer size is a function of how often your CPU has to service the real-time audio buffer before a dropout occurs. If your buffer is set low, the CPU has to visit much more often to keep things flowing. That makes it more susceptible to dropouts if any drivers on the system tie up the CPU. That can happen, and isn't always the audio driver at fault.

Audio latency is calculated based on the latency of the round trip of the audio signal, and is directly affected by the buffer size.

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13 hours ago, abacab said:

Bump up your audio buffer size (increase latency) when mixing and see if that helps. If your CPU is not maxing out when you get dropouts, your audio buffer is probably too small.

You could also try freezing several tracks at a time to test for any specific track/plugin combinations contributing to the issue.

abacab, thanks. I've gone from minimum (1 ms) to maximum (20 ms).  I currently have it set at 15 ms because settings below that periodically stop playback. So far I'm avoiding freezing tracks because I bounce around a lot.

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12 hours ago, Cactus Music said:

If it was me the first thing I would do is try these few things  as it is possibly your hardware or your drivers  that are not performing correctly.

The driver you can try and re install.  Go to the Focusrite support page and get the latest.

Also try a different USB cable and/or a different USB port.  Older interfaces didn't like USB 3 ports.

Last thing to try is if  there is someone or a music store you can borrow an interface from try that too. 

For sure turn off your internet while troubleshooting. But I doubt that's an issue judging by your screenshot.

 

Thanks Cactus Music.  I've verified that I have the latest Focusrite drivers though they appear to have been written back in 2014. It's hard for me to imagine that that driver could be tweaked to improve performance with the Win 10 1809. The drivers I have for my ancient MOTU 828 mkII are newer than that.

I use the INTEL Driver Assistant to keep other drivers up to date. 

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2 hours ago, Twisted Fingers said:

Thanks Cactus Music.  I've verified that I have the latest Focusrite drivers though they appear to have been written back in 2014. It's hard for me to imagine that that driver could be tweaked to improve performance with the Win 10 1809. The drivers I have for my ancient MOTU 828 mkII are newer than that.

I use the INTEL Driver Assistant to keep other drivers up to date. 

I'm using the latest beta drivers / firmware on my 1st gen 6i6 and 18i20 released in Sep 2018.

They do offer an improvement on performance / latency, however this upgrade is a one-way path - i.e. you can't upgrade the drivers without upgrading your device's firmware, and once you've upgraded the firmware you're stuck with it.

http://beta.focusrite.com/releases/scarlett_mixcontrol/

 

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Are you still happy? I'm happy that they are updating firmware and the drivers. From the release notes, it looks like this update is an attempt to might be what's needed for better performance with Windows 10 version 1809. At least I hope so. But I worry that being an early adopter might cause me more problems. Let me know.

I noticed some mention of WDM which also encourages me.  Does the new driver allow you to select WDM instead of ASIO drivers? If yes, have you tried them and how do they work?

My understanding based on very little information is that WDM audio is Microsoft's attempt to provide low latency native audio drivers.  About the time that Gibson was shutting down Cakewalk, I remember reading some encouraging words from Cakewalk folks about achieving very low latencies with WDM drivers, but haven't heard anything since.

Thanks.

Edited by Twisted Fingers

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27 minutes ago, Twisted Fingers said:

Are you still happy? I'm happy that they are updating firmware and the drivers. From the release notes, it looks like this update is an attempt to might be what's needed for better performance with Windows 10 version 1809. At least I hope so. But I worry that being an early adopter might cause me more problems. Let me know.

I've been using this firmware since it came out. I'm happy with it, and it's not caused any problems for me, however:

1. They are beta drivers, so I can't guarantee you'll not have any issues and;
2. As I said previously, once you've upgraded you cant go back unless Focusrite can offer a way of downgrading the firmware.

35 minutes ago, Twisted Fingers said:

I noticed some mention of WDM which also encourages me.  Does the new driver allow you to select WDM instead of ASIO drivers? If yes, have you tried them and how do they work?

WDM works fine, but I've not used it in anger. The only time I've used it was to test simultaneous recording from my MLAN setup along with my 18i20  (48 simultaneous tracks :) )

35 minutes ago, Twisted Fingers said:

My understanding based on very little information is that WDM audio is Microsoft's attempt to provide low latency native audio drivers.  About the time that Gibson was shutting down Cakewalk, I remember reading some encouraging words from Cakewalk folks about achieving very low latencies with WDM drivers, but haven't heard anything since.

Thanks.

WDM is a pretty old driver technology. Compared to ASIO it sucks. I doubt if you'll get lower latencies with WDM drivers than you will with ASIO.

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43 minutes ago, Twisted Fingers said:

About the time that Gibson was shutting down Cakewalk, I remember reading some encouraging words from Cakewalk folks about achieving very low latencies with WDM drivers, but haven't heard anything since.

May be confusing WDM and the newer WASAPI modes added to Platinum. As a rule, a manufacturer supplied ASIO is still the best choice but feel free to try the other driver modes.

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11 minutes ago, msmcleod said:

I've been using this firmware since it came out. I'm happy with it, and it's not caused any problems for me, however:

1. They are beta drivers, so I can't guarantee you'll not have any issues and;
2. As I said previously, once you've upgraded you cant go back unless Focusrite can offer a way of downgrading the firmware.

WDM works fine, but I've not used it in anger. The only time I've used it was to test simultaneous recording from my MLAN setup along with my 18i20  (48 simultaneous tracks :) )

WDM is a pretty old driver technology. Compared to ASIO it sucks. I doubt if you'll get lower latencies with WDM drivers than you will with ASIO.

Thanks. I'm going to try it. Tomorrow morning.

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2 minutes ago, scook said:

May be confusing WDM and the newer WASAPI modes added to Platinum. As a rule, a manufacturer supplied ASIO is still the best choice but feel free to try the other driver modes.

Woops. I meant WASAPI. Thanks for the correction. I'll try WASAPI if I'm still not happy with Focusrite's 1.10 beta drivers.

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I think I remember a thread in the old Cakewalk forum talking about your unit and the driver issue. See if you can find it there. 

WASAPI is a OK driver when you don't own an interface. The best performance will always be with ASIO. 

If you use WASAPI make sure you figure out your offset as you will have out of sync tracks. ONLY ASIO reports system latency to Cakewalk. All other driver modes do not so you need to make the offset adjustment manually.  

You do a loop back test like so. 

559546992_HSLoopbacktest.jpg.d56cd05f30b39fdafffda76a2ee4c2a1.jpg

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Thank you,

I think I need to buy a new computer. Do you think turning off Antivirus would save CPU usage?

Most of my problems happens when I am using OBS together with Cakewalk.

 

Edited by carlo

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14 hours ago, carlo said:

I think I need to buy a new computer. Do you think turning off Antivirus would save CPU usage?

Depends on which Antivirus product you’re talking about,  how it's configured and what exceptions you’re set. 

With my Malwarebytes Premium, All Cakewalk program and data folders are excluded from the real-time scans.

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