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Tez

LatencyMon and my Audio Dropout Quest

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Posted (edited)

Once pointed to LatencyMon I started running it to identify ISR & DPC spikes and spikes = audio dropouts! “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, that’s how it felt, I’d make changes to the system, do another run with similar if not identical results. Mostly graphics drivers, occasionally the HD Audio bus drivers and related kernel drivers would spike... But there were others though less frequently, and each time for the past couple of weeks, following a failure, I’d scan the drivers for viruses, google the web for potential solutions for these diver latencies. Power tweaks were all done, background apps were blocked in settings, USB, ethernet and power management options were changed, but every 20+ minutes or less a spike would occur depending on when I started a LatencyMon run. This is a ubiquitous issue for gamers, audiophiles and the like with a glut of solutions from tweaking the bios to re-installing or updating drivers and other tweaks. My drivers, bios and w10 are all up to date, and I concluded that LatencyMon shows what spiked but not why, and can send you off down a maze of rabbit holes, so I figured it might be specific to the machine OEM...

I’ve got a Dell XPS 8900, and I noticed a “Dell SupportAssist Remediation” service running, and it turns out other Dell users had issues with this service. This service is supposed to scan the system on startup for hardware issues and auto generate a support ticket if any are found but only generates the ticket if you’re not out of warranty, and I am, hence a completely useless activity! What it’s doing beyond startup I dread to think!

I disabled the service and ran LatencyMon for over an hour without spikes and similarly a CbB test project for over an hour without any dropouts...

 

So, if you’re CbB on Dell user with a similar issue, maybe this tale of frustration and anxiety might help ☺️

Edited by Tez
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From my experience (and many reports in the Internet) Dell XPS (and some other models) have latency problem for years. Somehow it is related to ACPI, probably bad design or/and bug(s) in hardware (as with almost all parts in my, now a bit aged, XPS. USB-C, wlan, audio, etc.). DELL has never confirmed general problems there, but some firmware updates had "latency improvement" in Changelogs (without noticeable difference in practice). Some update has broken ACPI compatibility with Linux (my XPS was running Ubuntu like 20 years old Celeron after that update... I have found some discussion where Linux developers have refused to mitigate clear DELL bug on there side...), after that I run on old firmware.

In practice, with network and all services/tasks disabled, XPS can run audio applications without dropouts (at least with RME). Any activity which access system information (and I guess SupportAssist does) can introduce "blackout" for several ms. That is indirectly confirmed by many users which disable corresponding drivers, so services/programs no longer can request information. But disabling some related drivers has consequences and it is unclear which service (especially DELL own) access which device/driver (and when).

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Posted (edited)

Yes, the reported issues are broader than XPS! I think I noticed ACPI potential issues when not using a tweaked "High Performance" power plan, so hopefully  it's mitigated by the plan.  The bios was updated recently, via dell's update service (manually initiated),  and what the change log was I didn't find out. Dell notifications pop up for updates, but I've found it's best to ignore them as they can fail or worse a potential security risk, and then initiate the update manually.  I'm highly disinclined to disable the network (goodbye internet), or any  interdependent services. But this "remediation" service had no dependencies and is supposed to be explicitly a hardware check at startup,  why it ran continuously is beyond my ken, and I surmise was interfering with hardware interrupts so, bye bye!

Meanwhile, there's no guarantee spikes won't occur, if for example you have a SCSI drive that gets woken up to retrieve a large amount of data that could do it. Despite that kind of event, minimizing dropouts to near zero when exclusively using the DAW is the goal 😏... 

Oh, and by the way another annoying service is the "Intel(R) Security Assist" Security Helper, which repetitively runs the isaAgent.exe pinging some intel back channel and failing,  and no one seems to know for what reason? That also can be stopped, one less network stress!

Edited by Tez

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This is why I love the Sonar/Cakewalk/Bandlab forums and have made it my daily read for many years. I recently upgraded to a new Dell 8930 with 64 MB RAM and SSD drive. Faster than anything I've ever seen and therefore should be immune to drop-outs, but I was getting drop-outs about every 20 minutes.  I figured it was something in microsloth 10 and was actively looking for a solution when I came across this thread. After turning off that "helper" Service, I worked on a project and had it open for most of the evening with zero drop-outs!! Thank you, Tez!!

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Desert Hermit said:

Thank you, Tez!!

You're most welcome, I wish someone could have told me, and saved me more than 2 weeks of "Sturm und Drang" tracking it down!

Just be aware if you're still in warranty,  you might want to let it run at startup after which manually stop it. In my case I'm out of warranty so, it's completely useless to me and I disabled it... Happy music making 😁

Meanwhile I have another problem, namely Ozone 9! I have Ozone 9 Advanced as part of the recent iZotope Tonal Balance upgrade at a terrific price and just couldn't resist despite my O9 issue which is the VSTs including the individual module VSTs that's part of O9 Advanced all take 15-20+ seconds to load in Splat and CbB & iZotope support say's all is fine at their end. All other iZotope  products I have load quickly, it's just O9. If you know anything please share , or for that matter anyone who sees this... 😟

Edited by Tez

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On 8/23/2020 at 8:58 PM, Tez said:

 

I’ve got a Dell XPS 8900, and I noticed a “Dell SupportAssist Remediation” service running, and it turns out other Dell users had issues with this service. This service is supposed to scan the system on startup for hardware issues and auto generate a support ticket if any are found but only generates the ticket if you’re not out of warranty, and I am, hence a completely useless activity! What it’s doing beyond startup I dread to think!

 

FWIW

I had previously stopped audio engine dropouts by disabling all my network adapters.  

After I read the quoted thread above I disabled DellSupportAssistRemediation.

For the past 3 days I have left my network adapters enabled and have had no audio engine dropouts.

This isn't a long enough test to be confident in the result, but previously I would never have gone multiple days without engine dropout with network enabled.

Hoping this works because having network always available is very convenient. 

YMMV

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, Steve Harder said:

This isn't a long enough test to be confident in the result

As I said before: "Meanwhile, there's no guarantee spikes won't occur", but with the power tweaks ACPI should be better, another spike source, and I guess you could adjust the power management on your network adapters, if you feel they're a problem. I can live with an odd and hopefully rare audio dropout (3), if the endless (1)s have stopped.

One final thought on the “Dell SupportAssist Remediation” service, and as I understand it, it requires the internet to communicate with a Dell node. Hence, I speculate that by disabling the network adapters, ergo the internet in a manner that differs from say pulling an Ethernet plug from a router, then this may inhibit the service's functionality and prevent it from interacting with hardware devices and in this way is effectively equivalent to disabling it. Which if true should be reassuring...    

Meanwhile if you have Ozone 9, I'd be obliged if you could confirm the slow vst load times mentioned above, as I'm trying to get iZotope  to fix it, and any quotable confirmation would help  😁

Edited by Tez

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Just got a Dell XPS 8940 16gb SSD  system , after reading this , tonight is my first night without dropouts. Fingers crossed , I've lost count of the number of changes I've made to try to fix this . Thanks Tez

I use 2 Roland Ocatacaptures !

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33 minutes ago, eric.birchall said:

Thanks Tez

You're most welcome... Got Ozone 9? 😏

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2 minutes ago, eric.birchall said:

Nope

Thought I'd ask... My new quest: Fix the O9 vst components load times 😬

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On 8/27/2020 at 5:33 PM, Steve Harder said:

FWIW

I had previously stopped audio engine dropouts by disabling all my network adapters.  

After I read the quoted thread above I disabled DellSupportAssistRemediation.

For the past 3 days I have left my network adapters enabled and have had no audio engine dropouts.

This isn't a long enough test to be confident in the result, but previously I would never have gone multiple days without engine dropout with network enabled.

Hoping this works because having network always available is very convenient. 

YMMV

Another 3 days and NO dropouts.  Nice to be able to have internet while working on heavy projects.  I'm almost ready to declare total victory!

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15 minutes ago, Steve Harder said:

I'm almost ready to declare total victory!

On 8/27/2020 at 10:51 PM, Tez said:

there's no guarantee spikes won't occur

Glad to hear it, and no pesky audio dropout (1)s here...

Meanwhile I'm trying track down  my O9 issue... Do you have Ozone 9?

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6 hours ago, Tez said:

 

Glad to hear it, and no pesky audio dropout (1)s here...

Meanwhile I'm trying track down  my O9 issue... Do you have Ozone 9?

I have Ozone Elements 9.  It takes a 2 or 3 secs to load,  didn't seem to be out of the ordinary for me.

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14 hours ago, Steve Harder said:

I have Ozone Elements 9

Thanks for the response, I'm sure the elements might load quickly. I've got the Tonal Balance Bundle; Nectar 3 , Neutron 3 Advanced and Ozone 9 Advanced, the components exclusive to Nectar and Neutron all load quickly, none do for Ozone 9  including "Tonal Balance Control 2". Both the  Nectar 3 & Neutron 3 VSTs (last updated 2019) have roughly the same high GPU and power usage as does the Ozone 9 VST (updated 2020), so I surmise the gui graphics techniques should be similar, but not vst load time is 20+ seconds for O9. Not all systems have this issue, it's a mystery what the significant system difference is!

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Add vst items to your scanner exclusions?

Windows defender scams things and you can add exclusions.

 

Edited by Gswitz

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2 hours ago, Gswitz said:

Add vst items to your scanner exclusions?

It's a good thought, but the O9 issue has been, for the time being, resolved. See this post: 

And... finally an iZotope support assistant, acknowledged the issue despite claiming they'd had no previous reports,  and the guy said he would try and reproduce it... 🙄

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On 8/30/2020 at 2:52 PM, Steve Harder said:

Another 3 days and NO dropouts.  Nice to be able to have internet while working on heavy projects.  I'm almost ready to declare total victory!

I've now gone a month with No audio engine dropouts with network enabled. Disabling  DELLsupportAssistRemediation certainly appears to be the solution.

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Basically, off the shelf PCs are notorious for having a ton of crap installed that take up valuable resources on a PC running a DAW.

The very first thing ANY new PC owner/DAW user needs to do is find a good guide on optimizing-tweaking your PC for DAW use.  The first step almost always is removing all the crap installed by the manufacturer.  That step alone solves probably half of the performance issues.

Kudos to OP for doing this!  It's incredibly frustrating when we see CbB users get a new PC and upon experiencing problems, do NO research or troubleshooting, and immediately come on here complaining that there's something wrong with CbB.

Edited by JonD

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On 8/31/2020 at 11:56 AM, Tez said:

Thanks for the response, I'm sure the elements might load quickly. I've got the Tonal Balance Bundle; Nectar 3 , Neutron 3 Advanced and Ozone 9 Advanced, the components exclusive to Nectar and Neutron all load quickly, none do for Ozone 9  including "Tonal Balance Control 2". Both the  Nectar 3 & Neutron 3 VSTs (last updated 2019) have roughly the same high GPU and power usage as does the Ozone 9 VST (updated 2020), so I surmise the gui graphics techniques should be similar, but not vst load time is 20+ seconds for O9. Not all systems have this issue, it's a mystery what the significant system difference is!

I'm on a Dell 8930 i9. All SSD. I've got Izotope 9 Advanced. Everything loads fine here, from the full OZ9 module to the individual modules: Tonal Balance Control 2, Dynamic EQ, Vintage Tape, etc. Literally a second or two. 

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