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Can Cakewalk work with onboard Realtec audio?

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I have a Singer/Songwriter who has a laptop which is 1.5 years old with a Celeron processor + 4 gigs of RAM and onboard Realtec audio. He installed Cakewalk. All he wants to do is to import my stereo music track and record a few vocals. I know it's not great quality, but will this work?

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The problem with using on board is when it comes to overdubbing to existing tracks they will not sync up properly. And even if you manage to get to sync by using manual offset that might not stay in sync either. I have tested this myself a few years ago while trying to get a laptop I had to work without an Audio Interface. 

I tried WASAPI mode and even Asio4all. They work great for just editing and using midi but when you try to overdub an audio track it's off sync. 

Best your friend grabs something like the Focusrite Solo or ? that comes with proper ASIO drivers. And forget USB mikes they also don't work properly with Cakewalk big waste of money for music production, fine for podcasting.    

Use a proper mike and a proper interface. And the sound chip on a laptop is worth about $10. So ya the quality sucks big time. Noise and all sorts of issues. 

Edited by John Vere

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For playback, the Realtek is fine. Use it with WASAPI and the latency is easily good enough to play VSTi instruments with barely any lag at all, and mixing is fine too. I've taken my machine out on the road to do some editing and it's been great.

But that said, I'm with John - recording anything more than a quick demo through a $10 audio chip is asking for trouble with the quality you'll get. When you can get a cheap USB interface with solid ASIO drivers that also gives you a great mic preamp and instrument input on there, it's a no-brainer. Spend $150 now and save yourselves thousands of dollars of workarounds getting it to sound good later.

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5 hours ago, gmp said:

I have a Singer/Songwriter who has a laptop which is 1.5 years old with a Celeron processor + 4 gigs of RAM and onboard Realtec audio. He installed Cakewalk. All he wants to do is to import my stereo music track and record a few vocals. I know it's not great quality, but will this work?

Yes, it will work fine. I've done it as a "On the road Studio" with a group for demo songs. Just download "Asio4all" - it's all you need. 

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Id suggest trying WASAPI mode first. That'll save you messing about with wrappers like ASIO4ALL if it works.

I know there was substantial work done a year or so back to get the WASAPI mode working well with Cakewalk under Win10, and I can certainly vouch for that. 5ms latency on a pretty old machine, and playing without hiccups.

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Clearly the onboard audio on laptops is designed for playing back music and sound effects rather than running a recording studio. That said, there is no reason to think that digital audio run through the high def chipsets will be of significantly bad quality. Quality issues generally fall into the analog realm, and specifically poor microphones and preamps that tend to be used by someone trying to record on a shoestring with a laptop. I have no experience with tracking to a recording on a laptop, but it would greatly surprise me if the audio clock were to be so bad that the recorded track could not be synched to the original, given the time stretch and offset technologies available in Cakewalk. Of course the simple solution to all the questions is to run a trial. Unless your vocalist is on the schedule for a laryngectomy in the near future, he can always record a new track is the first one is garbage.

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It turns out he does have a decent mic and a Focusrite interface. He called it a Focusrite Fate, but I must have misunderstood him. I didn't find that one. But regardless I know Focusrite is a good product so he should be in good shape.

 On my DAW I do use my Realtec audio to playback Win Media player. It's very convenient and doesn't cause conflict with my AVB audio interface. And the playback quality seems fine. I agree about the mic inputs. I'm so glad he has the Focusrite that should do it and that eliminates the possibly of syncing issues and not needed ASIO4all or WASAPI

Thanks everyone for the excellent help and suggestions

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Realtek works fine with both Wasapi Shared and exclusive. In fact on Win10 you can get very decent latency with it - it goes down to about 4-5 msec with no issues. You shouldnt have issues overdubbing from the line in as long as you are running at low latency.
Audio quality should be acceptable as long as you don't have any electrical noise coming in from the MOBO when recording. If you have a line level signal coming in from a mic into the line-in input you may be surprised. Obviously don't use the onboard mic lol.

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  OK so you all heard it right here , No need to waist money on a Audio interface anymore folks. We just go buy a $5 adaptor that plugs into the 1/8" mike jack on the laptop and the quality will be as good as any snobby Neve pre amp,  We can use all the  free VST stuff to polish that ol' turd up nice. 

 Sure if your dead broke and just want to have some fun making some music there's no limit on what you can do for free. I guess we all have our standards on what we consider basic gear and to me an audio interface is just that, basic gear. 

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I think what Noel is getting at is that if you're just running a line level in (say, a hardware synth out or an out from a guitar effects processor or whatever), you're not going to notice the average quality of a modern Realtek chip. It's good enough. And for playback, it's going to be fine.

But I don't think anyone would recommend that over a proper interface if you're recording a mic level signal or DI guitars or things like that. If nothing else, you get the right input impedance and far better input gain stage control.

I still have PTSD flashbacks thinking about recording through a Creative AWE32 card in the late 90s. There was so much hiss and crud on every channel, I had to de-noise everything first before it was even close to being usable! 😐 We've come a long way...

Edited by Lord Tim
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Most music today is done with only a USB mic. Realtec interface playback and recording and some decent headphones amongst the youth and get their stuff on radio. POP/EDM/DANCE and HIPHOP.

I've got first hand experience recording a pop group only with what was mentioned above and a pair of Monkey Banana Gibbon Air Monitors. 

There's great free VST's to make digital sound like analogue. Some vinyl effects, with some saturation and distortion, it can create magic. 

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As far as I know, the Realtek is decent at audio output. I use it on my laptop to play streaming music as well as some of my VSTi collection.

But I would never consider trying to record audio input on it. I would use my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for that. That is primarily used on my desktop, but since it is small and USB bus powered, it is quite portable.

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I don't see any reason to be snobby about Realtek. Its quite amazing what they do at the cost and its a viable solution for playback when all you have is a laptop. For input you will need a line level signal. 
Here is an example of their specs:
https://www.realtek.com/en/products/computer-peripheral-ics/item/alc898

For recording the bigger problem is that the converters are housed in a PC which typically isn't the best location to avoid interference which is where most of the issues arise from with hum and noise. The OP was not looking for high quality so if the user can get it working without spending a hundred or more its a good thing.

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All he wants to do is to import my stereo music track and record a few vocals. 

 So therefore my original answer was a simple no. I have a lot of audio equipment and cables kicking around but other than using some sort of audio interface ( and ya I guess a USB mike will sort of qualify) I don't see an easy way to take any mike I own and plug it into a 1/8" jack?? 

Come on now guys, under $50  and problem is solved.  https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/UM2usb--behringer-u-phoria-um2-usb-audio-interface  

And at no point did I say you cannot do a lot with on board sound, Just overdubbing vocals, guitar etc is not going to work well without ASIO drivers and a proper connecting device. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, John Vere said:

All he wants to do is to import my stereo music track and record a few vocals. 

 So therefore my original answer was a simple no. I have a lot of audio equipment and cables kicking around but other than using some sort of audio interface ( and ya I guess a USB mike will sort of qualify) I don't see an easy way to take any mike I own and plug it into a 1/8" jack?? 

Come on now guys, under $50  and problem is solved.  https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/UM2usb--behringer-u-phoria-um2-usb-audio-interface  

And at no point did I say you cannot do a lot with on board sound, Just overdubbing vocals, guitar etc is not going to work well without ASIO drivers and a proper connecting device. 

 

 

Thanks John, that's sure a good cheap solution I can pass on to some of my other clients.

It turns out this guy does have a decent mic and a Focusrite interface. He called it a Focusrite Fate, but I must have misunderstood him. I didn't find that one. But regardless I know Focusrite is a good product so he should be in good shape.

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While the Realtek hardware CODEC itself is up to the task, as @John Vere points out, where you run into issues is in plain old just trying to connect something to the input.

It's possible, and I've done it, to go from a small mixer like my Yamaha MG10 or Behringer Xenyx to the 1/8" stereo plug that the onboard line-in needs, and get it to work acceptably well, but unless you already have the mixer laying around, you'll pay the same for a mixer that you will for an actual complete interface with similar inputs. And the weakest link of your signal chain will be a plastic-sleeved unbalanced line-level input.

So while I don't subscribe to the oft-repeated Internet Wisdom that there's something inherently inadequate about the current Realtek hardware CODEC's (I checked the specs a while back and you can record and play back up to 192K should you wish to fill up your disk quickly), and they're perfectly fine for monitoring, I do contend that the threshold for using an external interface is recording audio, especially with a mic. Recording the output of a synth or sampler, you probably don't strictly need an interface, but by the time you hook up a mic, they'll need XLR, phantom power, etc.

BTW, I've not run into the issues John describes with getting tracks to sync, nor has excessive latency been an issue. It seems to work just fine in either WASAPI mode.

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The out of sync issue goes way back to when I first started using Cakewalk in 2004. Coming from an Atari system which has rock solid midi timing I was disappointed with my change over to a PC. I had it built for me by a tech and they recommended a spiffy  Soundblaster/ Creative Labs Audigy II PCI card. It had proper 1/4" jacks and Midi ports. I fought that thing for over 3 years and all my recordings sounded out of sync, both midi and audio. It was later on the old Sonar forum that it was recommended to ditch the badly written Creative ASIO driver and purchase a proper interface. I bought an M Audio fast track pro which we still have and it still works. 

After that I never had syncing issues.  Everything sounded way better.  Some poeple might not even be aware they have timing issues but I'm ultra sensitive to this.  At that time I didn't understand the "why" all I knew was problem solved. A few years ago because of questions like this one we had a thread going where we had everyone testing different interfaces and different driver modes including on board sound and generic codex. 

We used a simple loop back test where you take a midi kick drum, bounce it to an audio track and now using a short cable run your interfaces output back to a input and record this to a new audio channel. It's easy to then zoom in on the transients to see if they line up.  

Fact- Cakewalk uses the latency reported to it by the audio driver to adjust the timing offset so that the new tracks you are recording will be played in sync with the originals. If the driver reports inaccurately it is not Cakewalks fault, it is just doing what it was told by the driver. 

The findings were always the same across dozens of random systems. 

1- ASIO ( properly written for a device not generic) was always near to perfect.  No sync issues. 

2- WDM - same interface generally alway late. Usable but not if your picky. 

3- MME - Real late,  unusable 

4-WASAPI about the same as WDM 

On some systems the offset was early?  And most annoying was sync would drift over time. 

 

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I don't see any reference to Realtek hardware CODEC's in your experience. I, too, had a Soundblaster Live PCI card and couldn't get good low latency performance from it.

I can only report that my experience with Realtek CODEC's is similar to Noel's. They work fine.

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Well that's actually good to know as it would then be advisable for DAW users to make sure that is the on board sound chip and not other chips when shopping for a new Mobo or laptop. .  

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