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craigb

Has anyone tried using a virtual machine for their DAW?

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Yes, I landed a new IT job which I start next Monday (4/12).  I'm not a fan or either the hours or what I've been told to expect (getting up at 4:30am and having to be onsite every day at a client filled with Type-A personalities where there are no problems, only emergencies), but I should be able to catch up on a lot of other areas which include getting a new computer.  I should note that this does NOT include the new laptop I'll be getting for the actual job (just replacing my 11-year old main computer that's been having all sorts of bizarre motherboard/RAM/GPU/chipset/disk/USB type issues recently - lol).

What I'm trying to figure out is if I should strive for the old style of separation where I get individual, physical computers for each task (personal work, games, DAW, etc.) or a beefier single computer that I can run VM's from (virtual machines).

Note that the final answer might be a combination where one handles most things and the DAW is a completely different animal.

So, to help me figure things out, I'm first seeing what's possible and that means seeing if anyone has successfully used a VM for their DAW! 🙂

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Posted (edited)

congrats on the new specialized high intensity training (S.H.I.T.) job! 😉 

i tried this about 8-9 years ago with a fairly large server-size system (HP DL w/ 160 cores on 8 CPU , 2TB RAM, etc) and oddly enough it had a built-in audio card. running Windows Server 2012. so since the $50K machine was sidelined from a project, i loaded up a VM using SONAR PE (X2) and while i could not "hear" via audio card, since it was present in the VM, i could hear and mix via remote desktop (via 1gb hardwired network) from my laptop.

BUT (always a big but somewhere) it was flakey and had the crackles etc you'd expect on a low end PC, and even with a bunch of tweaking i could not get it to be happy. maybe the Windows 8 on a VM was not happy. whereas my Dell 545 (still running today - 3 years ago updated w/ quad core cpu , ram, and OS) was perfectly fine with the same software, OS, and general settings. 

maybe with more modern OS and Hyper-V updates it will work.

Edited by Glenn Stanton

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There's a third option, which I use... a multi-boot machine, i.e. multiple OS's installed on multiple SSD's on the same machine.

My office PC has Windows 10 (DAW), Windows 10 (Development), Windows 7 64 bit (DAW) and Windows 7 32 bit (DAW).

I have two DATA drives.... DATA1 has the ProgramData directories for plugins with sample content, e.g. Omnisphere, Kontakt, Jamstix, MDrummer etc.  All of the OS's refer to the same copy of this content on the DATA drive, so it's not duplicated for each OS.

DATA2 has my Cakewalk projects on it.

The only downside is I can't use more than one OS at a time, but I've rarely found this to be an issue.

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Why do you need both 32 *and* 64 bit Windows 7, given you can quite happily run a 32 bit DAW in a 64 bit OS?

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I considered going the multiple OS route, but I have to use more than one at a time too often...  

Also, thanks to the scarcity of video cards and other chipsets, I will probably not attempt to build my own from scratch (my usual approach).  Although I will still want to talk with Jim Roseberry here, it appears I can get a good discount on Dell computers through the new company and that has some additional benefits:  I've heard that Dell stocked up on video cards prior to the "mining shortage," but you only can get one if you buy a system.  We'll see, more research is necessary!

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2 minutes ago, Kevin Perry said:

Why do you need both 32 *and* 64 bit Windows 7, given you can quite happily run a 32 bit DAW in a 64 bit OS?

A better question would be "Why do you still need Windows 7?" 😁

(That said, my current DAW server box is still running SONAR Producer v4 on XP! 😆 )

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Trying costs little, but I wouldn't be overly optimistic. A proper VM virtualizes everything, including memory addresses, and adds additional scheduling between the various instances of VMs running on the same physical hardware and while some of the translations happen in hardware, it's definitely not conductive to activities requiring continuous realtime performance. Of course for a sufficiently fast architecture it might work at some point, but it would be costly and inefficient.

That said, while I have a few different PCs for different rooms, I run the DAW in my main general purpose PC (or vice-versa :) ), and have been doing that for many years without any issue. 

The trick is to keep the PC "clean" and optimized, understand what steals realtime capabilities (especially when one installs software) and of course know how to fix issues if/when they arise. So a bit depends on your specific knowledge and skills with  computers.

As an example,  some months ago, when I installed Teams for working with a different business, I did not realize that the wretched thing automatically enrolled my own computer in that business' InTune system.. (due to a bad default by Microsoft, the InTune admins have to explicitly disable enrolling of any computer which access the infrastructure, and mostly don't know so they don't.. with the result that anyone which connects to the organization with Teams get silently enrolled). The results were... funny, and it took a good couple of hours to understand what the problem was and reverse it.

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18 hours ago, Kevin Perry said:

Why do you need both 32 *and* 64 bit Windows 7, given you can quite happily run a 32 bit DAW in a 64 bit OS?

My Yamaha DS2416 cards only work with a 32 bit OS.

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2 hours ago, msmcleod said:

My Yamaha DS2416 cards only work with a 32 bit OS.

Oh yeah, drivers, didn't think of that!

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VMs will add a ton of latency to the DAW; It might work if you limit yourself to mixing/mastering, recording I see as a big limitation. 

There are ways to pass-thru PCI devices to the VM (making the VM have direct access to the device). This is quite common in servers but setting that up requires quite a bit of know-how. Also, you will need for sure a dual GPU as once you pass thru the GPU to the VM, you are effectively disconnecting it from the host OS. Some other devices like KB/Mouse may be on the same boat (I am not sure as I've never done it....). 

https://pve.proxmox.com/wiki/Pci_passthrough

This is on my to-do list eventually....

I hope this helps

 

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2 hours ago, Nicolas Morales said:

VMs will add a ton of latency to the DAW; It might work if you limit yourself to mixing/mastering, recording I see as a big limitation. 

There are ways to pass-thru PCI devices to the VM (making the VM have direct access to the device). This is quite common in servers but setting that up requires quite a bit of know-how. Also, you will need for sure a dual GPU as once you pass thru the GPU to the VM, you are effectively disconnecting it from the host OS. Some other devices like KB/Mouse may be on the same boat (I am not sure as I've never done it....). 

https://pve.proxmox.com/wiki/Pci_passthrough

This is on my to-do list eventually....

I hope this helps

 

I've looked into PCI pass-thru a couple of times in the past.

A lost of virtualization software doesn't support this, but those that do require the host operating system to be Linux, which in my case was a show-stopper.  I needed the host OS to be a Windows 64 bit, and the VM to be Windows 32 bit.

For the moment, I've got my 32 bit boot partition. This is fine for dealing with issues with older projects, or projects that rely on mixer settings in the DS2416, but when I get around to it, I'll just build a new machine and link it to my main daw either over ethernet or ADAT.
 

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On 4/6/2021 at 5:05 PM, craigb said:

I considered going the multiple OS route, but I have to use more than one at a time too often...  

Also, thanks to the scarcity of video cards and other chipsets, I will probably not attempt to build my own from scratch (my usual approach).  Although I will still want to talk with Jim Roseberry here, it appears I can get a good discount on Dell computers through the new company and that has some additional benefits:  I've heard that Dell stocked up on video cards prior to the "mining shortage," but you only can get one if you buy a system.  We'll see, more research is necessary!

I've been looking for a video card a long time and doing a lot of research. You can get an entire system with an RTX3060 video card for almost the same price as the card. Although the cards are coming down. The cards are readily available on amazon and ebay. I've seen them going a few bucks cheaper than an entire system but only by a few.

I can get a good deal on Dell's through where my wife works. I did my homework on them and they are bad even upgraded/customized. The best deals I've seen on systems with an RTX3060 have been on Amazon. Real cases and real components that you can update/upgrade yourself. No weird Dell stuff.

I almost bought one of these systems in this video. Glad I found it before I did. 

 

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Thanks for that.  It led me to his follow-up video which led me to several from Linus (Linus Tech Tips - have watched this channel for years!).

Thinking back, since both the company I worked for and the one I'm going to work for pushes Dell, it reminded me of similar support calls I've had with them.

Ok, back to trying to figure out WHAT I need and WHERE to get it I guess! 😢

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On 4/7/2021 at 9:38 AM, msmcleod said:

My Yamaha DS2416 cards only work with a 32 bit OS.

Isn't there only XP drivers for this?  Do XP drivers work in W7 32 bit? I've also wondered if someone made drivers for Linux.

 

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43 minutes ago, Paul Young said:

Isn't there only XP drivers for this?  Do XP drivers work in W7 32 bit? I've also wondered if someone made drivers for Linux.

 

Yeah, the XP drivers work fine in Windows 7 32 bit  - if they are actually XP drivers... I've a feeling they might actually be Windows 2000 drivers.  IIRC the DS2416 came out in 1997, about a month before Cakewalk Pro Audio 7.  I used it in Windows 95 using the old 16 bit drivers on a P166 with 64MB of RAM to begin with!
 

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13 minutes ago, msmcleod said:

Yeah, the XP drivers work fine in Windows 7 32 bit  - if they are actually XP drivers... I've a feeling they might actually be Windows 2000 drivers.  IIRC the DS2416 came out in 1997, about a month before Cakewalk Pro Audio 7.  I used it in Windows 95 using the old 16 bit drivers on a P166 with 64MB of RAM to begin with!
 

I have a SW1000XG that is basically useless and would fail on most motherboards.  Running a box with W2000 and Sonar 2 would probably be a cool experience.  W2000 is my favorite OS.   If I could do it over again I would have never bought that card and got a Hammerfal for the same price and still be using it.  One reason why I would never buy a Yamaha DAW product is they are good at doorstops because of lack of continued support. 

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2 hours ago, Paul Young said:

I have a SW1000XG that is basically useless and would fail on most motherboards.  Running a box with W2000 and Sonar 2 would probably be a cool experience.  W2000 is my favorite OS.   If I could do it over again I would have never bought that card and got a Hammerfal for the same price and still be using it.  One reason why I would never buy a Yamaha DAW product is they are good at doorstops because of lack of continued support. 

Yes, finding a useable motherboard was very difficult. I think I went through 3 or 4 until I found one.

I've got an ASUS P8B75-V, which supports 3rd gen i5 / i7 processors. The PCI bus gives both 5V & 3V, and isn't emulated... which is what the DS2416 / SW1000XG needs.

They're pretty hard to get hold of, so I've got a couple spare just in case.

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SW1000XG wouldn't even work on a P4 915 chipset.   The DS2416 is far more forgiving.  Those actually worked in nVidia chipsets.

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5 hours ago, Paul Young said:

SW1000XG wouldn't even work on a P4 915 chipset.   The DS2416 is far more forgiving.  Those actually worked in nVidia chipsets.

That's surprising, as AFAIK they both use exactly the same audio device drivers. The DS2416 has an additional ymix2416.dll which allows applications to control the mixer functions on the card, but the actual audio interface IC on both devices is the same.

So I guess there must be some other hardware differences that were causing this.

The main issue with motherboards and the DS2416 wasn't the chipset so much as the voltages on the PCI slot.  A lot of motherboards stopped offering both 5V and 3.3v, and the DS2416 requires the 5V supply. Also when Intel moved from the Ivy Bridge ( true 16 bit PCI ) to Haswell (emulated 16 bit PCI) the cards no longer worked.

I'm just grateful I managed to get nearly 20 years of use out of them, before being forced to go to 64 bit. I hardly touched plugins up until that point!

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@craigb

I haven't read most of this thread, but if you are looking for how to use a laptop that you don't own to make recordings, I suggest Ubuntu Studio installed on a USB hard drive. Boot the computer to the USB drive and make your recording.

If you have a Class Compliant USB Interface it should work fine.

It isn't Cakewalk, but it's easy and portable.

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