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Audio Quality/Performance

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I use Windows and have Realtek HD Audio Drivers.  When I use Cakewalk by Bandlab, I have it set to ASIO.  I mainly use Cakewalk by Bandlab to record audio from a midi keyboard connected via USB to the computer, or use midi within the DAW.  I frequently get audio dropouts (usually code 0 or 1).  I restart Cakewalk by Bandlab, and it resumes working, until I get another dropout (usually I get a dropout every 30 minutes of using the DAW, regardless of the driver setting I use).  I want to know how to upgrade so I can eliminate dropouts, have great sound quality, and get best performance during DAW audio processing.  I'm looking for advice to get me started (with respect to what I need to improve related to computer specifications and sound card).  I am not very familiar with hardware/software aspect of things to get the best system for music production, and I am hoping someone can help me with this; while keeping in mind my goal is to eliminate audio drop-outs, get high sound quality, get high performance, for my use of recording via a midi keyboard and using midi/VSTs within DAW.   

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From what I understand now, Realtek ASIO Audio Drivers do not perform well because I have an onboard soundcard, and one way to try to solve this issue is by changing the driver settings.  However, this did not help me (I still get drop-outs using WASAPI) and I want to use ASIO.  My computer specifications seems to be good (i.e. CPU, RAM, and SSD storage).  What do I need to upgrade, so that I can use ASIO with high quality drivers, get low latency, high sound quality, and no audio drop-outs?  I'm not very familiar with the hardware aspect of this; hopefully, someone can clarify what I need to do.  (Please keep in mind, I am not trying to make the current situation work, but I want to upgrade to get out of this issue.)     

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Life is better when you use a proper audio interface.  That is the only way you'll get the true performance of ASIO.  On Board audio is OK for editing and playing audio. If your getting dropouts possibly your system was not optimized for audio.  Run this utility to test- https://www.resplendence.com/latencymon 

But still,, even if you do that, you should purchase an audio interface. 

This video explains why- https://youtu.be/Avtw7dOb0fM

 

Here is a blurb I made about buying an audio interface: 

Shopping for an Audio Interface?

There is a lot of choices.

Make a list of your requirements first..

What kind of connectivity do you require? and how many of each. This is the most important determining factor. Most of us only need a few in/outs. It’s nice to not have to unplug and plug stuff in.

It’s false economy to short change yourself on this feature. You end up having to purchase a mixer as example.

These are some of the options:

XLR, 1/4",  Combi jacks,  RCA, ¼” line level, ¼” Instrument level ,MIDI, SPDIF, ADAT,MADI

How many ins and outs do you think you'll need now and in the future?

Are they accessible?  Front or rear panel?

Are all ¼” jacks Balanced?  Some have RCA jacks in Parallel with main outputs. 

Is there a true stereo input pair? Some don’t have a matched set of inputs which sucks for recording stereo devices like outboard synths and drum machines.

Are there peak level meters or just a little LED for each input? Do all inputs have a peak indicator?

Are there channel Insert jacks?

Are there separate controls for Monitor level and headphone level?

Is there a blend control for mixing Input Source with Computer ( DAW) ? A lot of cheaper interfaces are missing this important feature and only have a on/off toggle.

 

How many Headphone jacks? A level for each? This is also important if you work with other musicians.

Are the input pads or line / Instrument toggle switches on the front, back or software controlled?

Is it a metal box or cheap plastic? Is it light and portable or large and bulky, Rack mountable?

Does it have an on / off switch?

Does it use Buss power or a power supply?

 Buss power can have issues with noise and Phantom power and some need a dedicated USB 3 buss. Look for at least an optional power supply.  

Does it have DSP effects built in?

Does it use a GUI mixer? Having a software (GUI) mixer adds more options.

Can it be used as stand alone? Some interfaces are also handy as a small mixer.

 

Does it have a Loop back function. This is a newer feature that is real important if you do live streaming,  screen captures, stand alone VST recording or wish to record any playback from outside your DAW.

 

What are the Round Trip Latency (RTL) specs? Do you need low RTL for real time processing?

Low RTL is going to be at a higher price point. Most interfaces under $600 will have hidden buffers etc.

Zero Latency monitoring is not the same as RTL. All interfaces have some latency.

Zero latency is just marketing hype for monitoring directly from the interface.

And most important of all, Does it have top notch ASIO drivers for your OS.  Don’t buy any interface that say’s “class compliant driver” that will work for a Mac, but not very well with a PC.

What is the word on support from the company? Visit the web site and try creating an Account before you purchase. Pretend you just bought the device.  See if the drivers and manuals are easy to get at and kept up to date.

Does it come with free software, Example Focusrite interfaces seem to come with a lot of good stuff. This has added value to the purchase price.

 

Everyone will recommend the interface they have chosen, that doesn't mean it is the right one for you.

 

Make your list starting with the input /output specs. Example you determine you need a 4x4 interface. That just narrowed down the search by a lot! You might find only 10 models. Now compare those to get the most features needed. Check for pricing on sites like Sweetwater or Musicians Friend.

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