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Noel Borthwick

Low latency on-board audio test in Windows 1903

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I recently upgraded some of my home PC's to Windows 10 build 1903 and was curious what audio performance would be like in a worst case under optimized scenario. I was pleasantly surprised!This is a very rough demonstration showing low latency audio using Cakewalk with Windows 10 build 1903 and nothing more than an on-board audio chipset and a really old PC (built in 2008). Audio is low-fi in the video since the sound is going through some ancient desktop speakers and recorded through my phone. This is intentional :)

 

 

The machine is a very old Core I7 PC built in 2007 that I recently upgraded to windows 10 build 1903. I was curious about audio performance so I did a quick test in Cakewalk to check audio and was pleasantly surprised when I was able to use WASAPI at the lowest latency setting (144 samples) with no audio glitches whatsoever, using just the onboard RealTek audio chipset. 

The test showed live playback with a virtual instrument, but it also worked well with standard audio track playback. For this test I used WASAPI exclusive mode with the onboard Realtek audio device, since Windows 10 shared mode low latency only works with the Microsoft inbox HDAudio driver presently. I haven't come across any other on-board devices which support Windows 10 low latency with shared mode.

This test shows that WASAPI is finally able to live up to it's promise of low latency audio in Windows with even basic vanilla on-board audio devices! I don't recall this old PC every being able to do low latency playback on prior versions of Windows, so I attribute this to some combo of improvements to Cakewalks optimized low latency WASAPI support, or Windows 10 build 1903 itself. 

Either way this is impressive on multiple levels. Its great that Windows can do completely acceptable low latency audio support out of the box today. And the fact that Window's 10 works better on an an ancient PC like this is an accomplishment.
Microsoft has been getting a lot of flak these days, but after the fiasco with Apple's Catalina breaking music apps, Microsoft deserves some kudos for their support of legacy systems. Its not surprising that some things go wrong with such a massive base of hardware but the fact that a 11 year old PC can perform decently with low latency on a current OS is quite an achievement.

Now if Microsoft Surface team can get their act together and release 1903 on their own first party hardware that would be even better lol. I think @Pete Brown might be happy to learn this 🙂

PS: I'm curious to hear what other users performance is like with 1903 and just using on-board audio devices with WASAPI in CbB.

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Equally impressive. Here is a surface Pro 4 running 12 tracks at 88 samples through onboard audio. This time in WASAPI shared mode using the Windows 10 low latency audio support via the onboard High Definition Audio driver. I can play the project completely glitch free.

win10wasapi.PNG

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2 hours ago, Noel Borthwick said:

Either way this is impressive on multiple levels.

I'm most impressed that Ramona was able to pull off that piece on a 2-1/2-octave, unweighted controller. Bravo!  ;^)

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I bought a Surface Pro 3 when they were on sale. My intention was to run Music Studio and use it mostly to learn different VSTi and program drum loops. 

But I have been able to do actual work on it. I have wrote, recorded, and edited songs on this machine using nothing but the Realtek drivers.

I have mixed test songs with 30-40 trks of audio. When I do that the buffers need to be high, but still! I am constantly impressed at how well CbB performs and all that I can do on this machine.

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Running a 10 year old system myself, core i7 860 on windows 10 1803... Runs amazingly with everything I need it for, including cakewalk! I've upgraded from windows 7 to 10, so its also a 10 year old windows install all on old HDD drives haha. Good to know that 1903 should continue being awesome when i upgrade in a few weeks.

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Footnote re: 1903: My laptop updated to 1903 several weeks ago. Not sure if it was just coincidental, but the overheating-from-excessive-CPU-usage problem seemed to go away. In the past I had to kill Windows functions (e.g., Indexing, Presentation Foundation, etc.) to reduce the CPU % that seemed to cause overheating; so, if 1903 has fixed that, kudos to the MS team that made it happen.

Thanks for the video and for reporting your results.

Edited by MusicMan11712 (aka Dr. Steve)
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9 minutes ago, HIBI said:

@Noel Borthwick Please share a list of the optimized points (settings) what you did on that old PC.

Zero. That was the the purpose of the experiment. I just wanted to see how an old machine that someone might have lying around would work in CbB with the new version of Windows.
That PC is no longer used as a DAW and is in fact is quite slow because it has a bunch of other cruft on it. It is a very old I7 950 with just 6GB of RAM and the HD is also really old and sluggish. I don't even have an audio interface hooked up to it.

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7 hours ago, David Baay said:

I'm most impressed that Ramona was able to pull off that piece on a 2-1/2-octave, unweighted controller. Bravo!  ;^)

Haha, she mainly plays on an acoustic grand, so was playing air piano with the left hand for a bit when she started because of the limited range. Playing on these controllers is a challenge for most pianists. 

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2 hours ago, Grem said:

I bought a Surface Pro 3 when they were on sale. My intention was to run Music Studio and use it mostly to learn different VSTi and program drum loops. 

But I have been able to do actual work on it. I have wrote, recorded, and edited songs on this machine using nothing but the Realtek drivers.

I have mixed test songs with 30-40 trks of audio. When I do that the buffers need to be high, but still! I am constantly impressed at how well CbB performs and all that I can do on this machine.

There were a bunch of recent Surface firmware updates. I'm not sure if they had anything to do with it but my surface 4 definitely seems to run better and I couldn't run with 88 samples before. You should try it if you haven't upgraded it yet. Let us know how WASAPI shared mode works there.
I did all my original WASAPI dev work on the Surface pro 4.

The surface devices are completely usable as mobile recording rigs. At NAMM this year we did all the demos with a SB2 (the full I7 version) and all the live multitrack recordings there were done with a Surface Pro (with a FocusRite)

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1903 has been noticeably faster using xcopy and robocopy, but not via Windows Explorer.

I have done composition with the Realtek chip for some time, but not all programs support WASAPI yet. For those few that require ASIO, ASIO4ALL has vindicated itself, and buffers can be set lower than they were in the past.

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And its not just small projects that work fine. I just loaded up a big project that we're using for AES. Contains Video, Lots of audio tracks and tons of Slate digital plugins.
This plays glitch free at 192 samples on the surface book 2 all going through WASAPI shared mode.

The I7 Surface book 2 (with graphics acceleration) still hasn't received the 1903 update so unfortunately I can't see if there is a further improvement. It does have the latest Surface firmware updates however.

 

bigproject.png

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Thanks for posting this, Noel. I've got an overseas trip coming up. I'll be taking a laptop, as always, so that I can continue to conduct business while away. This thread has convinced me to try putting Cakewalk on it again. Last time I tried that (Windows 7 + SONAR 8.5 + Studio One), it was a disappointing experiment. I decided back then that a stock laptop just wasn't DAW material, even for jotting down ideas under a palm tree. Gonna give it another go this time. 

 

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@bitflipper Disclaimer is if you want to run heavy duty plugins on it you need a fast CPU. The Surface book 2 is very capable and has 8 cores. 
However for simpler projects I think any decent laptop with a robust onboard audio chipset should be ok for lighter work and song idea sketching.

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Sounds promising... I'm still using ancient, 15 year old Thinkpad when travelling. I have upgraded Vista to 10 and replaced HD with SSD. I also upgraded CPU and RAM to give it more years to serve :). Never thought I would do any music with it but now as you say I might give Cakewalk a try!

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Thanks Noel - I use onboard sound as just a hobbyist and run the music I compose through my hifi attached to the PC (I know the more experienced users will squeal at me 😉 and I must admit that after playing some synths at a local shop through proper monitors I could definitely tell the difference! ) I'm currently using ASIO4All and have found that works as well as I need it to including in terms of latency. Would there be any specific advantages switching to WASAPI?

Thanks again for all you guys are doing with Cakewalk - glad I stuck with my Sonar 8 LE over the years so I had a bit of an idea what I was doing when I came over!

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