Jump to content
Don McNevin

Clicks and Pops

Recommended Posts


I just want to share my experience with an issue I fought with for the last 5 days.

I've been recording with Cakewalk since 2003 and over 16 years I've run into many issues that caused Clicks and Pops in recordings. Back when I started, I was still using single core processors with 250 MB HDD's and 256 KB of RAM, Creative Technologies Audigy Sound Cards and a DigiTech guitar processor (A red one I bought used for $59 from Music-Go-Round, I forget the model and it's unimportant I guess)

Anyway, fast forward to 2019 and I'm using an 8 Core Ryzen 2700X, 32GB DDR4, 970 PRO SSD,  RME Fireface UFX+ and a Fractal Axe FX III.  So things have changed as I've grown in this hobby and the equipment is nothing short of fantastic. 

So I've upgraded all of this gear very recently.  Within the past 2 months or so.  It took me awhile to get around to getting it all set up and configured, but I went the through the setup process like I have a hundred times before and when I was ready, I went to make my first test recording.  Just a little 30 second guitar piece,  to try things out and get a feel for it after setting it all up. I've been playing some of my archived music back through the UFX+ for awhile and it sounds great, but I didn't get around to recording until last week.

Well, after recording the 30 second guitar demo and playing it back, there was crackling and popping when I played the recorded track back through the recording software.

Oh. Great.  I figured it would be the usual suspects.  Too small of a buffer size, or having too many windows open, or maybe the anti-virus software, or even being connected to the network.  So I went through each one.  Trial and error, eliminating possibilities as I went along.  I think everyone who's been using DAW PC's for any length of time knows how this situation goes. But I hadn't had this problem with the interface I just sold (MOTU Ultralite Mk. IV) or with the Headrush Gigboard I was using previously. So as I was going through the list, I was getting pretty stumped. 

I went through BIOS, Chipset, Driver and Software updates for every single piece of hardware and software in the system.  I uninstalled the new audio interface software and reinstalled. I replaced every cable one by one.  Laying down a 30 second sample each time and re-checking, with no luck. 

I was getting pretty discouraged as days went by.  Was my new hardware defective?  Is there a setting I'm forgetting?  Are there hardware incompatibility issues?

Well, finally after I went through all of that legwork and head-scratching, it hit me. 

Between the time I sold me old equipment and received the new equipment, I had "temporarily" installed a PCI-e USB 2.0 card, to communicate with a stubborn ***** USB drive that wasn't cooperating with my USB 3.0 ports. It worked great for that purpose, at that time. But I didn't remove it when I was finished.  One of those things where you think "this probably won't hurt anything being here" and "I can use the extra ports for my USB devices that don't need USB 3.0.

Nope. It effed everything up.  It was a cheapo $12.99 USB card that was stealing processor clock cycles

 I found that this simple, inexpensive device was creating major havoc with my $10K recording gear by stealing processor clock cycles that would otherwise be going to my other devices. When this happens in a DAW, it's one of the worst things that you can experience. Your otherwise pristine recording becomes a mess of minor "pops and clicks" that can typically be attributed to one or two issues with your system, but if it isn't those one or two things, it could literally be any driver, firmware, hardware, software or cable that is part of the PC, audio interface, MIDI device, microphone, processor, power supply or many other things. And to find the problem, you have to go through all of them. So, this is something to keep in mind if you happen to be in the position I was in.  Hopefully you never are, but if you are a musician who composes, records and produces, stay away from this kind of item. Lesson learned. 

I hope this is O.K. to put here as well. I know there are many more things to consider, but this might help narrow things down if you're having Clicks and Pops in your audio recordings and/or playback.

Quick Checklist Items in No Particular Order for Windows 10 O.S. - Sonar Platinum/Cakewalk by Bandlab:

*Reboot Everything

*Windows System Restore to Last Good Configuration

*BIOS Update

*BIOS Disable Fast Boot

*BIOS Audio Settings

*Main Board Chipset Drivers

*Audio Interface Software, Firmware and Driver Updates

*Clock Master/Slave Timing Compatibility

*Buffer Settings

*Windows Updates

*Anti-Virus Off

*Network Disconnected

*Windows Memory Module Tests

*SSD Driver/Firmware Updates and Read/Write Speed Tests

*USB Connections

*All Audio Cables

*Midi Timing Settings

*Latency Monitor (Much Freeware Available)

*Windows Audio Device Management via Control Panel

*Device Manager - Audio I/O, Disk Drives, Sound-Video-Game Controllers, Storage Controller Drivers, System Devices Audio Controller, Universal Serial Bus Controllers




Edited by Don McNevin
Provide Troubleshooting Information
  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for detailing the debugging process!!!!  You are right, any unwanted audio artifact could be coming from a least-suspected source--even ones we don't use.  

Clarification: I wrote the above praise before the prior post was edited to include the checklist. So, I was referring to the narrative, which to me (based on my learning style) was more helpful than checklists which people often give in lieu of the running narrative.

So, thanks for leaving in the narrative and not getting rid of it in favor of the checklist. 🙂  

Edited by User 905133
to clarify that my post was written prior to the addition of the checklist.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have my own checklist, and recently updated it: http://www.azslow.com/index.php/topic,395.0.html

With all ideas I could find in the Internet about the topic, including exotic and questionable "rumor".

Most staff is not so important, really I have to put somewhere that "Use Latency Monitor to check system latency and problems with devices/driver" and "Use REAPER build-in Performance Monitor to check audio/plug-ins timing" sections are where people should start.

RME control panel can show severe hardware problems, ThrottleStop problems with cooling and fancy CPU settings, REAPER RT monitor can show where is the bottleneck, Latency Mon identify the driver (sometimes MS performance tool is needed to find real driver). All that within 5 minutes, without thinking much...

It can be some PCI-e card does not show bad things in related driver but cast other devices/drivers problems, but that is unusual.

No checklist can  make bad designed hardware better. F.e. nothing can help DELL XPS running with low latency. But at least utilities can point where the problem is (in case of DELL that is system related hardware, accessed by ACPI, and severe system locks probably coming from the same source).

Also mentioned tools give exact numerical values which compromise is worse the effort. F.e. in many cases disabling C-states, SpeedStep and locking CPU frequency just allow to run at 32/48/64 buffer size instead of 48/64/96. And I guess some people will prefer to have 8W CPU power consumption and so idle fan and no noise with 96 samples buffer size, instead of reducing it to 64 by spending 40W on idle system.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great! The more information that is out there, the better. 

Alot of those tips I've used for years and are on my mental "to-do" list with each new build and rebuild. But a few of those are new to me and I'll need to research and incorporate. Thanks for sharing the info. Windows has changed alot in 20 years, but so many things remain the same that even things I learned about DAW's in the early 2000's are relevant. I hope more folks will share what they've learned. 

Does anyone else have a checklist they use when building a new workstation that they can share?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Very good! There's never too much info regarding troubleshooting in our esoteric niche 👍

A few tips I have discovered recently:

- go through Win10 power schemes details and make sure cpu usage is 100% minimum and maximum and make sure your cpu cooling is sufficient

- disable any power saver schemes  in usb ports, not only in power settings details but also in device manager list (must be done manually, no power scheme changes them for you)

- choose UEFI in bios boot details (CSM is apparently often the default), preferably prior installing win10

- if you encounter issues with low latency in CW, try unchecking the plug-in load balancing and see if it helps (yes it will punish the first core but you might be able to record with  a decent latency late in a project when you have already tons of plug-ins running)


Maybe a sticky collection would be in order? I sure there's so much useful  info we could all collect here regarding CW and DAWs in general. To save time and headache when troubleshooting.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Create New...