Block size, block head and going soft

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Martinswede

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« on: February 07, 2019, 09:11:05 PM »
Hi!

I just sold my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 1st gen to buy the new 2nd Gen. I had some latency problems and could not use live effects on vocals, line guitar etc.
I bought the 2nd gen today, but it had just about the same latency.
Then I learned about 'block size'. I reduced it from 1024 and when I hit about 400 the latency started dropping rapidly. At 16 it's at 4ms! I haven't tried recording at that setting yet but on Saturday or Sunday I'll evaluate it.

I've seen the ability to decrease block size earlier but I've never changed it between recording and mixing.
Baby steps in slow motion.

Anyway I found that Presonus has a 30 day free trial on Studio One 4 Professional.
Might come in handy for all DAW-curios in the upcoming competition The Spring Quest

Martin



I love the smell of Donald Sutherland in the morning

jacksimmons

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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2019, 10:26:13 PM »
Yep I had the same problem with mine and that fixed it. I do have a problem at the moment where my DAW jerks and stutters for a brief second, maybe every five minutes. Makes recording live guitar and vocals REALLY hard but can't work out what is causing it. All I know is it's not restricted to the DAW because the same thing happens with audio outside of the DAW, just to a lesser extent.

Any ideas?

pompeyjazz

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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2019, 10:36:37 PM »
Yep. But sadly it's the news that you don't really want and that is to buy a computer with more CPU. Things move on so quickly and tech is outdated very quickly.

cowparsleyman

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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2019, 11:07:16 AM »
Whato all - I'm sure there are many  others pondering this, I had a Focusrite 6i6 but found that I needed more inputs, so I ended up with a really cheap Behringer UMC 1820 plus the corresponding ADA 8200 8 input extension for my drum kit, I really can't praise them enough (I had to get over the fact that they used to produce some absolute rubbish stuff years ago)

The latency is pretty much the same as the Focusrite, and the quality is the same if not better, but it has so many useful features that the Focurite 18i20 doesn't have. mono button, a choice of phantom power on some inputs, BRILLIANT monitoring splits, 2 headphone outs, SPDIF or ADAT extension plus more...

Anyway...there are 2 situations that I suffer with latency issues,
1. Recording Gtr
2. Playing drums into MIDI VST.

I always used to record Gtr though an offset mic into my amp + stomps, and it suited me just fine, got the sound I wanted and no latency.

Recently I have started using IKM Amplitude, (along with MAGIX Vandal, Waves GTR3 and bx_rackplayer) and find them useful, but when I have a load of tracks >40, then the CPU takes a hit, the RAM is working hard, maybe the SSD is finding it a bit tough...

So..what are the options?

More RAM, on a laptop... that can be restricitve since the limit is often lower than a desktop, and expensive too.
Faster CPU - tricky on a laptop, also often good money after bad.
Overclocking - Never liked doing this, like sticking a V8 in an Allegro, things go wrong a lot.
New PC - If you can afford it, but there is not guarantee it'll solve your issue.
Second hand superfast recent PC - Always an option.

I use a DAW called MAGIX Samplitude Pro X3, it's quite tricky to use but it does have a very good audio engine (the same used in their broadcast quality Sequoia DAW), that allows some nice monitoring options, what I don't know is if these options are available on other DAWs, but I really don't need/want to change DAWs.

I turn the monitoring of the VST for the track I'm recording off, which in turn disables the sound of the plugin for that track so I don't get to hear the 50's fender champ, just the gtr completely latency free. But I can still hear myseld play, and all the tracks that are not muted.

I always record vocals like this and apply any processing much later on.

Playing live drums into a MIDI VST pose more of an issue, as the sound of the drums is generated by the VST itself  (BFD3 and a couple from MAGIX)...you hear nowt if you turn off the monitoring, so I tend to record the drums early in the song's life with the buffer size right down as low as possible, works very well on the Behringer, totally fine. But I do like to record the drums using the internal sounds from the Yamaha electronic kit, but they need to be routed to individual outs - hence the ADA8200 extension to the UMC1820.

So there is a way round it, so for me the answer lies in working around the limitations that I have, not sure if I'm doing it the 'right way' but it works for me, just thought to share it.

I would be interested to hear about other DAW's monitoring facilities, and if Reaper on a Cray fixes latency issues  8)

As always hope this helps

Rich






Boydie

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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2019, 11:44:05 AM »
Before you spend any £$€ there are a few things to get your heads around first, which will most likely mean you do not need to buy a new computer or do any upgrades

"Block size" (ortem referred to as "buffer size" or "audio buffer") is used to balance LATENCY with PROCESSOR STRAIN

e.g. - a small buffer/block size (e.g. Below 200) will give really low latency (i.e. A very short, virtually imperceptible, delay between singing/playing something and hearing back out of your PC's speakers/headphones

However, achieving this low latency puts a lot of strain on your computer's processor, which can result in "glitching", stuttering audio, "drop outs" and the audio just not playing at all

A high buffer/block size will take the strain off of your PC and enable smooth playback BUT it will increase latency

It is completely normal to change the buffer size during a project or at specific stages - e.g. do the recording/tracking at a low latency setting with minimal effects (or less cpu intensive versions - see below) and then increase the buffer size for mixing when latency doesn't matter at all - the worst that will happen is there will be a tiny pause between pressing play and the audio starting

VST effects add extra strain on you computer resources so you can either turn them off for recording (some DAWs have a global control where you can turn all vsts off with one click) or if you like hearing them when you record you could find some less cpu intensive versions whilst recording and then replace them with better versions at the mixing stage

It is also important to remember that some VSTs have a "look ahead" function which can cause terrible latency issues even at large buffer settings - especially limiters and multi-band effects

Finally, it is worth checking what settings you have for recording audio as recording in "ultra high quality" will put more strain on your PC when you may not really need to

I personally find recording at at 44.1kHz/24-bit is a good balance between audio quality and file size/resource balancing


It is worth playing with different block/buffer sizes as I personally find recording at 256 on my system is perfectly fine and don't really need the ultra low latency
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Martinswede

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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2019, 02:37:26 PM »
I came up with an option for recording guitar. If you have a splitter from your guitar that goes both to your amp and line in you don't need to bother about vst monitoring. You also have the option of micing up the amp getting two different guitar tracks from the same recording.

Sometimes my brain seems to take a holiday without any notice.
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jacksimmons

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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2019, 06:59:20 PM »
Yep I had the same problem with mine and that fixed it. I do have a problem at the moment where my DAW jerks and stutters for a brief second, maybe every five minutes. Makes recording live guitar and vocals REALLY hard but can't work out what is causing it. All I know is it's not restricted to the DAW because the same thing happens with audio outside of the DAW, just to a lesser extent.

Any ideas?

I've had a go at fixing this and eliminating possible causes.

I know now it only happens when I am playing back through my Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. When I plug my speakers directly in to my PC via mini jack I don't get the crackling issue.

It's not my machine. I am using a pretty high-performance PC that used to be a gaming rig. This problem also happened on my laptop, which I only just stopped using, but it didn't happen on my old, much lower-spec PC  a year ago.

I switched USB cable from interface to PC but the problem persisted, so it's not that either.

I don't know a huge amount about what I can change software wise to solve this issue. Right now it's making recording in a DAW incredibly hard, but it also happens outside of DAW when I am playing music on iTunes, Spotify etc. too.

I think there is no limit to the adoration and money I would pour on someone at this point if they could help me find the solution to this.

pompeyjazz

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jacksimmons

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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2019, 11:58:26 PM »
I don't have another user interface to try unfortunately. If I have to buy a new one I will but I'd prefer to keep that as last resort haha.

Boydie

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« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2019, 07:52:06 AM »
@jacksimmons

Keep the faith! - there are still a few things you can try before needing to replace the audio interface

If you are getting the stuttering when playing back audio from Spotify etc. then I think the issue is probably not related to the buffer size - however, have you tried ramping up the buffer size (e.g. To 1028) directly from the driver - e.g. do not open your daw but open the control panel for you audio interface directly and change the buffer size to 1028 to see if this makes a difference

It is probably worth looking in to runnning some software called "Latency Mon" which will analyse your system and identify any potential issues with running real-time audio (essential for a daw but not necessarily considered in a gaming rig):
https://www.resplendence.com/latencymon

Have you tried turning off wifi and Bluetooth to see if this eliminates the problem? - I recall ages ago that some chipsets can interfere with audio

If it is an old gaming PC you may want to consider looking at your graphics settings or try running the graphics from an onboard graphics chip rather than the presumably meaty graphics cards a gaming PC probably has

Another consideration to explore is "heat" - are you able to monitor internal temperatures? I would suggest getting the vacuum cleaner out and clean out any vents, heat sinks or fans

Is the heat sink seated correctly on the processor - temp levels will quickly tell you so I would necessarily bother taking the processor/heatsink apart at this stage

To check out my music please visit:

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pompeyjazz

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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2019, 08:45:33 AM »
@jacksimmons

Great tips from @Boydie. I wasn't suggesting that you rush out and buy a new Audio Interface, but if you could borrow one, at least you could eliminate that from your investigations  :)

jacksimmons

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« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2019, 03:42:11 PM »
Thanks for all your help guys. @Boydie I have followed all your steps and all the steps for optimising Windows 10 for audio that Focusrite give on their website and I would say it has marginally improved. I'm still getting the odd jump but not nearly as much as before. The only thing I can't work out how to do is change the buffer size for my audio interface outside of the DAW. I am going to Control Panel > Sound > Focusrite USB but have no option to change buffer size, only bit depth and sample rate (which I have set to the highest possible setting, setting these to the lowest turns audio to garbled noise).

For anyone with a Focusrite USB this page could come in handy.
 (https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/207355205-Optimising-your-PC-for-Audio-on-Windows-10)

According to LatencyMon, my 'system is suitable for handling real-time audio and other tasks without dropouts.' All the bars look lovely and green which is usually a good thing, though I don't know what ALL of the numbers mean haha. But even while looking at this I am still getting the problem. Beginning to think it may be the audio interface.

Boydie

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« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2019, 05:44:13 PM »
@jacksimmons

Quote
The only thing I can't work out how to do is change the buffer size for my audio interface outside of the DAW. I am going to Control Panel > Sound > Focusrite USB but have no option to change buffer size, only bit depth and sample rate (which I have set to the highest possible setting, setting these to the lowest turns audio to garbled noise).

You need the ASIO control panel

If you have a 2nd gen 2i2 you can follow these instructions:
https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/213917469-Changing-the-sample-rate-of-bus-powered-2nd-Gen-Scarlett-interface
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jacksimmons

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« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2019, 08:02:40 PM »
AH yes thanks Boydie. I have a 1st gen but it worked just the same. I have changed buffer size to 1024 and I think it has fixed it for now. The lag was more infrequent after I optimised my PC accordingly so I may get another blip in the future but all looks good at the moment. THANK YOU.

Boydie

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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2019, 10:18:57 PM »
@jacksimmons - can you remember what it was set to before you changed it?
To check out my music please visit:

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