Originally Posted by apollo99
Hello to everyone.
Although a Gearslutz's Forum reader for a long time, this is my first post....
HP Pavilion dv7
Win 7 x64 (Home premium)
1.60 GHz Intel Core i7-720QM Processor
4 GB DDR3
1 TB SATA Hard Disk Drive 5200 rpm
120 W AC Power Adapter
USB Interface (NO Firewire available on laptop, nor a PCMCIA slot, so please don't propose a Firewire audio interface purchase)
used with my laptop: M-Audio Fast Track Pro
Latest Drivers used
I know the Fast Track Pro interface is a cheap one, but when connecting to my i7-920 quite powerful Desktop PC, I don't have any problems (I also have a Saffire Pro 24, which actually gives me more problems than the Fast Track)
But, on my HP Laptop, I have great problems with the Fast Track Pro. Although, the laptop's specs seem quite good, in real world this laptop (as many others) is quite slow, probably because it came full with HP software rubbish. I have uninstalled what was possible, but again the laptop not so fast .
On the laptop I mainly use soft-synths, and the problem is that the above system seems that cannot cope even with single synths (some of them) and even at a buffer size of 1024. I am not talking about adding effects, etc. I even run a single synth that is a bit CPU-hungry (like Z3TA), and on some patches the sound comes out COMPLETELY BROKEN
. I don't even dare to run some other soft-synth that might be even more CPU-hungry.
And all this at a buffer size of 1024
. I cannot increase it to 2048, because then the very big
latency (close to 50ms I think) makes it impossible to play the synths.
So, I cannot even run a single instance of some synths, and I stay with some other synths (lighter on CPU), that cannot cover my needs.
I have tried everything to optimise the laptop, according to this Focusrite tutorial: Optimising your PC for audio on Windows 7 .: Focusrite Answerbase
(and many others, but didn't help
The only thing left is to buy a quite expensive card like RME Fireface UCX
(both USB/Firewire, so I can use it with both my Laptop and Desktop). But, what do you think? Will it significantly help on the performance
so that I can run even CPU-intensive synths ( I am talking about single instances always, not having any unreasonable demands)?
OR, it will NOT
make any big difference
? I am a bit confused on this
: An expensive audio interface won't overtake significant amount of processing off the CPU
(on the use of soft-synths always
) OR is it "only" better sound (clarity, etc...) it will produce? Because if its only better sound, then it will probably not solve my problem of poor perfomance on the laptop
Thank you in advance, and sorry about my long message, but tried to explain the issue as good as possible...
Here's how your processor stacks up against others... PassMark - Intel Core i7 720QM @ 1.60GHz - Price performance comparison
So, it's not a top performer by a stretch. (In fact... :( )
Still, I'm running my XP-based DAW on what is presumably an even slower, 6 year old, single core P4.
There can be a number of factors in performance, of course. When I got my basic machine it, too, was loaded down with RAM resident crapware. I think it was using something like 280 MB of RAM just sitting there -- and it only came with 512 MB! Absurd. When I got rid of all the garbage, I got the load profile down to ~125 MB. (I also upped the RAM to 1 GB immediately and added another GB to max it later.)
(The vendors like Dell and HP get a negotiated payment for each item of crapware -- which basically are often demo-ware or timeout-ware or simply unnecessary "helper" applications put in by the HP, Dell, Sony, and other vendors in the absurd belief that having their branded crapware cluttering up the system and confusing already befuddled users somehow improves their branding.)
Among other issues that can affect peformance are drives. Many people are afraid to open up their towers so they just go buy a USB drive. Unfortunately, you can stick a relatively quick IDE or SATA drive in the typical USB outboard drive box and reduce througput from 50 Mbps down into the 20's.
BTW, your 1TB drive is not particularly quick at 5400 RPM, of course. 7200 rpm is pretty much the standard for contemporary consumer drives.
A more expensive audio card might have better written drivers. But that's usually the difference between being able to work with a hardware buffer set to 64 samples instead of 128, for the most part -- not the kind of difference I suggest you're talking about. It's not
going to make a big difference in all likelihood.
As you correctly suggest, soft synth performance/latency is a function of CPU speed/efficiency. Better hardware drivers might
get a tiny improvement in latency but not likely to be at all significant
Now... all THAT said, while you talked about your hardware buffers, I don't believe you've said anything about your playback buffers -- and THAT is where the adjustment for CPU-guzzling soft synths is typically made.
With the hardware buffers, you generally find the lowest buffer setting your computer can sustain with a straight audio signal and forget it.
But the playback buffer (in the DAW) is where you set buffer time to make up for soft synths. (It basically takes the total hardware buffer time and then adds extra time as you direct in order to allow for playback of CPU-heavy VIs and FX.
For instance, I have the hardware buffers for my MOTU 828mkII set to 128 samples. In my DAW (Sonar) that gives you a minimum playback buffer setting of 2.9 ms at 44.1 kHz. (128/44100) (with AD conversion time it comes out to a one-sided time of about 4.5 ms; a roundtrip ADC through the computer and back out through DAC -- at that playback buffer setting -- takes a total of ~9 ms.
However, if I start throwing convolution reverbs and CPU intensive soft synths in there, pretty soon, pretty darn soon, I'm going to end up running out of playback buffer and getting glitches -- unless I temporarily up the size of the playback buffer.
(I monitor incoming analog via an analog mixer because I'm a big baby about any kind of monitoring latency of my live tracks.)
So, while I track with playback buffer set to 2.9 ms -- 'freezing' synths or heavy FX tracks when I have to to avoid running out of CPU -- I tend to mix with the playback buffer cranked way up to something like 150 ms. Fast enough that the lag when pushing play and stop buttons isn't a problem, but with lots of room for 'slow moving' VIs and FX.
So, if you haven't played with your playback (cue, or whatever your DAW calls it) buffer settings, make sure
you do, because that could well be the primary source of your problems if it's set too low.