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Audio interface that can do together: ASIO VST + Windows sound
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Audio interface that can do together: ASIO VST + Windows sound

Hi,

I am looking for an audio interface (USB or PCI express) that can do the following:
  • Support ASIO VST playback with low latency
  • Can mux in Windows sounds with ASIO VST playback (either with DAW such as Cakewalk by Bandlab, Reaper etc.)
  • Has solid ASIO drivers, which work well with multiple Windows sleep-resume cycle
  • Can output to both headphones and line out *simultaneously*

I am a pianist and primarily use my Windows 10 PC to play Piano VSTs. I also use [url]https://pianomarvel.com/url] every day to learn piano. PianoMarvel runs in a browser and sends sound via Windows sound. I need to be able to hear both Piano VST and the Windows sound at the same time. I use line out to line in of the digital piano - to hear both Piano VST and Windows sound with digital piano's speakers. Occasionally, I reduce piano speakers' volume to 0 and use headphones at night for silent practice.

My current solution is using Realtek HD onboard sound card (with ASIO4ALL driver) and VoiceMeeter (https://voicemeeter.en.softonic.com/). VoiceMeeter provides a virtual sound device to use for Windows sound. ASIO4ALL can then use that sound device as a sound input. I use that as a track in the DAW. I use DAW to insert VST as another track. DAW then combines both these tracks.

This works well - except that every 15-30 minutes the Windows sound starts crackling and I have to reset ASIO4ALL driver (or restart DAW software). This is annoying and I would like to fix this by buying a separate audio interface (PCI express or USB).

Budget is ~$1000 or so (though I can go higher if absolutely required).

Most audio interface specs do not make it clear to me if this usage will work or not. So, I would appreciate any input. Thanks!

Osho
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
Hi and welcome here,

I can definitely recommend to check RME Babyface Pro.
- it has best latency performance among USB interfaces
- it fully supports both ASIO and WDM (that means you can not only listen to both simultaneously, but also route them to different physical outputs, mix them as you like, apply system wide hardware EQ using TotalMix. It's one of handful interface, which exposes all physical I/O via WDM, not just the first stereo pair. That can be super handy for instance, when you do live streaming with multiple standard applications).
- well executed hardware MIDI support (eg. large enough buffers, no issues with long SYSEX messages, solid timing) in case you will need to connect some gear (like good master keyboard with classic 5-pin MIDI out)
- has very solid drivers (that usually causes most of headaches in use, hence this is my first recommendation)

Yes it's more expensive, but it's a smallest pro interface IMHO. You definitely get value for your money, also good engineering and long-term software support is being reflected in good resale prices. Say in case you'll need some interface with more I/O, but even that's not so big issue with this Babyface, as you can expand it via optical ADAT I/O by another 8 channels with some external converter.

Michal
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Get a mac, no need for ASIO4ALL, core audio does this out of the box. Problem solved.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Gear Nut
 

From what I've seen, every interface that has its own actual ASIO driver, can play ASIO and Windows sounds simultaneously, at least as long as they have the same sample rate.
ASIO4ALL can't do that, because it's not a proper ASIO driver. It's just a hack and it doesn't give you the low latency you'd get with an actual ASIO driver anyway, so I don't really see much reason to use it over just using Windows audio (WDM/DS/WASAPI) with a low buffer.
So pretty much anything you buy should give you that capability, just make sure they provide their own ASIO driver and don't rely on ASIO4ALL (some old Behringers used to do that).

But what most interfaces (popular ones from Focusrite, Steinberg...) still can't do is play ASIO from two or more programs at the same time, say from two DAWs. That's a limitation that some people don't care about, but I find quite annoying. This only affects Windows/ASIO, on Macs this is not an issue, even with the built in soundcard.
On the other hand, RME interfaces (like the Babyface Pro mentioned above), are known to have this multi-client ASIO capability, for example. And I've just read recently that some cheap Behringers like the UMC202HD do too. Maybe worth a try if you don't want to pay for an RME, although the latter would be a significant quality improvement overall.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Thank you all - this is super helpful.

I am leaning towards getting the MOTU USB-C interface - hopefully that will do that. And, if that doesn't do it then I might return it and buy RME babyface pro FS that was recently announced.

Osho
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
Gear Nut
 

The MOTU could work. But just FYI, some users are reporting issues with them in this thread.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenSW View Post
From what I've seen, every interface that has its own actual ASIO driver, can play ASIO and Windows sounds simultaneously, at least as long as they have the same sample rate.
This is true OP, read this. Match the windows sample rate to the DAW or whatever asio program you're using and it works fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenSW View Post
But what most interfaces (popular ones from Focusrite, Steinberg...) still can't do is play ASIO from two or more programs at the same time, say from two DAWs. That's a limitation that some people don't care about, but I find quite annoying. This only affects Windows/ASIO, on Macs this is not an issue, even with the built in soundcard.
On the other hand, RME interfaces (like the Babyface Pro mentioned above), are known to have this multi-client ASIO capability, for example. And I've just read recently that some cheap Behringers like the UMC202HD do too. Maybe worth a try if you don't want to pay for an RME, although the latter would be a significant quality improvement overall.
Also correct, the umc stuff does support multi-client ASIO as per spec of the t-usb driver from thesycon. Several budget interfaces uses this driver including the newly released SSL 2 and 2+. I would recommend both.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by P. Ness View Post
This is true OP, read this. Match the windows sample rate to the DAW or whatever asio program you're using and it works fine.
Thanks. A newb question: suppose I configure MOTU ASIO to use 96kHz (it claims "Windows driver with 2.5 ms Round Trip Latency (32 sample buffer at 96 kHz)") - how do I configure Windows default sound output to use the same rate?

Osho
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
Here for the gear
 

I got MOTU M2 and it met all the specifications mentioned in the OP. However, I am unhappy with the sound with Piano VSTs and it is going back.

The sound with regular high-quality music is absolutely great. Not so with Piano VSTs. I tried 3 VSTs: Pianoteq, Garritan CFX and VSL Synchron D. All 3 are highly regarded quality VSTs. But, none of them sound good. I feel as if the sound is getting cut off or just really flat. Fast trills with pedal down sound really dull as opposed to sparkly. I have tried 48kHz/96kHz/192kHz with different buffer sizes. Latency isn't an issue. I just do not feel connected to the instrument. I am using Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO to listen - which is a very good headphone. So, that isn't the issue.

I am now thinking of getting a PCI Express sound card... will start another thread to seek recommendations for it.

Thanks again for all the suggestions and help.

Osho
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
Here for the gear
 

Hmm.. I tried to post a separate thread (first as a discussion and second as a question) - none of them are showing up in this forum. Is there any issue with the forum?

Osho
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by oshogg View Post
I got MOTU M2 and it met all the specifications mentioned in the OP. However, I am unhappy with the sound with Piano VSTs and it is going back.

The sound with regular high-quality music is absolutely great. Not so with Piano VSTs. I tried 3 VSTs: Pianoteq, Garritan CFX and VSL Synchron D. All 3 are highly regarded quality VSTs. But, none of them sound good. I feel as if the sound is getting cut off or just really flat. Fast trills with pedal down sound really dull as opposed to sparkly. I have tried 48kHz/96kHz/192kHz with different buffer sizes. Latency isn't an issue. I just do not feel connected to the instrument. I am using Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO to listen - which is a very good headphone. So, that isn't the issue.
The M2 is supposed to have a good headphone output. Though it could be that it sounds different than what you used before. Did you use the motherboard Realtek output? Maybe it colored the sound somehow, either in software or hardware...
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by oshogg View Post
I am now thinking of getting a PCI Express sound card... will start another thread to seek recommendations for it.
IMO you're looking at that issue from wrong side. A PCI interface in general won't help you, when you don't like sound of particular virtual instruments.

You already said, the recorded music sounds good to you.
One of explanation can be, that new interface with bit better converters and headphone amp are more revealing, so you're hearing more details there, as it isn't masked by distortion of previous setup (like your built-in audio interface).
That naturally affects also non-pleasant things, which can be more apparent.

I guess most people out there already experienced that exact thing, maybe in different contexts. I personally experienced that many times, when changing something in monitoring chain, like some upgrade, or simply hearing stuff I did elsewhere. Is it really so bad, where's the problem..?
For example in many cases, the stuff, which I believed was fine, sounded worse (like is that sibilance or low end really that bad ) and what was masked before was now so apparent. However generally speaking sometimes certain monitoring systems can really exaggerate certain frequency band.. that often applies to headphones, lot of them has own natural resonance peaks at high-mids, highs, unless you compensate for that. So sometimes, what came as an issue there (like some super present and close voices, exaggerated lisping etc.) isn't not nearly as problematic on some normal speakers.

The other related points are related to virtual instruments (or digital piano emulations).. it's very broad subject, where lot of factors come to play and may affect your outcome.
And used audio interface or converter, if it is fine, is honestly one of last of them.
Some prepared presets or factory patches might or might not work for you in particular context.
There is very wide variety of different flavors of libraries and instruments.. but it doesn't mean, you don't need to work on that and tailor it for your particular application (which is personal and can be unique for each project).
Some instruments can be dry sounding, some are wet.. some are thin and detailed, some are warm. To some extent you can affect that. For example there are instruments, which has multiple mic positions (virtual or real during sampling) positions, various degrees between open, closed lid.. different distances etc. You can also affect artificial reverberation (either directly in instrument or external plugin).. There is possible to apply EQ to instrument etc.
As you can imagine, there can be very different demands and perspectives.. like when you want upfront piano in pop ballad intro vs uptempo song or say classical cadenza.
Similarly it can be different, when you would like tune everything for your own pleasure during monitoring, or trying to fit some part well into ensemble or mix. That also applies to general recording and mixing, but it's also reason, why some of instruments has great degree of customization, or why some libraries are miked closely without much character.. It can sound boring and flat, but you it can give you more options to fit it to different mixes.

Also there is that headphone aspect, which can also feel weird by its principle. Under normal conditions, when you listening to some source in space, you have always some natural crossfeed.. and sound arrives to both ears.
If you have some existing recording which was done with some stereo distance pickup and either natural or artificial room ambience.. it already contains all those cues and this individual headphone isolation doesn't necessarily feel as bad (it's still different than listening to that from speakers, but anyway).
However with some raw closely miked piano or instrument with very distinct stereo separation, it can feel really weird... like you hit bass keys and have almost complete silence in right ear. Also you won't feel any resonance from like from physical instrument.
To some extent you can work on that.. either by tuning of some options in instrument or with additional reverb. You don't necessarily have to put everything into some long wash or big hall (this isn't likely appropriate for player position perspective, but rather for complete recording), but rather use some shorter room type reverb, which can also add some sense of warmth, if you set it to damp high frequency reverberation, some plugins has also width and size of simulated space, it's definitely worth of experimentation IMO.

Finally.. it's IMO also necessary to be realistic in general. Despite great advancements of VIs, large libraries, elaborate physical modeling etc. It's naturally not the same as real instruments (cause everyone will be performing with just notebook and some keyboard or say drum pads then ).. It's not like you can expect feeling of half ton grand piano or drumkit in great room.. during playing VI with closed cans.
Similarly with playing something on whatever VI, hearing its raw output and instant comparison say to Yevgeny Kissin on Deutsche Grammophon record, which of course sounds great . Sometimes even to some pre-recorded and fine tuned demo by vendor of particular VI.

Michal

Last edited by msmucr; 3 weeks ago at 09:29 AM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by oshogg View Post
I got MOTU M2 and it met all the specifications mentioned in the OP. However, I am unhappy with the sound with Piano VSTs and it is going back.

The sound with regular high-quality music is absolutely great. Not so with Piano VSTs. I tried 3 VSTs: Pianoteq, Garritan CFX and VSL Synchron D. All 3 are highly regarded quality VSTs. But, none of them sound good. I feel as if the sound is getting cut off or just really flat. Fast trills with pedal down sound really dull as opposed to sparkly. I have tried 48kHz/96kHz/192kHz with different buffer sizes. Latency isn't an issue. I just do not feel connected to the instrument. I am using Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO to listen - which is a very good headphone. So, that isn't the issue.

I am now thinking of getting a PCI Express sound card... will start another thread to seek recommendations for it.

Thanks again for all the suggestions and help.

Osho
Yeah this doesn't have anything at all to do with the card. Sounds like you were expecting the plugins to sound like a real piano in the room?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
Here for the gear
 

Thanks for the responses. This is really interesting why my experience is so different than what I (and others) expected with Piano VST and MOTU M2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenSW View Post
The M2 is supposed to have a good headphone output. Though it could be that it sounds different than what you used before. Did you use the motherboard Realtek output? Maybe it colored the sound somehow, either in software or hardware...
Yes, I did use the motherboard Reaktek output and I have gone back to using it. MOTU M2 did sound better for regular music. It just didn't feel like I connected to the instrument with MOTU M2.


Quote:
Originally Posted by P. Ness View Post
Yeah this doesn't have anything at all to do with the card. Sounds like you were expecting the plugins to sound like a real piano in the room?
No, I was not expecting the plugins to sound like a real piano. I have a real piano in my home (Semi-concert grand 7' Mason & Hamlin BB) - which I play every day. I use VSTs at night for practicing silently.

Also, this isn't my first time using VSTs - I have been using VSTs for over 2 years (with Macbook Pro when I travel and with Windows 10 PC when I am home). I like the sound of these VSTs with both of these.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
Thanks for the recommendation. I have already tried VB-CABLE Virtual Audio Device. It works great - but after 15-30 minutes, it starts to crackle and I couldn't figure out how to make it work with ASIO4ALL without it crackling.


Quote:
Originally Posted by msmucr View Post
IMO you're looking at that issue from wrong side. A PCI interface in general won't help you, when you don't like sound of particular virtual instruments.

You already said, the recorded music sounds good to you.
One of explanation can be, that new interface with bit better converters and headphone amp are more revealing, so you're hearing more details there, as it isn't masked by distortion of previous setup (like your built-in audio interface).
That naturally affects also non-pleasant things, which can be more apparent.
This is certainly possible that I got 'used to' RealTek sound. The thing is that if I play just one note or a chord and hold it down, MOTU's sound was pleasant. It is when I play fast pieces or trills, I felt the instrument just didn't respond. Sound was either getting cut off or otherwise feeling very dull. It is hard to explain without playing the instrument in front of someone.


Quote:
Originally Posted by msmucr View Post
Finally.. it's IMO also necessary to be realistic in general. Despite great advancements of VIs, large libraries, elaborate physical modeling etc. It's naturally not the same as real instruments (cause everyone will be performing with just notebook and some keyboard or say drum pads then ).. It's not like you can expect feeling of half ton grand piano or drumkit in great room.. during playing VI with closed cans.
My expectation was fairly modest - it should sound and work as well as Realtek HD audio with ASIO4ALL. As I mentioned above, I have a fair bit of experience with VSTs and was not expecting a miracle. Just an interface that works as well as Realtek HD with ASIO4ALL and can combine the Windows default sound reliably.

Thanks again for all the input. I really wanted to like MOTU M2 but it is now gone back.

Osho
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by oshogg View Post



This is certainly possible that I got 'used to' RealTek sound. The thing is that if I play just one note or a chord and hold it down, MOTU's sound was pleasant. It is when I play fast pieces or trills, I felt the instrument just didn't respond. Sound was either getting cut off or otherwise feeling very dull. It is hard to explain without playing the instrument in front of someone.





Osho
You could always send the output back into the motu's input and record that. Or do a phone recording, with your description of notes being cut off it should be easy to hear that over anything. I don't think a different interface will solve the problem because it's likely not the issue to begin with.

You're not using asio4all with the motu are you?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Yeah, it's possible that the Realtek colored the sound in a way that made it more pleasant than the more accurate MOTU representation.
One thing that is often overlooked is the headphone amp/out impedance. If it's too high (relative to the headphones) it's going to change the sound. Here's a recent video explaining it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpTsWVLI-ig
Even a lot of expensive devices perform poorly in this aspect. Things are improving, though. The MOTU, on paper, should be very good with its 0.05 Ohm impedance.

So the bottom line is that any good interface you will get should sound more like the MOTU than the Realtek. (Unless there were some other factors at play that we don't know of.)
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by P. Ness View Post
You could always send the output back into the motu's input and record that. Or do a phone recording, with your description of notes being cut off it should be easy to hear that over anything. I don't think a different interface will solve the problem because it's likely not the issue to begin with.

You're not using asio4all with the motu are you?
No, I was not using ASIO4ALL with the MOTU. I installed Windows 10 MOTU's drivers from MOTU's website as per instructions (before connecting MOTU to the PC for the first time).

Unfortunately, I have already returned the MOTU - so I cannot record it and compare.

Osho
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenSW View Post
Yeah, it's possible that the Realtek colored the sound in a way that made it more pleasant than the more accurate MOTU representation.
One thing that is often overlooked is the headphone amp/out impedance. If it's too high (relative to the headphones) it's going to change the sound. Here's a recent video explaining it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpTsWVLI-ig
Even a lot of expensive devices perform poorly in this aspect. Things are improving, though. The MOTU, on paper, should be very good with its 0.05 Ohm impedance.
I am using Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 Ohm - which is not hard to drive. I hope most amps should be able to drive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenSW View Post
So the bottom line is that any good interface you will get should sound more like the MOTU than the Realtek. (Unless there were some other factors at play that we don't know of.)
I certainly hope so. I am trying to figure out which next interface to try. I am leaning towards a PCI express card just purely for the reason that it is internal - so hopefully it will have better latency and there is one less thing on top of the digital piano setup I have.

Osho
Old 1 week ago
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

Hi Osho,

I use the RME BabyFace Pro on Windows 10 Pro with VI Pianos, including Garritan CFX. It has very good quality low and high impedance headphone outs. I think the headphone stages have more than enough power for your Beyer headphones, which are not ultra-power hungry IME.

The 2020 BabyFace Pro is renamed and has an upgraded headphone stage.

RME drivers are rock-solid IME and may have crashed once over the past few years on my laptop. Maybe never crashed.

RME allows me to play audio from my piano and windows simultaneously.

If you are looking for lowest latency performance, you will see in the low latency database thread that the PCIe can perform at lowest latency levels. But RME has excellent drivers so can run USB at very low latency. BabyFace Pro USB will not go below 48 samples on my system and I read that was a bottom limit (maybe here or on the RME forums). There are other good USB interfaces but good drivers will influence performance some brand/model matter (this site indicates what interfaces work well and what interfaces have issues/suboptimal drivers).

From a practical perspective, 128 samples is a popular latency level at PianoWorld; a few people play at 64. PCIe can get you lower but you will need a monster computer IMHO. Below say 64 samples, the audio interface latency becomes less relevant as a very small piece of the latency chain (piano recording, processing, sending keystrokes, MIDI / USB delays, computer processing etc.). For example, the calculated interface latency might approach 1ms and other parts of the chain are 7ms for a total of 8ms delay at headphones.

I haven't read that USB MIDI out of the piano will provide better latency performance than DIN MIDI would. You could test that on your piano I suppose.

ASIO4ALL is not so popular here; it is free and older but not the top performer today. A few people said it should not be installed on performance systems as it might cause latency issues in the background. I uninstalled ASIO4ALL.

Finally, Garritan has some software bugs and memory leaks that are documented on PianoWorld. Overall, it is an awesome VI. But it has an occasional crackle regardless of ASIO driver, even with huge buffers.
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