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Clocking issues with Slate Digital VRS
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Clocking issues with Slate Digital VRS

Last week I made the biggest audio purchase of my life. Two ever-so lightly used Slate VRS-8 interfaces in pursuit of 16x16 tracks of sparkling I/O at breakneck latency speeds. One of those purchases you track a few times each day just to make sure it’s really on the way.

But my Christmas morning experience was spoiled by serious clocking issues and while I know there are not a ton of VRS users on here, I know there are thousands of years of experience with digital I/O around these boards and maybe someone will have a clue on what’s going on so I can figure out next steps and get back to making music.

The Problem: Put most simply, the problem is that playback audio from my OS drops out frequently within 30 seconds to 5 minutes of listening time. This happens from any source- in my case mostly Spotify and Chrome (which has its own annoying issue with the VRS that I discovered in the troubleshooting). I can live with being bound to 44.1 in my day to day browser media consumption. But I can’t live with an interface the price of a used mazda that doesn’t… INTERFACE… and send audio out from the computer into the real world, reliably.

Here’s the green eggs and ham list of all the situations in which it happens.

-44.1K, 48K, 96K
-When the VRSs are daisy chained together or when only one is connected
-Using the “VRS Main I/O” aggregate device that the VRS creates on installation, or the actual “VRS8 Output” device
-When nothing is happening whatsoever, and the only application running is Spotify.

It also cuts out when only being fed by my DAW, and when my OS is outputting to another device entirely. This also seemed to confirm that it’s being caused by a clocking issue. When the playback cut out I got a message from Logic that the Sample rate was detected at 44.1...

That was odd because the logic session, the VRS control panel and the Mac Midi control panel were all at 48k during playback and nothing at all changed.

When the audio cuts out, the digital meters on the VRS control panel are indicating no signal. It also locks up whatever was playing the sound. Spotify will show “This track can not be played” Logic’s output meters at the top will freeze in place.

The set up: I have a 2019 Macbook Pro 13” with an i5 and 16 GB of ram running Mojave. Daw is Logic Pro X but of course, the issue precedes the Daw! The rest of my peripherals are running into a Thunderbolt 3 Hub. The VRS 8 is running straight into it’s own Thunderbolt port on the Macbook.

It doesn’t appear to be an issue with the Apple T2 chip. As toggling the auto-time setting doesn’t seem to trigger the cutting out. I am still unclear as to whether those T2 issues affect Thunderbolt devices at all.


The Background: Slate’s quarantine promotion got me hooked. I honestly think I signed up exclusively for the tutorial videos and thought of the plugins as a nice bonus. I’d gotten really comfortable with Waves over the last 10 years and I'm a ‘Go with what you know” kind of musician and engineer.

As I think many of us did since COVID struck, I started mixing a lot more and increasingly found VMR to be the only strip I wanted to mix with. As I folded more and more Slate stuff into my workflow I found I liked almost everything better that what I was used to.

So I picked up an ML-1 and 2 ML-2s And was satisfied again. Like I said- I’m a loyal guy. I like continuity. I was mixing a lot and had some acquaintances reach out and offer me some recording work beyond my own projects and decided this was a time to bump up from my Scarlett Focusrite 18i20 to something more robust in the latency and preamp arenas.

After much hemming and hawing and even a brief flirtation with the Antelope Discrete.. Which I checked out in person and didn’t take to- I pulled the trigger on two of Slate’s VRS interfaces. And here I find myself.

I think I partially say all this because I know Steven often personally responds to items on these boards and I have seen some exasperating exchanges… I won’t be one of them. I want a solution! Up to and including having to accept that VRS is not the right solution to someone with my setup and continuing to be a happy customer of the the plugins and mics.

I am still a project guy at the end of the day. My PC is my work computer. I listen to music on it all day while I work. I zoom. I write on it. I’m willing to accept that maybe the VRS is better suited to a dedicated, totally clutterless PC (maybe running an old OS as many studios do); and strictly handling I/O from a Daw. It would honestly make sense now that I think about it, that VRS would be a bit buggier than my Focusrite. It’s new, it’s still somewhat of a boutique product. At their price point Focusrite has had to get drivers that will work with every kind of amateur setting to save themselves the hassles of returns and tech support. But this situation stinks regardless and so if anyone has guidance beyond of course- make a support ticket- which i’ve done and am working through, i’d be thrilled to hear it.

Thanks comrades.
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