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Will a external sound card fix my daw/computer cpu? Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 6th August 2014
  #1
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Will a external sound card fix my daw/computer cpu?

Hey guys i´m new at this forum som im sorry if there is a similar thread to this one but i did some searching and i couldn´t find any..

Problem:
I´ve got a problem when i´m making music in my daw= FL Studio, when i try working on my bigger projects they often contain many layers of sylenth1 Spire and massive + many effects on the mixer so the audio starts crackling so it´s completely impossible to continue working.
I´m using the ASIO drivers and have turned all settings so it will make it easy for my laptop but nothing seems to work..

Question: Will a external sound card make it work or do i have to buy a new (better) Laptop?

Im a beginner at this so please give som advice which laptop or sound card i should buy if thats the problem..

Sorry for bad english and i´m sorry if I placed the thread wrong! Thankfull for answers
Old 6th August 2014
  #2
It sounds like you are simply exceeding the computing power of your CPU with "...layers of sylenth1 Spire and massive + many effects ".

Noises such as "crackling", pops, clicks, and drop-outs are caused when the CPU and/or hard-drive can't keep up with processing demands, and/or there are unnecessary background tasks using up CPU cycles and memory that slow down audio processing. First try cleaning up your system: No unnecessary applications running, no internet access, no bluetooth, no background tasks. That might help a little. You may be able to lower your processing loads by doing some processing and rendering the track(s) so that the processing can be done in "stages" and not all at once, reducing the computing load.

If you are using the laptop's internal soundcard, a good external interface probably won't help. If you're only running a few tracks of I/O, that's not the problem. It's also possible that under your high processing load, any real-time input from your soundcard exceeds your input buffer setting. If you're processing synth signals in real time (as they are being recorded). You might try recording the tracks "raw"and only applying processing later. That will eliminate the soundcard input processing which may help a tiny bit. Using the internal soundcard or an external audio interface for outputting a stereo audio output signal is a trivial task for the CPU, and uses much less computing power than even adding a simple reverb. A convolution reverb on one track can create 50X the CPU load of providing simple USB or FireWire I/O. Using a different interface won't change the I/O load (for the same number of tracks, bit depth and sampling rate) significantly.

If you are using high processing loads, getting a interface which has built-in DSPs capability might be a solution if you are running processing applications that can use external DSP.
Old 6th August 2014
  #3
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Yep, i agree, good advice from Lotus 7 ^^
Old 6th August 2014
  #4
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Thank you very much Lotus 7! I think i´ve done everything to reduce cpu usage so I will probably buy a new laptop.. You seem to know what you are talking about so maybe you or anyone else can give a advice on which laptop to buy?
Old 6th August 2014
  #5
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Tack för att du bekräftade Neonknight!
Old 7th August 2014
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henke96 View Post
Thank you very much Lotus 7! I think i´ve done everything to reduce cpu usage so I will probably buy a new laptop.. You seem to know what you are talking about so maybe you or anyone else can give a advice on which laptop to buy?
You've rendered all VSTi's (instruments/synths) as audio tracks, and rendered tracks with large amounts of effects as audio tracks and it still causes your CPU to max out/pops/glitches? If so then yes new computer time perhaps!

I often will work on the track that has the synth/VSTi/whatever to get it dialed in, then render it (or "print") it as a new wave file back into the project. Then I don't have to run the CPU-intensive effects at all. And make sure your audio buffer length is set to a longer time, I think you already mentioned you did that though.
Old 7th August 2014
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blAh View Post
You've rendered all VSTi's (instruments/synths) as audio tracks, and rendered tracks with large amounts of effects as audio tracks and it still causes your CPU to max out/pops/glitches? If so then yes new computer time perhaps!

I often will work on the track that has the synth/VSTi/whatever to get it dialed in, then render it (or "print") it as a new wave file back into the project. Then I don't have to run the CPU-intensive effects at all. And make sure your audio buffer length is set to a longer time, I think you already mentioned you did that though.
Also good advice but will create much more data(audio).. You can even set your buffer as high as possible at mixdown since you dont need real time audio then, it will probably help alot, but maybe you tried this already. In very demanding projects you can be forced to do this even if you have a quite powerful computer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by henke96 View Post
Tack för att du bekräftade Neonknight!
Inga problem !
Old 7th August 2014
  #8
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No I actually never tried render each part in a track.. But do you then render each part with all effects on or can you place the effects on while it´s a waw sample? Sorry im a bit confused..

Yes the audio buffer length is set to max
Old 7th August 2014
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henke96 View Post
No I actually never tried render each part in a track.. But do you then render each part with all effects on or can you place the effects on while it´s a waw sample? Sorry im a bit confused..

Yes the audio buffer length is set to max
Unless the "effects" are a part of the software instruments you can add them afterwards like with any other audio track, it will definately be preferable as well in most cases since you might want to adjust lets say a reverb for a track at mixdown.
You can also render a "wet" track with only the effects like for example reverb or delay, but then you can only adjust the volume of the effects and not other parameters..
Old 7th August 2014
  #10
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OK! Thanks for the advice really kind of you to share your knowledge!
Old 7th August 2014
  #11
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The synths and VSTi ("instruments" like keyboards/drums/strings/whatever) will take the most processing power, so render those for sure when you're happy with the sound. If you have any effects on those that you know are the sound, that it needs...render that on there at the same time.

Once you've done that and it's a new .wav file, import that on a new track. You can then treat that like any other track, adding effects, etc. But at least now you don't have a VSTi inserted and hopefully a few less effects. This will save you tons of CPU.

Buy a new computer will help a bit, but as mentioned you need to know how to do this as large projects can just stack up tracks on tracks on tracks and cause nearly anything to choke down.

Now that you know it's called "rendering tracks" or "rendering stems" or "printing tracks" look up some articles online that will be way more in depth than anything we write here.
Old 8th August 2014
  #12
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Can you elaborate as to the specs of your laptop and audio interface/soundcard?

Pops/crackles and other audio artefacts can be the result of many things. Sometimes even a overpowered system can produce them if it is not correctly optimised for audio production.

The most common cause is networking devices, especially wireless. I haven't used FL since like 2000, so I can't remember it much, but I'm sure it has a CPU useage meter. Are you sure it is CPU load peaking when the artefacts occur?

Also, the buffer sample size may be too low for your setup. Most people run low buffers when recording single tracks so low latency monitoring is available, then raise the buffers when mixing and mastering, as a delay is acceptable here.

Before investing any money, I'd try to first and figure out for sure what the problem is. Like I said, these kinds of problems can arise in any setup and may reoccur regardless of what laptop or interface you purchase. Best to learn how to optimise a laptop and utilise FL effectively first. Freezing VSTs and printing tracks is definitely a good step in the right direction if you've nailed a few tracks and are just overdubbing extra layers.
Old 8th August 2014
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zigziglar View Post
Pops/crackles and other audio artefacts can be the result of many things. Sometimes even a overpowered system can produce them if it is not correctly optimised for audio production.

The most common cause is networking devices, especially wireless. I haven't used FL since like 2000, so I can't remember it much, but I'm sure it has a CPU useage meter. Are you sure it is CPU load peaking when the artefacts occur?
I didnt mention in this thread that other drivers for example the Wifi or LAN may cause pops and crackles since henke96 to my understanding didnt experience this unless it was a heavy project. These kind of problems with drivers in the windows installation seems to be extremely common causes for trouble though.
To me it seems that the main problem is processor load from the software instruments and such, but of course all types of processor loads adds up to the total and if you can shut down anything that is running that you dont need you may instead use it for your DAW.

I personally have a complete separate windows installation for my DAW that i boot to which is tuned with for example no network antivirus, or anything that i dont need for recording, there are also alot of other parameters that are tuned even in the registry. If you are really serious about having a solid performimg DAW then i can certainly recommend this solution, you dont need an extra windows licence (at least on XP and 7 on which ive done this), just install the one you have on another partition and create a dual boot.

if you are uncertain of the performance of the drivers on you laptop i would recommend running DPC latency checker which is a great free tool for this DPC Latency Checker
Old 8th August 2014
  #14
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Hxd Ped's Avatar
Check your "msconfig" for background processes (if you're running Windows.) You can shut down many things that run at startup, like Acrobat Reader and other programs you've installed that half-run in the background so they start faster. DON'T SHUT THEM ALL DOWN! If you have any doubts about what you're stopping, search it on Google. You should check this anytime something you've shut down updates or you install something new. Adobe is notorious for that kind of thing.

Don't know how you'd check for background startup programs on a Mac.
Old 8th August 2014
  #15
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Yes the cpu meter in FL goes to max and the crackling starts..
I use a toshiba with intel i3 thats the only thing i know haha.. don´t know much about computers..

The sound drivers i using is asio4all but I have to plug in my headphones/speakers in a extrernal like "mini soundcard" because my aux port is broken, maybe that takes up much cpu but it´s just at temporary solution..
Old 8th August 2014
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neonknight View Post
I didnt mention in this thread that other drivers for example the Wifi or LAN may cause pops and crackles since henke96 to my understanding didnt experience this unless it was a heavy project. These kind of problems with drivers in the windows installation seems to be extremely common causes for trouble though.
To me it seems that the main problem is processor load from the software instruments and such, but of course all types of processor loads adds up to the total and if you can shut down anything that is running that you dont need you may instead use it for your DAW.

I personally have a complete separate windows installation for my DAW that i boot to which is tuned with for example no network antivirus, or anything that i dont need for recording, there are also alot of other parameters that are tuned even in the registry. If you are really serious about having a solid performimg DAW then i can certainly recommend this solution, you dont need an extra windows licence (at least on XP and 7 on which ive done this), just install the one you have on another partition and create a dual boot.

if you are uncertain of the performance of the drivers on you laptop i would recommend running DPC latency checker which is a great free tool for this DPC Latency Checker
I will check that out Neonknight! Thank you again :D
Old 9th August 2014
  #17
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Also, latencymon allows you to actually find the source of the latency. Check out this optimization write up by NI.

That being said, if the CPU meter is maximized when the artefacts begin, this is not a driver or OS issue; it is because the onboard audio interface does not have any DSP processing and the full processing demand is on the CPU, which is outdated by todays standards. You have a few options; free = render/print completed softsynth/drum tracks before adding new ones, and get to know your PC and its CPU limits in FL OR; buy a new laptop and keep the old one as a general purpose system and dedicate the new one as a DAW. I think windows based DAWs that are multipurpose are a disaster waiting to happen. You really want to isolate them from the internet, minimise redundant background services and optimise the crap out of it for audio performance. If the new PC with onboard audio and asio4all still has issues, I'd then look into a USB2.0 interface.
Old 9th August 2014
  #18
Gear Guru
 

there actually are a few interfaces that provide DSP power to run plug-ins. Pro Tools HD and the UA Apollo for example. Unfortunately virtual instruments are the plug-ins least likely to run on such a system, and most likely it IS your synths that are eating up your CPU for the most part.

It is much easier for a computer to just straight play back a recorded sound from the hard drive than it is to generate and process that sound in real time. For things like loops, it might even be pitch and time shifting them in real time too.

Rendering your tracks will free up a lot of CPU power, but will of course slow you down in your workflow and also make "changing your mind" about a sound considerably harder.
Old 9th August 2014
  #19
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filipv's Avatar
What processor do you have? RAM?

What audio driver do you use? MME? DirectX? ASIO?

I find it very unusual for a modern CPU to be put on its knees. It takes more than few VSTs to do that. If it is not a decade old computer, I suspect the problem lies elsewhere.

Download CPU-Z if you are not sure which components exactly are inside your computer.
Old 9th August 2014
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zigziglar View Post
I think windows based DAWs that are multipurpose are a disaster waiting to happen. You really want to isolate them from the internet, minimise redundant background services and optimise the crap out of it for audio performance. If the new PC with onboard audio and asio4all still has issues, I'd then look into a USB2.0 interface.
I agree to an extent, the ideal would of course be a completely separate powerful computer for the DAW that you never use for anything else, using dual boot instead with a separate boot option for the DAW you can pretty much get this though without having to use two separate computers.

I personally treat my DAW boot option as a closed system with no network, no programs that isnt needed for the DAW, no antivirus/firewall, no windows updates etc and the installation is tuned as much as possible for DAW work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zigziglar View Post
Also, latencymon allows you to actually find the source of the latency. Check out this optimization .
I forgot about latencymon, i have used that as well.
Old 16th August 2014
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blAh View Post
The synths and VSTi ("instruments" like keyboards/drums/strings/whatever) will take the most processing power, so render those for sure when you're happy with the sound. If you have any effects on those that you know are the sound, that it needs...render that on there at the same time.

Once you've done that and it's a new .wav file, import that on a new track. You can then treat that like any other track, adding effects, etc. But at least now you don't have a VSTi inserted and hopefully a few less effects. This will save you tons of CPU.

Buy a new computer will help a bit, but as mentioned you need to know how to do this as large projects can just stack up tracks on tracks on tracks and cause nearly anything to choke down.

Now that you know it's called "rendering tracks" or "rendering stems" or "printing tracks" look up some articles online that will be way more in depth than anything we write here.
Thanks! I understand.. I will search for some tutorials! Hopefully Ill find something
Old 16th August 2014
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zigziglar View Post
Also, latencymon allows you to actually find the source of the latency. Check out this optimization write up by NI.

That being said, if the CPU meter is maximized when the artefacts begin, this is not a driver or OS issue; it is because the onboard audio interface does not have any DSP processing and the full processing demand is on the CPU, which is outdated by todays standards. You have a few options; free = render/print completed softsynth/drum tracks before adding new ones, and get to know your PC and its CPU limits in FL OR; buy a new laptop and keep the old one as a general purpose system and dedicate the new one as a DAW. I think windows based DAWs that are multipurpose are a disaster waiting to happen. You really want to isolate them from the internet, minimise redundant background services and optimise the crap out of it for audio performance. If the new PC with onboard audio and asio4all still has issues, I'd then look into a USB2.0 interface.
I run Windows 8 but i guess it´s the same I will read the optimizing guide, thanks!
Old 16th August 2014
  #23
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[QUOTE=Neonknight;10323644]I agree to an extent, the ideal would of course be a completely separate powerful computer for the DAW that you never use for anything else, using dual boot instead with a separate boot option for the DAW you can pretty much get this though without having to use two separate computers.

I personally treat my DAW boot option as a closed system with no network, no programs that isnt needed for the DAW, no antivirus/firewall, no windows updates etc and the installation is tuned as much as possible for DAW work.

It sounds a bit dangerous if you don´t know what you are doing.. may the dual boot damage the computer?
Old 16th August 2014
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filipv View Post
What processor do you have? RAM?

What audio driver do you use? MME? DirectX? ASIO?

I find it very unusual for a modern CPU to be put on its knees. It takes more than few VSTs to do that. If it is not a decade old computer, I suspect the problem lies elsewhere.

Download CPU-Z if you are not sure which components exactly are inside your computer.
Drivers: ASIO4ALL

Processor: Intel core i3 2348M 2.30GHZ

Ram: 6GB RAM 5.88GB available
Old 16th August 2014
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henke96 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neonknight View Post
I agree to an extent, the ideal would of course be a completely separate powerful computer for the DAW that you never use for anything else, using dual boot instead with a separate boot option for the DAW you can pretty much get this though without having to use two separate computers

I personally treat my DAW boot option as a closed system with no network, no programs that isnt needed for the DAW, no antivirus/firewall, no windows updates etc and the installation is tuned as much as possible for DAW work..
It sounds a bit dangerous if you don´t know what you are doing.. may the dual boot damage the computer?
Well, maybe you can call it dangerous if you dont know what you are doing... It certainly wont destroy your computer, but in absolutely worst case you may have to reinstall everything on the harddrive (windows etc) and you might loose your files unless you have them backed up which i highly recommend anyway since a harddrive like all electronics may fail at any time in reality.

It doesnt take a degree in computer science to do it, but you should at least be comfortable with formating and partitioning harddrives and installing windows.

I havent done this with windows 8 that you say you are using just with XP and 7 which i currently use, so i cant say personally how well it even works with windows 8. Also Latency checker apparently doesnt work on windows 8 according to their site, maybe Latencymon works.
Old 16th August 2014
  #26
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filipv's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by henke96 View Post
Drivers: ASIO4ALL

Processor: Intel core i3 2348M 2.30GHZ

Ram: 6GB RAM 5.88GB available
For music production that's a pretty powerful configuration (no matter what technological snobs may say). I'd try optimizing instruments and effects. Does that pad REALLY need so many layers of synths and reverbs?

My point is: if you managed to put an i3 to its knees, you'd probably do the same to the most powerful i7 there is.

Remember that "real" studios usualy have few synths and effects and use them creatively to create amazing music. You don't need billion of synths and effects for big sounds.
Old 17th August 2014
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neonknight View Post
Well, maybe you can call it dangerous if you dont know what you are doing... It certainly wont destroy your computer, but in absolutely worst case you may have to reinstall everything on the harddrive (windows etc) and you might loose your files unless you have them backed up which i highly recommend anyway since a harddrive like all electronics may fail at any time in reality.

It doesnt take a degree in computer science to do it, but you should at least be comfortable with formating and partitioning harddrives and installing windows.

I havent done this with windows 8 that you say you are using just with XP and 7 which i currently use, so i cant say personally how well it even works with windows 8. Also Latency checker apparently doesnt work on windows 8 according to their site, maybe Latencymon works.
Ok i think i won´t do it.. yes the latencymon works for Win 8 thanks!
Old 17th August 2014
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filipv View Post
For music production that's a pretty powerful configuration (no matter what technological snobs may say). I'd try optimizing instruments and effects. Does that pad REALLY need so many layers of synths and reverbs?

My point is: if you managed to put an i3 to its knees, you'd probably do the same to the most powerful i7 there is.

Remember that "real" studios usualy have few synths and effects and use them creatively to create amazing music. You don't need billion of synths and effects for big sounds.
Yes you are probably right.. I´ll try to keep it more simple
Old 25th August 2014
  #29
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Dual booting is a sensible and clever solution if you only have one computer. I have a PC for general stuff/gaming and a dedicated laptop as a DAW, personally, so I don't really need it to dual boot.

The laptop specifications listed should be able to handle a fair bit of soft synth processing, but when you're triggering a VSTi in real time (ie using a MIDI controller and monitoring through the VSTi and recording at the same time - this process is very demanding and little things like an upgrade from a slower 5200rpm HD to a faster 7200RPM or SSD drive can make all the difference here.

Before spending any more money though, I would first start a new project, load up your favourite soft synth and see how it handles real time processing (as above). If you are experiencing drop outs or other issues, then I would start the process of fault finding with latencymon and DPC latency checker, as this is very unlikely to be caused by a bottle neck in laptop performance.
Old 25th August 2014
  #30
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krushing's Avatar
I don't think it was mentioned yet, but FL (among other DAWs) to my knowledge also has a "track freezing" function - this also renders the track as audio but also retains the original plugin chain in the background, so in case changes are needed, you can "unfreeze" the track and do your thing.
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