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The Art of Troubleshooting DAW Software
Old 6th May 2013
  #1
The Art of Troubleshooting

This is something I have been working on for the past 10 years. I am only now finding myself REALLY LIKING when I have to troubleshoot stuff. I am ENJOYING the challenge, and ENJOYING the results. I wish for this thread to discuss the process, likes and dislikes of troubleshooting procedures, any "pitfalls" of the time you spend doing it. Be sure to include any general "black art" skillz and stuff that comes in handy.

This is not only a "day-gig" for me, [because I am also an engineer with my own studio] but I have to help my clients daily over the phone, email and such [Because I am a Professional Gearslut] and I make a living helping my customers purchase "match made in heaven" boutique pro audio gear. I support my clients 24/7 to the best of my ability. Troubleshooting is an important aspect of my skill set. I want to keep growing it, beyond mear mortal abilities.

There is something intriguing me about the process of troubleshooting that grows your brain. It's like math....it forces you to think, and makes you keen to solve critical problems. All problem solving. A very important "human" aspect of audio engineering.

Discuss!

Old 6th May 2013
  #2
Village Idiot
 
Labs's Avatar
 

Had to troubleshoot a GssL I was building last weekend. Learned more than I did while building it...

Troubleshooting is finding solutions to problems instead of hunting for problems for solutions in the learning-process. I think its dialectic though...maybe not..just rambling..

Gustav
Old 6th May 2013
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Mixwell View Post
This is something I have been working on for the past 10 years. I am only now finding myself REALLY LIKING when I have to troubleshoot stuff. I am ENJOYING the challenge, and ENJOYING the results. I wish for this thread to discuss the process, likes and dislikes of troubleshooting procedures, any "pitfalls" of the time you spend doing it. Be sure to include any general "black art" skillz and stuff that comes in handy.

This is not only a "day-gig" for me, [because I am also an engineer with my own studio] but I have to help my clients daily over the phone, email and such [Because I am a Professional Gearslut] and I make a living helping my customers purchase "match made in heaven" boutique pro audio gear. I support my clients 24/7 to the best of my ability. Troubleshooting is an important aspect of my skill set. I want to keep growing it, beyond mear mortal abilities.

There is something intriguing me about the process of troubleshooting that grows your brain. It's like math....it forces you to think, and makes you keen to solve critical problems. All problem solving. A very important "human" aspect of audio engineering.

Discuss!

It's all about understanding signal flow and being able to apply logic to a given situation.

The first thing I do when I'm trying to figure out what's wrong with a given system, whether it's hardware or software, is to make sure I understand the signal flow from module to module, paying special attention to all interconnections.

I then simplify the system to the smallest testable module or subsystem to confirm that the core operation is functioning properly. If so, I add other modules or components (one at a time, if at all possible), testing as I go along.

It probably goes without saying that those who understand signal flow and basic electronic design (what functions different components and modules perform and how they are interconnected) and/or who understand software program flow will have a big leg up in sussing out these issues.

It's all about being able to break down an inteconnected set of conditional logic relations to individual subsystems for testing at basic levels and then adding complexity, testing as one goes.
Old 6th May 2013
  #4
Lives for gear
 
cavern's Avatar
 

Once you troubleshoot a problem,you never forget that solution as opposed to someone walking you through it or telling you.
Troubleshooting is the story of my life,not just my gear.
Old 6th May 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Silent Sound's Avatar
The thing I hate about troubleshooting is usually when I have to do it, I don't have time to waste, so I feel really under the gun.

Case in point, I was setting up my rig for a show two weeks ago at a festival. We were the first band to go on and the sound guys weren't incompetent, but they weren't seasoned veterans either. Anyway, my bass player sets up her rig first and plugs in and starts getting static and radio stations through her amp and the bass itself can barely be heard. I don't even have my stuff unloaded yet and I've got my bass player pissed at me because I won't stop what I'm doing to tell her what's wrong. Then the sound guys come over and start asking me questions about what's causing it. I don't know! I've never been to this venue before and that's not my bass rig!

So of course everyone is now mad at me because I'm telling them to troubleshoot the problem and find out for themselves because I still have to set up my own stuff and we're running short on time! "I don't know what's wrong" they say. "Find out" I say. "How do we do that?" they say. "Run down the line and eliminate one thing at a time" I say. "How do we do that?" they say. "Are you serious?" I say....

Eventually I got all of my stuff hooked up and working fine, and then went over to help my bass player and the two sound men who were still swapping out the instrument cable from the effects board to the amp. They had tried about seven different cables, because apparently the only trouble shooting step they knew of was to swap out that one cable. That took them 20 minutes. Once I got over there it took me three minutes to discover the power outlet she was plugged into was causing the static and the giant radio antenna right behind the building was causing the radio station to come through, which we couldn't do anything about. But you only noticed it in between songs, so it didn't matter. Running an extension cord to a different outlet fixed the static. I also found out while troubleshooting that apparently my bass player didn't know there was a difference between instrument cables and speaker cables. She had been connecting her 500 watt bass head to her cab with an instrument cable for years.
Old 6th May 2013
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Slikjmuzik's Avatar
 

For me it was understanding that I needed to plan out my procedure so as to avoid consequences. Pulling a cable that might not have needed pulling because I didn't take time to think things through is unsettling to say the least...

I learned to troubleshoot pretty well from having worked in live sound all through college. The head of the company would fill up a white van with the board, the amps, the speakers, cases of mics, stands, etc...many times, he'd leave a note on the drivers seat with just the address and a 'good luck'...I had many surprises with the gear he chose to stick in the back of that truck or van(he had a bout half a dozen different setups that he'd send me off with) and he knew I hated some of them with a passion cuz they were tough to ring out in a lot of rooms...most of the time he was just testing me and wanted me to just figure out how to make it work.

A few times he'd actually pack **** that he knew was broken... he'd put a pair of subs knowing one of them was blown...I'd get to the gig, I'd be freaking out and then I'd calm down after powering it up and realizing I could get through the gig with only one sub cuz it was a tiny little ballroom...I'd go back and bitch to him that he sent me off with a bum sub and he'd ask 'did you need it?'...my answer...only to hold up the other main...he'd just smile...

Best training ground ever...
Old 6th May 2013
  #7
I've recently had to up my trouble shooting skills. For a while I was getting very intermittent clicks in my recordings when working at a buffer lower than 256. It was so intermittent I couldn't identify what was causing it and I tried a lot of things. Finally I sent my conversion unit to the manufacture, they tested it and nothing was wrong, ugh. Got the unit back, fired up my system, click is still there, not surprising. So I reloaded my system from scratch, no click, hurray.

Last week I was doing some overdubs on a project and the click came back, AARRRGGH! I used the low latency mixer of my conversion unit and we got the overdub done, everyone goes home. There I sit, frustrated beyond belief. The only thing I could do was to reload my system yet again. This time I left out a piece of gear because it was the only thing I could find that was unique to my situation and something the conversion company wouldn't have tested with. My first gen Euphonix mc control. When Avid bought them I worried about how much effort if any they would put into making it work with Logic.

Spent a good couple hours playing guitar in new projects and existing ones to see if the click would come back. As of now it's completely gone and my system is super solid. Without the Eucontrol running constantly, which it does, starts up when the computer does, every thing works super snappy. When logic loads now it's much faster, before it would take a while starting up eucon support. The only thing I can think of is the eucontrol was requesting something during recording and glitching my system.

This was plaguing me for a few months and as of now it's totally resolved. I almost took a hammer to the eucontrol, still might.

So yeah, trouble shooting sucks but it's a massively important skill to have. Can't say I enjoyed the experience but I definitely learned some new things.
Old 6th May 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
 
jwh1192's Avatar
just finished finding out why a friends Cubase 7 system would not pass audio through inputs 3/4 ... the good thing is i could replicate here in my studio ... same issue until i toggled the track off and then on in visibility panel in the Mixer ...

a lot of troubleshooting requires you to have a semi-photographic memory as i usually get the calls right after i leave the studio, or on my bike while out for a ride for a beer (my reward) ... it is imperative, in my case, that you know your systems blindfolded and have a solid handle on signal flow of most gear, as you never know what the next call will be regarding. i work in the video world as well, so those calls can bridge audio / video / communications / labor / getting a quote for the Goodyear Blimp - i am happy to share this if anyone needs ... all sorts of things.

helped a VO woman yesterday with Gain Staging ... she likes to record without headphones so she needs a meter to watch ... her avalon 737 meter is right there to see but she was afraid to touch the knobs fearing she might make it worse - she could not make it much worse, haha, just a tweak here and a little compression to smooth her out ... and a little education of why i was moving those knobs in that way - lots of silly analogies to help people remember - like

"if you put to much water (amplification) into this 1st bucket (input gain stage) you will overflow the next bucket downstream (EQ) and so on down to your 3rd bucket (comp) and your last bucket (output gain stage) before it dumps into the drain (in this case Pro Tools Mbox with another gain stage from Line to Mic). the moral of this being you do not want to lose any water along the way but you must keep a good solid flow, so a Spill (distortion) makes a horrible mess that you will have to clean up later (post-production), IF the stains (overloads) are not to bad. it is better to keep the water flowing (signal flow) and a towel (cell phone with me on speed dial) near by."

there are some great horror stories over on the Remote Section of Gearslutz ...

cheers and where did that noise come from all of a sudden, Goose, is that you ???

john
Old 6th May 2013
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonwagner View Post
I've recently had to up my trouble shooting skills. For a while I was getting very intermittent clicks in my recordings when working at a buffer lower than 256. It was so intermittent I couldn't identify what was causing it and I tried a lot of things. Finally I sent my conversion unit to the manufacture, they tested it and nothing was wrong, ugh. Got the unit back, fired up my system, click is still there, not surprising. So I reloaded my system from scratch, no click, hurray. [...]
Yeah... sometimes it's just easier to tear it all down and start over, particularly with extremely complex interdependencies like we see in systems using general purpose computers. (And I have such an all-use system.) There can be hundreds, thousands of interdepencies and one or two ticks in the wrong place and the whole house o' cards comes tumbling down. Sometimes a clean install becomes not just the best path -- but the easiest. (And then, sometimes, you're doing a clean re-install and you realize you no longer have access to something, some driver, software, license, etc. And ain't that a treat? heh )
Old 6th May 2013
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Yeah... sometimes it's just easier to tear it all down and start over, particularly with extremely complex interdependencies like we see in systems using general purpose computers. (And I have such an all-use system.) There can be hundreds, thousands of interdepencies and one or two ticks in the wrong place and the whole house o' cards comes tumbling down. Sometimes a clean install becomes not just the best path -- but the easiest. (And then, sometimes, you're doing a clean re-install and you realize you no longer have access to something, some driver, software, license, etc. And ain't that a treat? heh )
Totally. Currently I use as little "computer stuff" as possible and plan to continue that way. I've whittled my plug ins down to UAD, Melodyne and Sound Toys. Some folks seem to love tinkering with computers, I just want to plug it in and have it work like it is supposed to.

Nothing is worse than having your system glitching in front of clients, it's the absolute worst f'ing thing, totally kills the vibe and makes me feel like crap.

This case was the worst ever though, glad it's over!

I should give kudos to Apogee, they really went above and beyond helping trouble shoot my system and testing my unit so thoroughly. It helped a lot knowing that it wasn't anything to do with my conversion system when trying to fix the glitch.
Old 6th May 2013
  #11
Gear Addict
I often find that the "Art of Troubleshooting" goes hand in hand with the "Attitide of Troubleshooting"

Every problem is a possibility to learn more. Too often I see people throw their hands up. They give up so easily claiming that they have no idea what to do. My response is usually to LOOK for something to do. You'll never feel confident until you start digging elbow deep.

Yeah. I've broken some things further when trying to fix. But I learned. Next time I'll be smarter and confidence can take you miles.
Old 20th May 2013
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Arthurelletson's Avatar
 

It's something that I have really come to enjoy too.
If you have a problem with a system, start with the smallest possible number of components and build your way up.

The only thing that I don't like trouble shooting is computer problems. This is because in the analog world you can get out a schematic and see exactly what is going on, but in a digital system I feel slightly blind not seeing exactly what is going on.


The two things that every studio should have are a bheringer cable tester (the one that can send out test tones) and a small guitar amp like a honneytone so you can test systems.
Old 20th May 2013
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthurelletson View Post
The only thing that I don't like trouble shooting is computer problems. This is because in the analog world you can get out a schematic and see exactly what is going on, but in a digital system I feel slightly blind not seeing exactly what is going on.
I hear that! But We are DSPdoc's over here!

Seems like Digital Audio problems can be "ghosts" and hard to pin down.

Same thinking applies though, just trace and eliminate.

It can be daunting, and honestly its all about having a very keen, long term experience with Digital, because you can break down the elements quicker and easier.

If you know your systems, that is!
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