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Thread: audio interface advice for laptop

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    stratmaster713 is offline Junior Member
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    audio interface advice for laptop

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    CURRENT SETUP:
    *Computer specs: HP HDX16 laptop, core2duo P8700 2.53GHz processor, vista 64bit OS, 4Gig RAM, running Cubase 5
    *PV8 analog mixer out into the line-in on my laptop.

    Problem:
    *When I am recording or playing back the recordings, the audio skips, freezes, cuts out, comes back, etc really badly and I can't take it any longer.
    *Seems to happen when I'm running larger projects with 10+ tracks, and effects

    Solution?
    *Buying an interface so I avoid the shitty on-board A/D in my laptop?

    Possible products I have found, thoughts?
    *Steinberg CI1 Advanced Integration USB Studio $100
    *Focusrite Saffire 6 USB Audio Interface $200
    *Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 FireWire Interface $500
    *Steinberg MR816X Firewire Interface $700(whats the difference between this and the $1k version???)
    *Steinberg MR816CSX Firewire Interface $1000

    My situation
    I'm in college, I rarely have the need to track more than 2 things at once, and I only have my laptop for now. Once I graduate, I'll have a dedicated recording computer, etc. I was planning on purchasing the Steinberg MR816X Firewire Interface once I build a dedicated computer in a year or so. So, should I just buy a cheaper unit <$200 for now and then later on purchase one of the 8ch input ones (and use the cheaper one for if I travel and use the laptop)? Or should I just go for one of the 8ch ones and call it done?

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    Bobbsy's Avatar
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    There's really two separate issues here.

    The problems with skipping and freezing is almost certainly down to your computer running out of processing power to handle things in real time.

    Before buying a new computer or more RAM there's a lot you can do to optimise things for audio. HERE'S one site to help you set things up (don't worry that it says Focusrite--it applies to anything) but Googling will find you lots of others. However, the first things I always do is shut down everything to do with networking/wifi and anti virus.

    Second, I'm not a Cubase user but you'll probably find it has a facility to freeze/lock tracks so that the effects on some of them to reduce the processor overload.

    Third, make sure the drivers for your sound interface are right up to date--and, if possible, using ASIO drivers since they're designed for this sort of thing and work with much less latency.

    However, if you're using an inbuilt sound card, there's no doubt that an external one will provide a hugely better recording quality for you. Whether it's better to invest in a multi channel one now or just a two channel with something bigger is something only you and your wallet can answer. It'll depend on the mix of multitrack vs two track stuff you record. The only thing I can say is that I personally find it useful to have a separate portable (an M Audio Mobile pre in my case) and a much larger one that works with my digital mixer--but that's just my way of working.

    I don't own any of the gear on your shortlist so I'll leave it to others to comment on your choices.

    Edited to add: Firewire seems to be a technology that is on it's way out and it's increasingly hard to find, especially in laptops. My present "big" interface is Firewire and I'm presently looking for a new laptop--and having the devil of a time getting something suitable. You may wish to factor this into your decision.
    The pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The optimist sees it as half full. The realist just drains the darn thing and gets a refill!

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    stratmaster713 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobbsy View Post
    There's really two separate issues here.

    The problems with skipping and freezing is almost certainly down to your computer running out of processing power to handle things in real time.

    Before buying a new computer or more RAM there's a lot you can do to optimise things for audio. HERE'S one site to help you set things up (don't worry that it says Focusrite--it applies to anything) but Googling will find you lots of others. However, the first things I always do is shut down everything to do with networking/wifi and anti virus.

    Second, I'm not a Cubase user but you'll probably find it has a facility to freeze/lock tracks so that the effects on some of them to reduce the processor overload.

    Third, make sure the drivers for your sound interface are right up to date--and, if possible, using ASIO drivers since they're designed for this sort of thing and work with much less latency.

    However, if you're using an inbuilt sound card, there's no doubt that an external one will provide a hugely better recording quality for you. Whether it's better to invest in a multi channel one now or just a two channel with something bigger is something only you and your wallet can answer. It'll depend on the mix of multitrack vs two track stuff you record. The only thing I can say is that I personally find it useful to have a separate portable (an M Audio Mobile pre in my case) and a much larger one that works with my digital mixer--but that's just my way of working.

    I don't own any of the gear on your shortlist so I'll leave it to others to comment on your choices.

    Edited to add: Firewire seems to be a technology that is on it's way out and it's increasingly hard to find, especially in laptops. My present "big" interface is Firewire and I'm presently looking for a new laptop--and having the devil of a time getting something suitable. You may wish to factor this into your decision.
    Under full load, the CPU and RAM both never above 45% usage. So, I'm pretty certain it's not the processing power that is the issue..? I checked my driver for the on-board sound on this laptop, and its the same generic HP driver as 20+ other laptops, and its newest release was from 2008 (seems like thats when I bought the laptop in the first place). Thank you for the article, I tried what it said and it still has the clips, cutouts, etc in cubase.

    When you purchase any of these units I listed, is it true that you have to install a whole new driver for them? And then, it totally bypasses the internal onboard sound of the laptop? Because if this is true, then that would make me believe buying a dedicated interface, even at only $100, would alleviate the problem given that it would theoretically come with all new drivers and a separate piece of hardware...

    Lets say an interface would solve my problems, then its a question of if I should drop the $500+ for the 8 channel units I originally planned on holding off for until I got a dedicated computer. Or just drop $100-200 for now on a unit I could use for now, and then use if I travel and need something easy for recording. Money really isnt an issue as long as it's a "smart" purchase.

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    stratmaster713 is offline Junior Member
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    anybody?

    or can anybody suggest their setup they use that works well with a laptop and does not have this issue?

    Edit: the driver was the problem. Downloaded AISO4all or whatever, and i've been using it with cubase for 4 hours straight now with ZERO issues
    Last edited by stratmaster713; 01-30-2012 at 19:09.

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    Bobbsy's Avatar
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    I'm glad ASIO4ALL sorted it out for now--I was about to suggest it then noticed your edit.

    As for your other problem, I personally find it useful to have a small, portable interface for some uses and a larger one that never leaves the studio but I "take the show on the road" quite often. In my case, I use an M Audio Mobile Pre mainly because it is fully USB bus powered meaning it's truly portable for location recording without needed to find a mains socket for my interface. Whether this is important to you, I can't know. However, the two interface solution works well for me.
    The pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The optimist sees it as half full. The realist just drains the darn thing and gets a refill!

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    stratmaster713 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobbsy View Post
    I'm glad ASIO4ALL sorted it out for now--I was about to suggest it then noticed your edit.

    As for your other problem, I personally find it useful to have a small, portable interface for some uses and a larger one that never leaves the studio but I "take the show on the road" quite often. In my case, I use an M Audio Mobile Pre mainly because it is fully USB bus powered meaning it's truly portable for location recording without needed to find a mains socket for my interface. Whether this is important to you, I can't know. However, the two interface solution works well for me.
    have you had any issues with that unit specifically? what OS are you running on your laptop?

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    Bobbsy's Avatar
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    No issues at all. I presently have two computers I can use, one running Windows 7 32 bit and the other is still on XP. However, before an upgrade it also ran fine on Vista.

    FYI, I also use it to input calibrated reference mics into some software I use to analyse room acoustics (SMAART if you want to look it up) and the quality is good enough to give me valid readings even in that situation.
    The pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The optimist sees it as half full. The realist just drains the darn thing and gets a refill!

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