Audio Interface Recommendations

Jeremy Spencer

Senior Member
Asio load, what is that? Driver load? Asio has to do with getting audio in and out of the software. Your cpu is involved. More plugins means more cpu and asio doesn’t touch your plugins but if both plugins and asio are using cpu then....

I suspect you need to run a larger buffer for all you’re plugins
^ this.

I doubt you need to run at 128, and really, the brand of interface will not have much to do with your latency issues. The RME and Apollo are both high end interfaces. Like I mentioned, even something like the Steinberg UR22 will suffice, it actually has zero latency monitoring. I used to run 150+ tracks while scoring top pic without issue on my old i7 2700k and Cubase 7. If you go Thunderbolt, running at 128 will be a non issue, but I doubt you really need to go down that road.
 
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dman007

dman007

Active Member
The top meter in the performance meter is supposed to represent cpu load. But it doesn't. On every system I've had since Cubase 7.5, that meter bears no resemblance to the actual CPU load and usage. When the real-time gets more than 85-ish, the sound quality starts to break (no matter what interface I've tried) and crackles and pops and dropouts soon follow (as expected). But it doesn't seem to take much to get there in Cubase. (see https://www.reddit.com/r/cubase/comments/86lhfd/cubase_95_asio_performance_vs_cpu_usage_in_win10/

But that top figure has never reliably shown the cpu load and support once told me it more represents the load placed across the whole "architecture". Just been looking at it now, project with 103 tracks, *lots* of plug-ins and virtual instruments. At 512 buffers, the top meter is at like 90% (I say like as there's no figure given on the meter). But on playback, the CPU max barely touches 22%. The meter drops below 50% if I change the buffer to 768 and even less if I go up to 1024. CPU usage is actually less, at 16%. This is a similar pattern to what I've always had with Cubase with different interfaces and PCs. Cubase ASIO meter going extreme whilst CPU relaxing in the sun! This is may more a Cubase thing... I got very different results with the UR22 than the Saffire... I'd like to know if there are particular interfaces that work better with Cubase.
 

heisenberg

Senior Member
Some plug-ins carry a fair bit of latency with them, though... So surely, on playback (mixing etc), if you've got 30/40 tracks+ with VST plug-ins (tracks being VST instruments, audio, FX, busses/groups, mix bus) you wouldn't want a low buffer setting? Wouldn't there simply be too much processing to do with the lower settings (and thus dropouts/crackles etc)?

CPU is i7-6800k @ 4.3Ghz (12 core)
Not to stop you on your hunt for a new audio interface, but everything you say about your problem tells me that VEPro is the solution for your problem. If Cubase is brought to its knees with too many VSTs, you either turn off tracks in Cubase or use VEPro along side Cubase to route the VST / ASIO crunching to VEPro. You do not have to run a slave machine for the kind of track numbers you have mentioned. It will certainly do the job, however it comes with a learning curve and the stomach to deal with the extra midi and audio routing that is required for each track. In other words, if you tend to use the same instruments a lot or are willing to work this way, you should consider this approach to solve the actual problem you have with Cubase bogging down.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
so as you can see, larger buffer setting makes more efficient use of the CPU...thus all your plugins work without breaking sweat and much less likely to suffer audio dropouts. You want to use a larger buffer with so many plugins, there is not much way around that.

Understand that at a simple level, the way DAW's work is that they have an audio buffer they use to interact with the sound card. Cubase will work away and attempt to fill up the audio buffer using whatever portion of cpu time they have available. Cubase has to share the CPU with Windows and many other services running on the system, so it only gets some of the available CPU time. Every time cubase gets some cpu time to crunch, it adds a little more to the audio buffer. Hopefully it fills the buffer up before the amount of time represented by that buffer has passed, because when that time has passed, the buffer gets sent to the sound card as one big lump sum, ready or not. If the buffer is not completely filled, then you have audio drop outs. If Cubase and your cpu are able to get it filled before the time is up, then no drop outs. Simple as that.

When the buffer is larger, there is more time, and Cubase gets more breathing room to use the CPU and get the larger buffer filled and everything is just more efficient, so that CPU is used less and everything is working less, rather than having to send smaller buffers twice as many times or more...one larger buffer at a time is sent to the sound card...its more efficient...but....that larger buffer means that much latency to the sound card.

Larger buffer means cpu works less and that means you can have more plugins working at a time to try to fill up the buffer... Its as simple as that...

Getting a fancier sound card will not improve your plugin performance one iota. It will make it possible for you to use smaller buffer sizes and lower latency, but your CPU will be working even harder then which means you will get dropouts even sooner with less plugins.

As I said before you might be able to use a moderate buffer size, such as 256 or 512 and have a few ms less of latency then other cards if you buy an expensive fancy one, but I don't think a few ms is going to make much difference to you really. The only thing that will help you is making the audio buffer bigger. If the latency is just too bad (without any plugins) using 512, then a faster sound card might make it marginally less latent, but not very much. And if you have plugins adding latency of their own, your sound card cannot do ANYTHING about that.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
I'm not really familiar with that interface, but I don't think you are going to get higher plugin counts with anything else. If that audio interface already provides the features you need and sounds good to you, then I would not spend money on anything else.

I have been using 15-20 year old MOTU audio interface for quite some time and it works just fine. I recently switched to X32-rack as my interface, which actually is slightly higher latency then the older motu gear, but has a lot of other features that I find useful.

Basically you need to put up with latency when you have a lot of plugins, especially if any of them are introducing their own plugin latency on top of the mid-to-large buffer you need to have a lot of plugins engaged. If you need low latency in order to track one part in, then disable all the plugins you can while you record in the part, then go back to large buffer when you turn them all back on again. This is the hassle of working with a digital DAW there is simply not much of a way around it. You already have a pretty darn fast CPU and machine, but a buffer size of 128 is getting pretty small for all the plugins you want to use. You'll have to go to 256 or even 512 and there will be latency. Its possible that some PCI card like RME might make the latency at 512 more tolerable, you will have to check specs and talk to actual RME users to find out what kind of latency they get at 512 buffer size. But bear in mind that when you get lower latency, it still comes down to your CPU having to process all those plugins in whatever length of time it takes to fill the buffer...so...its still the same problem...if you have a lot of plugins, your cpu needs the time to do what it does..and an extra low latency card is simply not going to do much for you.
 

tack

Damned Dirty Ape
The top meter in the performance meter is supposed to represent cpu load. But it doesn't. On every system I've had since Cubase 7.5, that meter bears no resemblance to the actual CPU load and usage. When the real-time gets more than 85-ish, the sound quality starts to break (no matter what interface I've tried) and crackles and pops and dropouts soon follow (as expected).
This type of thing is almost always explained metric resolution. Current CPU load is polled on an interval, let's say every 100ms if I'm being generous (it's not usually that frequent but it illustrates the point) and as you run closer to the wall, you significantly increase your likelihood of transient spikes hitting that wall which will almost certainly occur between CPU load measurement intervals.

Consider a 256 sample buffer at 48kHz: this works out to about 5ms of audio. This means your DAW's audio thread needs to keep a steady supply of data to that buffer every 5ms, and you could easily have a solid 50ms CPU spike that causes buffer underruns (manifesting as the dreaded clicks and pops) without even noticing it on your CPU meter.

Reaper addresses this by providing a couple extra metrics in its performance meter, notably RT longest block. RT longest block actually measures the maximum time the audio thread was waiting (on other processing threads) to get data into the ASIO buffer across some larger sliding window (15-30 seconds maybe?). If RT longest block exceeds your ASIO buffer (5.3ms at 256 samples) then your system isn't able to deliver audio fast enough and you'll almost certainly hear the clicks/pops, in which case you either need a bigger buffer, or need to get your system processing data faster (which in turn would just lower your overall CPU utilization).

so as you can see, larger buffer setting makes more efficient use of the CPU
And so it's not quite that. It's just that larger buffers help to smooth over these transient spikes. But your CPU is no more efficient at processing the data.
 
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labornvain

Active Member
This whole thread is very confusing to me. I could have sworn I read that you, as a top priority, we're wanting 2 be able to have more VST Instruments running simultaneously. And yet you keep talking about plugins. Maybe it's just semantics, but usually plugins refer to effects and not VST Instruments. Now, I only point this out because they are very different things and require very different solutions to the problem.

If it is indeed your priority to be able to run more VST Instruments simultaneously, then a new interface is not going to help. A new CPU is probably not going to help much either. Your current CPU a 6800 X I think it was, is a pretty rockin CPU. What you really need is another computer, slaved using VEPro. I can't think of another thing you could do in your price range that could get you even close to the number of additional VST Instruments then running a Slave.

As for plugins, that's a whole other issue. But see, usually the only time you need that many plugins, is during mix down. And during mixdown you can crank your buffer settings because latency isn't such a critical issue.

But even here, the interface is not going to matter. Pretty much all that matters with effects plugins is CPU power.

So unless I've missed something, which is highly possible, it seems to me your best bet would be to look for a used copy of VE Pro or shell out the $350 that it costs, and buy a cheap gaming computer. I can't think of anything that would up your VST instrument count more than that.
 

heisenberg

Senior Member
If it is indeed your priority to be able to run more VST Instruments simultaneously, then a new interface is not going to help. A new CPU is probably not going to help much either. Your current CPU a 6800 X I think it was, is a pretty rockin CPU. What you really need is another computer, slaved using VEPro. I can't think of another thing you could do in your price range that could get you even close to the number of additional VST Instruments then running a Slave.

So unless I've missed something, which is highly possible, it seems to me your best bet would be to look for a used copy of VE Pro or shell out the $350 that it costs, and buy a cheap gaming computer. I can't think of anything that would up your VST instrument count more than that.
I don't think he needs a slave with that machine. It is astounding how much more VST/ASIO processing grunt you get with VEPro running on the same machine. He's got 64 GBs of RAM. VEPro and a bunch of time learning it will fix him up nicely. I reduced my audio buffer from 1024 to 512 when I began using VEPro on the same machine and I can run lots of instances of DRONAR, Heavyocity libraries, Phobos, etc in VEPro and my machine doesn't break a sweat. BTW my CPU is an overclocked i7 3930k, ancient in comparison to the i7 6800k being talked about here.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
And so it's not quite that. It's just that larger buffers help to smooth over these transient spikes. But your CPU is no more efficient at processing the data.
What I said is that a larger buffer "makes more efficient use of the CPU" which is absolutely true. I wasn't meaning to say that the cpu somehow magically processes data faster, but it will be used more efficiently yes and thus audio data processing WILL be more efficient.
 
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dman007

dman007

Active Member
This whole thread is very confusing to me. I could have sworn I read that you, as a top priority, we're wanting 2 be able to have more VST Instruments running simultaneously. And yet you keep talking about plugins. Maybe it's just semantics, but usually plugins refer to effects and not VST Instruments. Now, I only point this out because they are very different things and require very different solutions to the problem.

If it is indeed your priority to be able to run more VST Instruments simultaneously, then a new interface is not going to help. A new CPU is probably not going to help much either. Your current CPU a 6800 X I think it was, is a pretty rockin CPU. What you really need is another computer, slaved using VEPro. I can't think of another thing you could do in your price range that could get you even close to the number of additional VST Instruments then running a Slave.

As for plugins, that's a whole other issue. But see, usually the only time you need that many plugins, is during mix down. And during mixdown you can crank your buffer settings because latency isn't such a critical issue.

But even here, the interface is not going to matter. Pretty much all that matters with effects plugins is CPU power.

So unless I've missed something, which is highly possible, it seems to me your best bet would be to look for a used copy of VE Pro or shell out the $350 that it costs, and buy a cheap gaming computer. I can't think of anything that would up your VST instrument count more than that.
It's both being able to use more VST Instruments and VST plug-ins
 
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dman007

dman007

Active Member
I don't think he needs a slave with that machine. It is astounding how much more VST/ASIO processing grunt you get with VEPro running on the same machine. He's got 64 GBs of RAM. VEPro and a bunch of time learning it will fix him up nicely. I reduced my audio buffer from 1024 to 512 when I began using VEPro on the same machine and I can run lots of instances of DRONAR, Heavyocity libraries, Phobos, etc in VEPro and my machine doesn't break a sweat. BTW my CPU is an overclocked i7 3930k, ancient in comparison to the i7 6800k being talked about here.
This is interesing to me.. how does it work on one machine?

Could I get, for example, 200 VST instrument tracks (using samples), lots of plug-ins, plug-ins on busses/groups/fx tracks running okay like this?
 

labornvain

Active Member
It's both being able to use more VST Instruments and VST plug-ins
Okay. Well, generally speaking, if you want more plugins you need a faster CPU. If you want more instances of kontakt, you need more RAM.

So with that in mind, it sounds like your best option is to go with a UAD interface so that you can load more plugins without having to upgrade your CPU since the uad has its own processor built-in. You can find a used Apollo on eBay for around $500 that will run a lot uad plugins natively.

Then, you can take your other $500 and buy another 64 gigabytes of RAM. The Apollo will sound great and give you lots of new plugin toys to play with. And the ram will buy you more instances of kontakt.
 

Michelob

Pouet pouet !
I don't know if USB2 is a problem regarding big VST use. Here I'm using RME HDSP9632, PCIe connecting, which is really fast. No phantom though, but ADAT protocol. RME is really good.
 
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dman007

dman007

Active Member
The UAD plug-ins would be a good way to off-load some of the CPU processing. That is the only reason I've see to get the Apollo over the RME Babyface Pro. It's annoying there is no MIDI In on the Apollo.

I'm in no way interested in upgrading the CPU, as no matter how high the Cubase Asio meter reports, actual CPU usage is not high at all, less than 20% on even the larger projects. There's one project where it occasionally hits 23%.

My RAM isn't being hit that hard either (64GB). Usually around 40GB free on larger projects. Although, more RAM would not hurt, there's plenty going unused.

I'm going to look into Vienna Ensemble Pro 6. But I still might "upgrade" the audio interface.
 
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dman007

dman007

Active Member
I don't know if USB2 is a problem regarding big VST use. Here I'm using RME HDSP9632, PCIe connecting, which is really fast. No phantom though, but ADAT protocol. RME is really good.
Being directly on PCIe, that's something I'd wondered about. The interface I use is on FireWire 400.
 

Michelob

Pouet pouet !
I guess all those inputs are ok... Well in fact I don't even know if there's any difference, if any og them causes eventual bottleneck...