So you bought an audio recording interface, followed all the instructions, and set everything up. Now what?
A typical PC or Mac recording setup may contain software and hardware products from a dozen or more companies. i.e. Dell, Microsoft, Belkin, Steinberg, Syncrosoft, Waves, Universal Audio, Arturia, FXpansion, Native Instruments, Akai Pro, Alesis.
Even with a minimalist setup, getting all the separate hardware and software components to work together smoothly can be tricky. One component’s manual might not pick up exactly where the other one left off, and there are very few manuals which will discuss how to optimize your system over-all for the best performance.
In this article, will cover some measures you can take to optimize your system for maximum recording performance, prevent audio-dropouts and manage latency.
You can’t walk into a car dealership and buy a car that’s ready to enter a race. Even high-performance sports cars come tuned for the road, not the race track. Suspension, gearing, timing all need to be tweaked before a car is ready to be pushed to it’s limits.
The same is true of computers. While most new computers will perform well right out of the box, whether you buy a Mac, or a PC, you still have some work to do before you’ll see your new computer perform to it’s maximum potential. Recording and mixing music is one of the most demanding tasks you can ask of your computer, sometimes more taxing than professional graphics and video work.
The suggestions below can be used to squeeze more speed, more tracks, and more plugin-power out of any computer.
Before you begin, make sure that your recording software and your audio device drivers are up-to-date. Of course, visit alesis.com for the latest drivers for any of our products.
To disable the aero effects
To free up even more system resources
Every recording program has an options, settings or preferences page in which the user can adjust the buffer size. Buffer size governs the amount of time the computer is given to respond to requests (for audio processing in this case). The larger the buffer size, the more time the computer has to respond. Large buffer sizes allow the computer to handle more work, but at the cost of higher latency. Smaller buffer sizes reduce the overall amount of work the computer can handle, but it can do so with lower latency. Latency refers to the time it takes the computer to respond to input. If latency is high, signals routed into the computer and back out to speakers or headphones may be audibly delayed.
Buffer sizes should be adjusted in increments of 64 (64, 192, 128, 256, 512, 768, 1024 etc).
All Alesis recording interfaces include Steinberg’s Cubase LE 4 recording Software which allows you to record up to 8 inputs at a time, and mix-down up to 48 tracks. While the instructions below apply to the included software, they are easily adaptable to virtually any recording software program (i.e. Sonar, Logic Pro, Digital Performer or Ableton Live).
Note: Before you follow the steps below, make sure you’ve properly set up Cubase LE with your audio interface by following out Cubase LE4 Setup Guide.
In Cubase LE 4, select the Devices menu at the top of the screen and choose Device Setup. On the left-hand side of the window that opens, select VST Audio System.
Now, on the right-hand side of the window, next to Audio Buffer Size choose the buffer size which is appropriate for your situation.
A good example of latency is the time it takes for the computer to output a sound when a key is struck on a MIDI keyboard connected to it. In this situation, it is important to have low latency so that there is no audible delay between the time the key is struck, and when the note is heard.
Another situation in which it is important to have low latency is when using an amp-modeling plug-in for guitar or bass. The guitarist or bassist plugs directly into the audio interface, and uses a software plugin to emulate the sound of a guitar amplifier. Any delay between the time the player plucks a string and the time the note is heard would be disruptive to the performance.
In the modern digital studio, these two situations are essentially the only times in which it is important to have very low latency and buffer sizes.
Depending on the computer, a buffer size of 192, or 128 should result in very low latency suitable for the above situations.
A properly configured iO|14 or iO|26 can exhibit latency as low as 6ms. The human ear can not distinguish delays lower than 20-30ms.
All Alesis recording interfaces (and many other InMusic class-compliant products) feature zero latency input-monitoring. This makes monitoring live audio sources like microphones, keyboards, basses, MPCs etc effortless. When monitoring inputs like these, do so using the audio interface’s zero-latency monitoring feature as opposed to monitoring through the recording software. This way latency is never a factor.
The MasterControl allows you to create a zero-latency monitor mix right on the control surface’s faders. You can instantly switch back and forth from monitor mix control, to software DAW control by pressing the Direct Monitor button. When switching form one mode to another, the motorized faders snap right back into position where you last left them.
The MultiMix USB, iMultiMix USB, MultiMix USB 2.0, and MultiMix FireWire series of recording interfaces all feature integrated zero-latency analog mixers giving you full control over what you hear while you’re recording.
The iO|2 features a Monitor Mix knob that allows you blend a zero-latency input signal into your mix.
The only situations in which it is necessary to monitor through the recording software (as opposed to the HDM) are described above: monitoring MIDI input through a software instrument, or monitoring guitar through an amp modeling plugin.
When using the Alesis HDM Control Panel for your monitoring, you can set your buffer size to 1024 for maximum performance. This gives your computer more time to process things, which translates into more total tracks and plugins that can be handled