After troubleshooting and research I need help!

Hello all! I have been trying to fix the infamous audio dropout/crackling/pops during playback on Cubase 6. Some help would be much appreciated!!

First, I use a dedicated Laptop for making music. It is a gateway off the shelf i5 430m, 4gigs ram, windows 7 64bit machine. I did the basic windows 7 tweaks, wireless, windows firewall etc. (it is not connected to internet).

Since I just got back into music production and recently purchased Cubase 6, I just used the supplied Realtek Audio device. I mostly produce dance music with a simple setup (1 USB midi controller with numerous VST’s/effects). The Realtek was working fine until the projects become bigger (more instances of Sylenth, massive etc.) Now it cracks and pops upon playback.

First, I installed my old M-audio fast track pro with updated drivers. It actually made it worse! After this, I installed asio4all along with fast track and it was still bad. Couldn’t set latency below 512. I then tried asio4all with RealTek and it worked a lot better. I could set the latency to 192 and it wouldn’t dropout, BUT the VST performance meter in cubase was peaking. I believe that 192 is still quite high for latency?

I ran DPC latency checker and Latencymon. At first, I was getting large lag spikes. After some tweaking (disabling LAptop battery setting in device manager), it went away and both programs said that my system was able to handle audio etc. Despite this, the dropouts continued.

I am wondering if this is an audio driver problem rather than Laptop hardware problem? Also, given my preference of music production (dance music with minimal components) Should I possibly upgrade hard drive etc? I am looking for or a long term solution.

I would like to continue using this laptop but if I need to upgrade then it can be done.

In my opinion you might be asking too much from that system. 4GB RAM is not a lot for 64-Bit Windows 7. The OS will probably use nearly 2GB itself. Depending on what type of VSTs you are running the rest could get chewed up in a hurry. Any chance you can install 8GB in that laptop. Are you running everything on your internal drive? Is it 7200 rpm? You might want to consider an external drive to run your samples from. Or you could try directing your projects to the external drive. eSATA connection would be the best option if available. Again, you want a 7200 rpm drive.
I’m surprised your Fast Track doesn’t work better than onboard audio with ASIO4ALL. Maybe the M-Audio driver is crap.
192 really isn’t that high of a latency setting for playback if you are running projects like you describe. Your processor isn’t exactly high performance by today’s standards. I have a laptop with a Core2Duo@2.4 running 64-Bit Windows 7 with 8GB RAM and a 7200 rpm WD Scorpio Black drive and it still chokes out pretty quickly especially at low latencies when I start adding a few heavy hitting VSTs.
Anyway, just a few of my thoughts. Hopefully someone else has some more opinions to share with you. If you are looking for something long term to use for these types of projects you might be better off financially to just bite the bullet and upgrade to a system with a better processor/more RAM/7200 rpm drive etc. than sinking money into improving your current one.

Hey I very much apreciate your input. I may have to upgrade my system. When you say redirect your projects to an external drive do you mean just saving and loading the projects with the external drive? Also, for samples, would this include stuff like vengeance sample packs/wav files or do you mean the VST’s and the files that came with it?

Of course the ASIO performance is related to the processing power and soundcard buffer size, so compromises need to be struck, with less processing power a higher buffer size needs to be used for glitch free operation.

The more FX plugins you use the more stress is put on the system, a system that can run glitch free with no plugins and a very small buffer size can well start glitching once several plugins are used, then the buffer size needs to be raised.

For reliable low latency work with many plugins a well configured and powerful system is needed.

You could try backing up a project and select the external drive as the new location and see if running it from there makes a difference. My guess would be it won’t help much considering the type of projects you are talking about. For samples the VST would generally still get installed to your operating system drive and the content to the secondary drive. If you are talking about streaming samples it might help. Samples that get loaded into RAM probably not.

It seems like you are just hitting the limits of what your system is capable of. As Split said, multiple VSTs at low latency settings is very demanding.

I’m by no means an expert on any of this. You will probably get more accurate responses from someone with more experience (like Split :smiley: ).

Ahh I see. Just to make sure I’m understanding the terminology here. For example, If I had Kontakt sampler, I would install the program to the internal drive and store the samples (wav files?) to the external drive?
Also, can you give a laymen explanation or possibly a link to the difference betwee streaming samples and RAM samples?