I just built a new machine for Cubase. My old machine was an i7-4770k running Windows 7. It was a pretty good machine but it couldn’t handle some Serum patches I wanted to use without falling over and I had maxed out my I/O. Too many things plugged in, not enough channels.
I wanted to have more cores so I opted for an i7-6900, I did some research on motherboards and it looked like the MSI X99a Carbon Pro Gaming had the right characteristics for music, low DPC latency, lots of USB ports, M2 support, lots of SATA ports, etc. I also made the decision to move to Windows 10.
The last time I did a build/clean install, I forgot to transfer my Waves licenses to the cloud and made a couple other unrecoverable mistakes, I was determined not to do that this time. Transitioning to the new box was pretty painless this time.
I then went about configuring the box for music. I turned off all the BIOS settings for EIST, Turbo Boost, etc and made the corresponding power management tweaks to the OS. I also uninstalled all the apps and killed the associated services (registry hack), apparently I was a bit overzealous and turned off and uninstalled a little too much, I had to reinstall calculator, it’s still not 100% but it works if I search for it.
I reinstalled my FW card and hooked up my Apollo FW Quad to it and did a fresh Cubase 9 install. I kept getting error messages from the UAD interface that it was disabled due to being in a sleep state during initialization and projects would drop out with various cryptic error numbers and messages. I knew I disabled everything possible related to sleep and selective suspend. I concluded that it just wasn’t happy with Windows 10. OK, now I need a new interface, I have a UAD Octo card so I’m only going to loose a little DSP bandwidth if I replace the Apollo.
I ordered a new Antelope Orion 32 HD interface. Plenty of I/O, pretty much exactly what I needed. I initially plugged it into the back panel USB 3 ports and it promptly screwed up the BIOS. After fixing that, I plugged it into a front panel USB 3 port and it seemed to work, at least the machine booted. Even the front panel USB 3 port was flaky, sometimes it would work, most of the time it wouldn’t. When I played audio through it, it sounded like vinyl, lots of crackling and pops. ARGH!! After two consecutive mornings with Antelope tech support, we determined that it might be a USB 3 issue, it worked great on USB 2 but with only 8 channels. I got a couple USB cards based on the Fresco 1100 chip (Inatech, Sonnet), surely one of those should work. Both cards worked fine to communicate with the device, no problems flashing it or running the control panel, but neither of them could handle sending audio to the unit. Media player slomo bar graphs, test sound turned on the signal light on the control panel with no sound.
At that point, I was ready to call Sweetwater and return the unit, then I stumbled across an article on the Reaper forum related to the original Orion 32 and using an external USB powered hub. The high end USB 3 interfaces didn’t work with an external hub (ANKER), but the front panel ones seemed to work just fine. I’ve been using it all weekend with no audio problems, knock on wood.
A bit out of order, but still significant. It turns out that none of the back panel USB 3 ports work correctly on the MSI motherboard. I ran into an issue where my MOTU 128 was plugged into one of them where Cubase would not exit, it would hang the OS, tracking it down from a DMP file with WinDbg it turns out it was waiting on WinNT:CloseHandle which didn’t return. Unplugging the MOTU 128 allowed the OS to exit cleanly. Further evidence that the back panel USB 3 ports are problematic was that my eLicenser bailed when plugged into one of them. I ended up moving my misc USB I/O to the Fresco chip, no problems.
Now that I’ve got most things under control, I’m seeing around 75% improvement. Patches that were around 100+% are now hitting around 50%. Still watching performance. Not perfect, but better. At least it runs cool, pretty much everything is running at ambient temp.