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Katatsumuri

External sound card to help CPU stress?

4 posts in this topic

Hello. Hope to find an answer to this little problem of mine.

I sometimes run Ableton Live 8.2 on a Samsung laptop (windows 8 64bit). When playing above around 8 tracks with effects ecc (without "freezing" them) the CPU load indicator tends to go over 100% and everything is messed up. The bottleneck of this computer is clearly the CPU: it's and AMD A6 4455 "trinity"(dual core). It's clearly not a great processor but it's still brand new and I thought it could handle some more stress by Ableton.

Now, my question is:

Would an external sound card help taking off some CPU stress when processing audio?

In that case, what kind of external sound card should I buy? (I'd like to buy one anyways)

Thank you in advance.

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Welcome to SoundPunk!

What's running on these 8 channels? Just some audio and light effects, or serious soft synth plug-ins?

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It's just midi loops. Well, some instruments are loaded with effect chains (both midi and audio) and one of them is a vst (but removing it does not change much).

Actually I tried running the same project again and this time it worked fine (CPU load indicator always below 80%, no problems with outgoing audio). Can't explain why since I had the same exact routine tasks open in the background and both times the laptop was plugged in. Anyway: 80% of CPU load is still concerning and I'd like to know whether an external sound card would help reducing CPU stress. As I wrote in the previous post I'd buy one anyways since I need inputs and outputs.

Is there a particular kind of sound card that would help solving the CPU load problem?

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External sound card, no. External DSP processor, yes.

The sound card is only there to convert the digital signal to Audio/analogue... it's not going to help with VSTi's, VST's or any kind of virtual processing.

Without knowing what CPU you have and the hardware config it's not easy to recommend anything specific. However, a few general rules:

1. If you have a virus scanner, disable "real time" scanning. Every time your computer or software writes to disk, the virus software will be blocking the write and reading the data to check it. This loads things up badly and slows things down. Audio apps do a lot of hard disk reads/writes... so turning those sorts of things off make a big difference.

2. Add more RAM. The more RAM you have, the faster everything goes as all OS's on personal computers (OSX and Windows and Linux etc.) use a paging system or swap system. This means they write stuff to the Hard disk instead of putting it in RAM and the less RAM you have, the more they page/swap on to the HDD to try and use the fast RAM where the OS thinks it's needed.

3. Drivers under Windows are a big deal. If you're using an inbuilt soundcard with an ASIO compatible program (e.g. Ableton or Cubase) go to ASIO4ALL and download a free ASIO driver for your sound card. This makes a HUGE difference to processor load and speed. An external soundcard will have these 'better' drivers/interface and will seem like it's making things quicker.... or you could just try putting some ASIO drivers on your soundcard. If it's a Mac, there's no issue because CoreAudio is quite efficient.

4. Faster CPU. Obvious one... but not knowing what you're running, you may already have hardware good enough to handle it.

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