Audio interfaces slow on Windows 10 (partially solved)


#1

I have a Focusrite 2i4 and a Behringer umc22, both of which work like a charm on my 2011 macbook pro (approaching 8y old!). Mainly I use Garageband, Bias FX and Overloud for playing/recording.

At work I was given a 2018 surface pro with windows 10 and decided to try my interfaces / guitar amplification softwares on it. I get loads of lag in the best case scenario (bias FX at the lowest sampling rate), and unusable sound quality (pretty much a white noise output) in the worst case (Overloud - any setting). Deactivating all the “background apps” only mitigates the issue, but the thing remains unusable.

I googled a bit and it seems Windows 10 may have serious issues in managing external audio interfaces. Is this a common problem? Am I getting some basic settings wrong? Is there a magical audio driver I should install? Is perhaps the surface pro not powerful enough? Or is Windows simply not an option for musicians?

I find it appalling that a 2018 machine should perform so poorly - especially compared to an 8y old mac!


#2

I’d bet on that if we assume you’ve installed the proper drivers and are in ASIO mode with your software, which is worth double-checking. The Surface Pro 2017 has at best 2 cores (4 threads) rated at 2.5GHz with a max Turbo frequency of 4.0GHz, which doesn’t seem at least completely terrible… until you consider that it has no active cooling solution and will most likely throttle most of the time; and that is if it’s not designed not to run at max speed when not plugged into sector (which is the default behaviour of most battery powered systems). Nevermind that a two core solution will struggle with most modern multitasking. The cheapest version has a measly 2 cores (4threads) rated at 1GHz with a Turbo at 2.6… The qualities of the Surface Pro are its drawbacks: it’s light, portable, and therefore underpowered when compared to even “proper” laptops; nevermind desktops. I mean, it looks like what’s pictured below (version with the weakest processor): it’s essentially a tablet with a keyboard attached to it.

On the bigger scope of things, processors at least in x86 and x64 instructions sets (disregarding ARM) haven’t made much progress in a long, LONG time due to a lack of competition from AMD and complacency from Intel. Now that AMD competes properly at least at desktop and server level, things should change. Maybe. Or maybe we’ll get ARM laptops, who knows. Therefore I wouldn’t be surprised that your MacBook is way more powerful, even though it was made 6 or 7 years before your Surface.


#3

Thank you @Lukhas, what you say makes a lot of sense. I guess I was overly optimistic, knowing that some tablets and even smartphones can run guitar amp sims pretty well. But I guess those apps may be much “lighter” versions of the softwares I was trying to use.

Conversely, has anyone had a good experience using a (decently powered) Windows 10 machine for guitar purposes?


#4

I do, but I just run one or two amp sims, and the computers have little in common with your surface. There’s my gaming PC that runs a i5-6600K (4C/4T OC’d at 4.5GHz), and my Dell Precision M6600 which is portable in name only that runs a i7-2920XM (4C/8T at 2.5 GHz, Turbo up to 3.5GHz).

I use a Steinberg UR22 interface and REAPER, on which I keep things fairly basic: one instance of Mercuriall Spark, one instance of Mercuriall ReAxis. My desktop runs 32 samples of latency, my laptop 48 samples but it’s more comfortable at 64 samples. I always use the High Performance mode power plan on my desktop as the fluctuations in CPU speed increase latency, but I’m always at 64 samples or under on either computer.

I use this as my “amp” setup. I don’t have an actual amplifier at the moment. Since it’s fairly basic, I cannot testify for huge projects on Windows 10.


#5

I’ve had my current Win10 PC for almost two years now. I haven’t noticed any problems when working with audio (at least no more than you would expect when doinig just about anything on Windows). Even fairly big projects with a lot of orchestral VSTs and effects have been completely fine.

I have an i7 running at 4 Ghz, but it never gets used too much by an amp sim, so you really shouldn’t need anything this powerful. Check how much of the CPU is being used, that should tell you if it’s just unable to keep up or if the problem is with the interface.


#6

I have the 2i4 as well on Windows 10 laptop (~5 years old i7, originally not Windows 10). I use Guitar Rig with around 10ms latency if I am not mistaken - I have not messed with buffer etc enough to optimize.

I think Focusrite is just plug n play on Mac but needs a driver on Windows - as Lukhas said make sure you have installed the driver. You can find it here https://customer.focusrite.com/support/downloads?brand=Focusrite&product_by_type=350&download_type=all


#7

Oh thank you all, the correct driver from Focusrite seemed to fix the problem for my 2i4! In hindsight I had missed a pretty basic thing :sweat_smile:
The performance of the surface is of course not crazy high but finally the setup is usable for practicing :slight_smile:

Unfortunately I couldn’t yet find the appropriate driver for the behringer UMC22 (if it exists) - I’ll try to google some more later today.