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Topic: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Good morning.

Since I have not been able to reduce my latency with my new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet as low as I would like (as I noted last time, I'm down to about a sixteenth note of audible delay, which is still fairly annoying), I will take EvilDragon's advice and go the route of an external audio interface.  This will also give me a more substantial way to plug in monitor speakers rather than using the mini plug adapter that comes from the tablet, or so I believe.

Considering that I do not anticipate using this for other audio devices (no microphone, guitar, antique Moog synthesizer, etc.), the only inputs that I believe I require are: MIDI in, MIDI out, headphone out, monitor left and right out, and USB (for both combined in and out).  It seems that I should be able to get the unit to meet these needs for between forty dollars and one hundred fifty dollars.

What brand and model you folks recommend suit these purposes?

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Check out this: Apogee Groove

Andrei Kuznetsov

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

I tried an inexpensive Behringer UCA222 but it wasn't any better than integrated audio; then a Sound Blaster E5 that has an enormous latency (60ms if I remember correctly) despite native Asio drivers, what a piece of crap.
If you have latency problems, I guess you have to go for a device specifically tailored to playing virtual instruments, not something generically "for audiophiles".
I settled with a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6.

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

The Apogee Groove is a DAC - that won't help interface my keyboard to my computer via Pianoteq. 

I saw the Komplete Audio6 for about $200 - certainly should work.

For about 1/2 of the Komplete cost is the Behringer 204HD, which is out of stock anyway, both at Sweetwater and at Amazon.

Also for about $100 is a PreSonus AudioBox USB - Anyone have any experience with that?

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

dklein wrote:

The Apogee Groove is a DAC - that won't help interface my keyboard to my computer via Pianoteq.

DAC stands for a "Digital to Analog Converter" and is a part of any USB audio interface, usually several of them plus ADC(s). Apogee Groove is a low latency ASIO capable computer interface without analog to digital converters. Since you mentioned that you need a minimalistic approach for Pianoteq playback only I considered this recommendation.

Last edited by AKM (01-12-2015 12:20)
Andrei Kuznetsov

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

AKM wrote:
dklein wrote:

The Apogee Groove is a DAC - that won't help interface my keyboard to my computer via Pianoteq.

DAC stands for a "Digital to Analog Converter" and is a part of any USB audio interface, usually several of them plus ADC(s). Apogee Groove is a low latency ASIO capable computer interface without analog to digital converters. Since you mentioned that you need a minimalistic approach for Pianoteq playback only I considered this recommendation.

Have you tried this with Pianoteq yourself?

Pianoteq Pro 5.7.1 - Linux Mint 17.3 - Mate Desktop

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

GRB wrote:
AKM wrote:
dklein wrote:

The Apogee Groove is a DAC - that won't help interface my keyboard to my computer via Pianoteq.

DAC stands for a "Digital to Analog Converter" and is a part of any USB audio interface, usually several of them plus ADC(s). Apogee Groove is a low latency ASIO capable computer interface without analog to digital converters. Since you mentioned that you need a minimalistic approach for Pianoteq playback only I considered this recommendation.

Have you tried this with Pianoteq yourself?

No.

Andrei Kuznetsov

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Not sure why there are latency problems with something like the Behringer mentioned. I have a cheap soundcard in my older Acer Aspire laptop, but the Behringer A202  (same as A222, different housing) USB interface works fine for me. Possibly I'm more tolerant of a little bit of latency, but it's certainly not more than a few milliseconds; frankly I can't detect it.

Amateur Standalone PTQ user; interests classical music, especially Bach and Mozart, and historic keyboards

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

oldionus wrote:

Not sure why there are latency problems with something like the Behringer mentioned.

I'm sorry for the misunderstanding: I meant that the card with latency problems is the sound blaster E5. The Behringer just had the same performance of my notebook internal sound card (in fact it's called "Intel HQ audio" or something like that). Probably not bad latency-wise, if I remember correctly.

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Hi dklein,

I find it odd that you are experiencing problems with your Surface Pro.

It could be a case related to power management configuration. Did you confirmed that you have your CPU always  maxed out to 100% of available speed (GHz)?

I have a laptop with an i7@2.4GHz cpu and was having issues with the sound until I created a power profile specifically to use Pianoteq (don't rely on the CPU automatic stepping)...

Last edited by mfiadeiro (08-04-2017 15:37)

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

I understand your point about all such devices having DACs. But I do not think that that Apogee Groive device is what I'm looking for, as that would not help with a keyboard input utilizing MIDI connections, as I best understand it. I am looking for a box that would have MIDI input and output, USB connection, monitor speaker output. I think that's about the minimum of what I'm looking for.

Because the current problem that I am having using only the sound card inside my i5 tablet is that I have a high audio latency to what I hear out of the speakers, it was my understanding that an external MIDI converter might be faster data processing.

As I do not know where my delay comes from, I can say that using the onscreen keyboard in Pianoteq does not appear to create the same auditory latency as using the external keyboard. Additionally, using the external keyboard with the same MIDI to USB connector cable arrangement that I have, but hooked up to a separate yet slower notebook computer, does not have the delay. Therefore, I think the delay is within my sound card in my new faster tablet that is processing the MIDI input more slowly. I would hope that an external MIDI capable audio interface would do that job more quickly.

With respect to power profiles, I believe that I have already tried this, doing my best to set an "always on" profile when it's plugged-in.

David

Last edited by dklein (02-12-2015 02:38)

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

I use a Surface Pro with ASIO4ALL with no latency issues. Just install it and select it in Pianoteq:

http://www.asio4all.com/

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

NathanShirley -

I am glad to hear that your surface Pro installation works well.  Mine, for example, plays a nice echo if I have both the local sound on my keyboard turned on, as well as the Pianoteq program.  Or at least it sounds like a distant echo, as there is a short pause between a staccato tap on the keyboard with the sound from the keyboard, then followed by the sound from the speakers.  What type of MIDI cable interface do you use between your keyboard and your surface Pro tablet?  Also, what settings do you have the program running with respect to sampling speed, buffer speed, etc.?

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Options>Devices:

Audio device type: ASIO
Device: ASIO4ALL
Sample rate: 44100
Audio buffer size: 192 samples (4.4 ms)

Perf:

Internal sample rate: 44100
Maximum polyphony: 96

To connect my keyboard to the Surface Pro I simply use a decent USB cable.

On my main computer I have the settings a bit higher, but the latency is identical on both -- imperceptible. ASIO4ALL is likely all you need.

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Aha!

I think I see the difference between what you're running and what I'm running: I have an older keyboard which has only the old fashion 5 – DIN plug MIDI IN and OUT ports.  My keyboard does not have a USB output.  Therefore, my soundcard has to do a MIDI to USB translation, and I think that's where the slowdown must be occurring.  Yesterday I went to a friends house and tried a later model Casio keyboard which had a USB output.  I did not experience any latency.

I do not know whether the audio interfaces that are sold that have MIDI inputs and USB outputs do any conversion any faster than what may be happening in the Surface Pro itself.

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

dklein,

from what you wrote in the other thread (http://www.forum-pianoteq.com/viewtopic.php?id=4120), there is most likely some kind of problem with your USB midi interface when combined with Windows 10 (given you said this particular problem did not exist on your older win 7 laptop), which you also sort of confirm in your statement that the latency problem does not exist when you click a key in the Pianoteq window directly versus hitting a key on your keyboard.

This is not at all audio-related, then. (The midi signal is NOT being processed by the audio chipset in your computer, it goes straight through USB in your setup.)

Though an external audio interface including midi-in should obviously fix this problem, you might as well try to get a properly working USB-MIDI interface (cable). This will leave you free to find the most suitable audio solution (DAC etc.) later without limiting you to those that include a midi interface. (Since the midi input path is separate from the audio output path, having these in the same device brings no tangible benefits processing-wise, though you may of course prefer to have one less gadget and cable to deal with...)

Others have stated previously that they experienced no problems when switching their Pianoteq setup to win 10, so I doubt there is some general problem with Pianoteq's access to midi interfaces on win 10. But perhaps someone using a plain USB-MIDI cable (i.e. not a USB connector with a vendor specific driver) can confirm?

If this is feasible for you, you could try booting a Linux LiveCD and see if the demo version of Pianoteq exhibits the same behavior then (i.e. significant latency when using your midi keyboard, but not when clicking on a key in the Pianoteq UI). For such a brief test, you do not need to bother with an optimised Linux setup, as a few extra ms will not affect the overall outcome.

Dan

EDIT: link to other thread wasn't clickable

Last edited by bandoneonista (03-12-2015 10:31)

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

The most irritating thing with MIDI & USB is that it's a "trial and error" subject. There is no universal solution. I use 3 laptops running Win 7 (from Sony, Asus & HP) and what works fine on one of them doesn't work at all on another: ASIO4all gives excellent results on the HP, is running mostly fine (but with more latency) on the Sony but simply crashes my Asus. It's even worse: working with an USB cable or a MIDI interface also give better or worse results, depending on... the audio interface used (or not)! There are all kinds of factors that interfere within a given setup.
Try & test is the motto...

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

I installed PTQ initially on a computer already running Win 10, with no problems. I had an older Kurzweil keyboard that had a USB port, but for some reason it did not work, either with PTQ or previous software I used for MIDI sampling processing. The MIDI USB interface I used instead worked OK, but I decided to trade up to a VPC1 anyway, which works fine with no other power source than the USB. I mention all this just to illustrate that a keyboard using MIDI pin connectors and a MIDI/USB cable should work without serious latency problems. My guess is also that the conversion to USB is the problem.

Amateur Standalone PTQ user; interests classical music, especially Bach and Mozart, and historic keyboards

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Definitely worth checking out the new Focusrite Clarett 2Pre thunderbolt interface with less than 1ms latency capabilities and extremely high quality

Hope this helps,

Kindest Regards,

Chris

The secretions of crustaceans are these sea creatures' special features!
A.k.a. I like shells!

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

sigasa wrote:

Definitely worth checking out the new Focusrite Clarett 2Pre thunderbolt interface with less than 1ms latency capabilities and extremely high quality

Hope this helps,

Kindest Regards,

Chris

Indeed ! If the Surface Pro 4 had a Thunderbolt port, this would be a good choice ! ... wink

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Thanks!  :-(

Went to bring my keyboard and laptop to my local Sam Ash to try different interfaces there.  The salesman there also told me to buy a Mac.  And a MIDI to Thunderbolt interface.  A new keyboard would be cheaper...

Anyway, I was wrong on the USB vs MIDI latency difference - whether I use my WK-3000 with a MIDI port, or a newer non-Casio keyboard with a USB interface, the result is the same - a small but perceptible (and thus annoying) delay.  It's easily heard by have both sound from Pianoteq as well as the native keyboard speakers playing.  It also was present with two interfaces.  So it has to be in the soundcard somewhere.

I saw a youtube video on windows 7 and 8 delays that talked about shutting the record feature "off" on the soundcard, but turning it on from the Realtec utility - I haven';t made this work (only not work so far)

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Yeah they always want you to spend more money. Mac is absolutely not obligatory.

Hard work and guts!

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Well, still haven't cured latency problems with Casio WK-3000 playing via MIDI DIN connectors into Windows 10 Microsoft Surface Pro4 i5 machine with Pianoteq 5.

But got distracted by my alternative keyboard, possibly the find of the century:  a 1885 Steinway "F" with 20-year-old rebuild for only $2250.  Never mind the Casio, the next plan for a digital keyboard is a PNOScan 2 for installation in the Steinway (for those rare times I don't want the sweet Steinway sound, or when I want to run Home Concert Xtreme, etc.):

     https://goo.gl/photos/iecWm69NqcNaCXNL7

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Hey all

I am using Pianoteq on my i5 dGPU Surface book with a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6.  I had intermittant lag that made the device unusable for real-time piano playing within Pianoteq.

You can see by the following screenshot that the CPU usage was only at 26%, so that shouldn’t be an issue.. but those red spikes are when the crackle and pop occur. Those coincided with the apci.sys spiking.

http://imgur.com/a/kJ99o

I used an applicated called LatencyMon to track down the culprit. It was the acpi.sys Battery Monitor drivers.
Once I disabled these in the device manager the problem went away completely. Of course, this means that I don’t get any battery information. So, I’m constantly having to turn them on/off depending on the task I’m performing (music = off, coffee shop work = on). It’s a pretty annoying bug on a device that carries a premium price.

http://imgur.com/a/yJp5c

Note. I know that there were some bugs with the Surface Pro 4 regarding old battery drivers when the device first shipped. It appears as though my device has the latest drivers (2015-11-13) version 1.2.0.2.

Edit:  I have my device set to 64 samples (1.5ms).  Works perfectly.

Last edited by Davidonabus (06-04-2017 01:48)

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Davidonabus wrote:

...
I used an applicated called LatencyMon to track down the culprit. It was the acpi.sys Battery Monitor drivers.
Once I disabled these in the device manager the problem went away completely. Of course, this means that I don’t get any battery information. So, I’m constantly having to turn them on/off depending on the task I’m performing (music = off, coffee shop work = on). It’s a pretty annoying bug on a device that carries a premium price.

http://imgur.com/a/yJp5c
.....
Edit:  I have my device set to 64 samples (1.5ms).  Works perfectly.

Sweet! Thanks for sharing!

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

This is an old thread, but I thought I would reply to the mention of the Apogee Groove since I just bought one a few weeks ago and have been putting it through the paces with Pianoteq.

Works great for me using a Mac Mini usb2 port.  Latency is non-detectable at 128 samples/96khz/1.3ms.  I am using these with my HD600 Sennheiser Headphones. The constant current drive on the Apogee really lets the large Senn headphones shine...a highly recommended pairing.

Compared to my previous setup: echo indigo io express card + Little Dot MK V  headphone amp, sound and latency is very similar except bass is bit more controlled and top end
sounds very slightly softer on the Apogee. The MK V gave me a little *too much* bass, for example, on the D4 which now sounds more natural. The Bluthner A/B sounds amazing and I am now just realizing that the old C3(?) was perhaps based on the Bluthner Grand (Before the Bluthner was available), since the overall timbre and range are so similar.

Only downsides to the Apogee are (1) Effects sounds like aliquot strings, key-off, tines, etc are much more prominent due to the increased fidelity of the Apogee and so the volume on these needs to be turned down. The increased clarity also means that in some cases the Pianoteq hammer hardness settings need to be reduced and/or the microphone positions need to be set farther from the virtual piano(2) No MIDI in but I use an inexpensive  M-audio UNO single cable adapter for that (3) Cost, though if you look hard you can find the Apogee Groove at a substantial discount like I did. (4) Gets slightly warm but really this is pretty minor, especially since I have it hanging down in space and well ventilated.

The Apogee saves me a lot of space compared to the Little Dot ( which has a rather hefty dual mono design) and it's bus powered as well, eliminating cord and cable clutter.

All in All, highly recommended!

Last edited by bebop603 (25-07-2017 17:31)
Pianoteq 5, Dell Studio 14 (core i3 2.26 ghz), M-Audio Uno midi connector, Echo Indigo Djx (expresscard), Little Dot MK V Headphone Amp, Senn 580 Headphones, Kawai MP9000 digital piano

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

Old thread yes, but since already brought back to life thought I'd share my experience for the good of the order & future searchers smile  I started off with a m-audio fastrack pro for a couple of years. Nothing but problems with stability, locking up different computers, pops, etc.  Researched the heck out of it & saw many recommendations for the RME stuff at the high-end. Finally bit the bullet about a year ago and went for a used RME babyface off e-bay. Pricey even used but 100% solid & reliable. Zero issues. Couldn't be happier with the money spent. Hope it helps.

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Re: Recommendations for brand and model of external audio interface?

bstrutton wrote:

...Researched the heck out of it & saw many recommendations for the RME stuff at the high-end. Finally bit the bullet about a year ago and went for a used RME babyface off e-bay. Pricey even used but 100% solid & reliable. Zero issues. Couldn't be happier with the money spent. Hope it helps.

Yes that is why the RME's are pricey - solid, reliable and long term support for them, but couldn't be happier with mine.