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VST Drop Out
#2987495 06/03/20 03:58 PM
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Perhaps this is the wrong place to ask about this, and perhaps I need to consult NI forums. But if this is a common issue, I thought one of you guys/gals might have some quick wisdom.

So I am pretty new to the VST world, although very old in the IT/technology world. I love the CA79 internal rendering, but you guys convinced me that "MOOAARR!!!" was possible!

After watching lots of reviews (waaay too many), I got my feet wet with Native Instruments' Noire, and I'm using it with the default Kontakt Player and settings.

I am running this on a Dell XPS 15 (9550 - so, a few years old) with Windows 10 freshly installed. It's got 16GB RAM and 256GB high-end SSD, and nothing else installed. (Well, I do have the Pianoteq demo.. but it's not running when I run Noire). I have USB-to-Host running from the CA79 to the Dell. I am using the Dell TB16 Thunderbolt 3 docking station, with headphone out to headphones. And sometimes to the CA79 for internal rendering. That doesn't make a difference for my root issue.

I have ASIO4ALL installed set to 512 samples. The latency is workable. I've tried many settings. 64 works, but I do get slight crackles.

My issue is THIS: every so often - frequently - rendering drops out. It can last for 1-2 bars, or maybe 5-10 seconds, before joining back in. I can repeat the issue at just about the same points in the same pieces.

This doesn't happen with Pianoteq. I have plenty of RAM and CPU available. Perhaps it's related to polyphony, but I don't think so.

Has anyone had similar trouble with NI, Konkakt, or VSTs in general? Am I missing a general principle here? I have set the power scheme to maximum performance. I have NOT gone through the exercise of ensuring that all services/interfaces are killed/disabled. Maybe that's something I need to do. But that seems like a lot of trouble for a machine that is mostly sleeping during use.


Previous long-time owner of a Yahama P-120 (and love it) - now has new life with a student
Brand new owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987501 06/03/20 04:20 PM
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It is easy to check if polyphony causes this - reduce the Max value for Voices to some very small value, and play. If there are no dropouts - repeat with increased Max value until you start seeing dropout. Personally, I hear cracles, not dropouts, when polyphony is set too high.

Running LatencyMon may provide hints on what external processes may cause dropouts. But externals as cause do not match your pattern of having dropouts at the same points.

A lot of people complain about XPS, and Dell in general, being bad for real time audio. You may Google for details.

Last edited by VladK; 06/03/20 04:22 PM.

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Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987502 06/03/20 04:22 PM
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I also have the Dell XPS 9550 so you can search my posts for some ideas. I can run the cumbersome Garritan CFX with a buffer of 48 with virtually no crackling so this laptop is capable after some tweaking.

That Dell TB16 dock is rubbish but I suppose better than the recalled TB15. Dell crippled the Thunderbolt 3 port on the 9550 with a 2 lane low power controller; they got called out on that eventually lol. I would try bypassing that TB16.

I never got the Dell headphone out to work properly (I changed the audio board, speakers, and lots of drivers including directly from Realtek.

I think this is a pretty decent laptop for DPC latency but it needs newer BIOS and drivers as it took some time to get this working properly.
- I use BIOS 1.13.1.
- Update nvidia and Intel graphics drivers; they can cause latency issues so get them from the respective vendor sites directly. You can try O&O to slim down or eliminate the nvidia drivers as Dell keeps trying to reinstall.

Get rid of all the Dell malware; some is constantly calling Dell and causes latency issues. That said, Dell Command | Power Manager seems to work fine, install and select (thermal management-Ultra Performance). That boosts some registers and fans that you otherwise don't have access to. v2.2.1 is the latest that works with the 9550 I think.

You can run Speedshift on the XPS but Dell did not enable that option and does not show it in BIOS; this is the best performance tweak. i use free ThrottleStop software to enable SST and select EPP to 0 for max performance. There are other tricks to enable SST but I haven't seen an easy way to change EPP (you can enable the advanced power options dropdown but the laptop seems to ignore the request). In the ThrottleStop Guide there is a registry trick recently noted to change EPP but I don't remember what it was).

http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/the-throttlestop-guide.531329/
http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/dell-xps-speed-shift.796891/

Turn off radios (bluetooth, networking, etc). Shut down all other programs when playing.

You can try running LatencyMon software to get an idea of what processes might be causing issues.

Re: VST Drop Out
newer player #2987505 06/03/20 04:40 PM
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I DO remember reading some of those threads! That was back when I was still searching DPs, long before my VST investigations, so I forgot!

I suffered the trials of the TB15. Who puts a GPU in a sealed box with no fans and no airflow?! I understand they got rid of some of those engineers over that. I had monitors cutting out/etc. Solved it by taking the case off. Dell proactively sent TB16 units to TB15 customers - probably trying to prevent a class-action lawsuit!

I hadn't heard about the power lane issue with the TB3 port on the 9550.

The only reason I was using the TB16 was for the near? supposed? line-out. And, no hum when power is connected, as I get with the on-board headphone jack. However, I did eventually remove the Wave drivers and install the Microsoft and/or Realtek drivers. (I forgot to mention that in the post). The sound performance got MUCH better when the bloatware drivers were removed!

I updated BIOS (and the TB16 firmware)... I took the lazy way out and used the Dell Updater utility to grab all the drivers initially. Perhaps that was a mistake. I did NOT install Dell Command.

So I think my action items for the next round are:
-Check BIOS version
-Update NVidia and Intel graphics drivers straight from the respective horses' mouths
-Grab Dell Command | Power Manager v2.2.1 and select thermal management-Ultra Performance
-Use ThrottleStop and enable SST and select EPP to 0
-Turn off BT (at least). Will trial with/without wifi.

LatencyMon... yes!

Thanks newer_player, this is really helpful to boil down some things.

I know 1000 things can cause stutters, generally, in performance. If you're running typical productivity apps, you probably won't notice it aside from an occasional "hm why did that pause on me?" moment. Maybe you'd have to tweak to this level for some sort of gaming, although XPS isn't generally intended for gaming.

I understand that under the hood, the VST is doing a few complex things with loading/unloading samples and the like. But does it REALLY take so much computing power that we have to squeeze every drop out of these fairly high-end PCs?! Sorry - just ranting!


Previous long-time owner of a Yahama P-120 (and love it) - now has new life with a student
Brand new owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987519 06/03/20 04:59 PM
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Good stories there!

- uninstall all Dell malware
- make sure your laptop is plugged in when playing
- try plugging the MIDI directly to the laptop. One of the USB ports will work better but I can't remember which.

Not so many tweaks required IMHO.

Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987522 06/03/20 05:05 PM
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I think you should do the optimization dance. Because it seems as though your laptop is being non-responsive for "a couple of bars", and that's indicative of something running at priority, whilst your poor VST / DAW cries out for service.

Suggestion: As you walk through one of the many instructional guides that tell you to turn off this and disable that ... take notes!

Write down the state of each setting before you change it.
Because you might find that you've turned off something you needed, but you don't remember what ... unless you've written it down.

Also you might find that a turned-off item doesn't provide any benefit.
So you might want to turn it on again ... if you could only remember what it was.

Guess how it is that I know this is a good idea?

Re: VST Drop Out
MacMacMac #2987531 06/03/20 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
Guess how it is that I know this is a good idea?

LOL don't we all, TripleMac! smile

So I have gotten into the Alexis Ffrench 'Bluebird' craze here. As I go through it, I can SWEAR that the DAW hiccups at EXACTLY the same points (probably 4 or 5 places). So I thought to myself, well, there's no way I'm so in tune with the universe that I happened upon those spots at the exact same time that there was some call home from Dell malware or some interrupt hiccup (or whatever happens under the hood these days).

As Picard said, the universe isn't that badly designed.

So that made me think that whatever is happening, it's isolated within the DAW itself... something I'm doing (sustain, for example) and velocity and etc, to load a particular set of samples or generally, to create a specific set of conditions, under which the DAW cries out. In other words, poor/inefficient code.

(Lord knows we've run into that a billion times in this world - maybe even in this forum!!)

I'll do some step-by-step troubleshooting and take some notes after doing my best to nail down the spots in that particular piece where it happens.


Previous long-time owner of a Yahama P-120 (and love it) - now has new life with a student
Brand new owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987548 06/03/20 06:00 PM
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By the way, Kontakt I/O is terribly slow, it may drop because was not fast enough to load new samples?
But if this happens with Noire, i.e. NI library, the reason should be somewhere else.

Last edited by VladK; 06/03/20 06:01 PM.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. (falsely attributed to Plato)
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Re: VST Drop Out
VladK #2987567 06/03/20 06:39 PM
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VladK, Noire appears to be a standard library/plugin. Will it work with other DAWs (if you have any idea off the top of your head)? If so, do you have a suggestion other than Kontakt? Maybe since the library/plugin is self-contained, it will be slow loading those samples no matter where/how it's executed?

I'm speaking out of my depth here -- I only recently learned what "DAW" is!! Off topic, it's pretty cool that there are a few standard across this industry where you can layer plugins from all sorts of manufacturers. I'm sure it garners a hefty overhead in some complex cases, though.


Previous long-time owner of a Yahama P-120 (and love it) - now has new life with a student
Brand new owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987587 06/03/20 07:22 PM
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Noire can be loaded into any DAW, but it is not VST plugin on its own; it is still a Kontakt library, so Kontakt must be loded as VST plugin.


Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. (falsely attributed to Plato)
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Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987693 06/04/20 06:29 AM
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That's one of the things I hate more in commercial operating systems for the masses. They do so many things in background (checking for updates, doing the updates in background, indexing of the files, check your hd for viruses, malware, etc., checking your disk content to send -- anonymous? -- data to the Big Brother, precaching of applications, etc.) so it's normal that a software that needs very low latency could get trouble.

Anyway, IMHO a PC dedicated to audio production should be optimized for this usage (i.e.: disable as many background services as possible, antivirus included, and uninstall as many applications as possible) and of course it should be disconnected from the network.

Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987710 06/04/20 07:27 AM
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Unless, of course, you leave it on the network, don't disable services, leave antivirus running, and have way too many applications installed and running ... and it still runs the piano just fine.

The cure? Get a fast system. Forego the laptop, get a desktop. S'good.

Re: VST Drop Out
MacMacMac #2987776 06/04/20 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
The cure? Get a fast system. Forego the laptop, get a desktop.
Laptop power management schemes can be a big issue for low latency performance.

Also, desktops generally get higher quality CPUs and peripherals, so perform better. The "i7" marketing scheme is quite confusing for consumers, much like the coffee origin scheme.

Re: VST Drop Out
MacMacMac #2987781 06/04/20 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
The cure? Get a fast system. Forego the laptop, get a desktop. S'good.

I most certainly agree about a desktop over a laptop! I just don't have one handy. I do have the Dell, a quite well aged Macbook Pro (which I might try to use instead of the Dell), and a few older HP Elitebooks.

In fact, I took VladK up on his suggestion to search some of the Dell- (and XPS)-specific issues with real-time audio, and boy oh boy! Who knew! I always DID have trouble with that machine when it was my production machine (for IT and office work), but I assumed that was because I had a lot of junk installed on it and/or various versions of drivers scattered about. I always thought that would go away with a fresh install. Now, it seems, maybe there are bigger issues!

I mention the Elitebook because, while they are quite a bit older, people in various quarters lamented that they performed VST tasks much better than their $2k+ brand new XPS laptops.

However, my issue is not "cracking and popping" nor stuttering, which is the primary symptom that people with high DPC latency note. Noire actually "pauses"/hiccups while playing, periodically. Doesn't seem to be related to RAM, disk, voices/polyphony, or anything like that. I did some testing yesterday and I can only somewhat reliably reproduce the issue, but it DOES show up at certain places in the test pieces I was using.

I did update/install Intel and nVidia drivers straight from those sites and install Dell PowerCommand in order to set the thermal management to 'Ultra Performance'. And run LatencyMon. While playing, LatencyMon shows the highest measured interrupt latency at 514 microseconds. (The 3 measurements are 177us, 514us, and 132.8us).

LatencyMon DOES report that kontakt.exe has a high number of hard pagefaults. So perhaps I need to disable virtual memory! I may give that a try. I also have some other optimizations to do based on the previous threads.


Previous long-time owner of a Yahama P-120 (and love it) - now has new life with a student
Brand new owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987825 06/04/20 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by kimby
LatencyMon DOES report that kontakt.exe has a high number of hard pagefaults. So perhaps I need to disable virtual memory! I may give that a try. I also have some other optimizations to do based on the previous threads.

That is one of my first steps even when I do not use the PC for music. Because VM makes windows much slower (especially if the virtual memory uses the HD).


Kawai ES8, Roland RD2000, Yamaha AG06 mixer, Presonus Eris E5 monitors, Sennheiser HD598SR phones.
Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987925 06/04/20 04:26 PM
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You mean paging makes Windows slower. Except it really doesn't. If you're paging a lot you simply need more memory.

Re: VST Drop Out
MacMacMac #2987940 06/04/20 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
You mean paging makes Windows slower. Except it really doesn't. If you're paging a lot you simply need more memory.

I don't understand why kontakt.exe is doing any paging at all. Well you know what I mean - why Windows is putting workset RAM into virtual memory.

Kontakt says it is using less than 400mb RAM. Overall, Windows reports it is using less than 6GB on a system with 16GB installed (a bit of that isn't available to applications of course, but most is). During 6 minutes of running LatencyMon, Kontakt had over 260 hard page faults - where it had to look to disk (SSD, but still) for RAM pages. So strange.

I shall have to run LatencyMon while playing Bluebird and check the status at the pausing/problem areas to get a better idea.


Previous long-time owner of a Yahama P-120 (and love it) - now has new life with a student
Brand new owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VST Drop Out
kimby #2987951 06/04/20 05:48 PM
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First of all ... don't confuse virtual memory with paging space on disk. They're two different things.
Originally Posted by kimby
Why Windows is putting workset RAM into virtual memory.
Windows puts all program memory into virtual space. So does any virtual memory OS.

Re: VST Drop Out
MacMacMac #2987961 06/04/20 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
First of all ... don't confuse virtual memory with paging space on disk. They're two different things.
Originally Posted by kimby
Why Windows is putting workset RAM into virtual memory.
Windows puts all program memory into virtual space. So does any virtual memory OS.

Well right... but the OS knows what pages belong to active processes. And what pages are in RAM vs. paged to disk. If 60%+ of my physical RAM is available, why am I paging pages to disk which belong to active processes? If there's resource pressure then sure.

Memory management is a whole science unto itself I think, and it's confused me ever since virtual memory management became a chip feature in the good 'ole 386. smile I'm no expert in this arena!


Previous long-time owner of a Yahama P-120 (and love it) - now has new life with a student
Brand new owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VST Drop Out
MacMacMac #2987966 06/04/20 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
You mean paging makes Windows slower. Except it really doesn't. If you're paging a lot you simply need more memory.

Mac, in my experience, it does page swaps even if there is physical memory available. I believe it has to do with the algorithms that on the average work to make the system throughput the highest possible.

I will use a parallel with Linux which I used to know better years ago (more about it later). At that time the available algorithms for memory management tended to use the swap even when there were still physical memory available. Remember Linux had (still has?) its roots in server systems, so the (then) available memory management algorithms started using its swap partition even if not much memory was still in use. Actually it was being used in the form of cache - the problem is that the algorithm used the swap to preserve the cache it "thought" was more likely to be used. With a slow HD, it started to make the system slow. Disabling the swap partition was the first thing I changed to make the system more responsive and tolerable. I is possible that the memory management improved since then. There was a lot of improvements to make Linux more realtime - how well it works I don't know, I stopped tracking it long ago. Also processors improved a lot since. OTOH, software became more resource hungry so... And HDs are still relatively slow.

Back to Windows, I suspect the VM manager has a similar behavior as described above. At least it was what I noticed a few years ago. As I am not the kind that has tens of programs open at the same time, I started preemptively disabling the paging file in every PC I used in company or personally. With enough physical memory and not opening so many at the same time, I do not have the problem of a program being terminated for memory starvation. Well, to be honest, actually I do: browsers became memory hogs lately and I did have some problems because I had many tabs open. But it is very rare.

For music applications, where we kind of agree one should have as few programs running as possible, disabling paging is still another way to avoid problems, especially if the paging is done with an HD. If it is an SSD, maybe not as bad, but then you may be compromising the SSD's lifespan due to excessive writing.

Anyway, my suggestion to kimby is try it and check if it makes any difference. It won't hurt.

Last edited by EVC2017; 06/04/20 06:39 PM.

Kawai ES8, Roland RD2000, Yamaha AG06 mixer, Presonus Eris E5 monitors, Sennheiser HD598SR phones.
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