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Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

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Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Mon Jun 06, 2011 5:10 am

Hey All,

I am sure all of us have seen posts over the years where end users have purchased a new audio interface and have experienced varying degrees of performance issues. A lot of the qualms have been due to the low latency performance, or to be exact, lack of , so I thought it would be a good idea to place the spotlight on that specific aspect of the current crop of audio interfaces.

By testing the interfaces head to head and reporting warts and all, I hope to place some of these developers on notice that jamming as many shiny baubles onto an interface , but neglecting the crucial aspect of the actual driver performance , isn't going to swing for all of us.

I have been working on this for about 15 months odd so the preliminary results were actually from earlier in 2010 , but are still valid and are a good starting point as I add further to the list over the coming month/years.

Here are some initial results for both Desktop and Notebook .

Desktop System Detail:
Intel i7 920 Quadcore/ 2.66 GHZ/
Intel X58 / 6 GB DDR3-PC12800.

Notebook System Detail:
Intel i7 620 Dualcore / 2.66 GHZ/
Intel HM55 / 4 GB DDR3-PC10600.

O.S Detail:
Windows 7 x64 Pro

Image

Image

All of the interfaces listed except for the baseline RME HDSPe units are FW and its quite obvious from the results that there are large variables in LLP- Low Latency Performance depending on the efficiency of the respective ASIO drivers / FW controllers being employed on the respective interfaces.

I have posted a summary of the initial testing at the DAWbench site Here : http://www.dawbench.com/audio-int-lowlatency.htm

I have a second round of testing on the way which will include some of the newer AVID interfaces at both ends of the spectrum , Mbox Pro 3 and also one that I have had quite a few requests to put the thru its paces, the PTHD Native PCIe card.

Stay Tuned

Peace

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Pete Kaine » Mon Jun 06, 2011 9:31 am

Whilst I knew Maudio were doing a good job in keeping up with RME these days, I'm quite shocked to see Focusrite trailing by those figures. I'm not however suprised to see the Focusrite and the Presonus coming out the same through as they are both built around the same controller chipset... also nice to see that my contempt for its abilitys is well founded!
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby redleicester » Mon Jun 06, 2011 10:33 am

Yet another good reason to stick with RME. Low latency and rock solid driver sets for a decade now. Great stuff.
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Jun 06, 2011 12:37 pm

Hi Vin,

I bet you’ll end up taking a lot of flak for these measurements (although your armour-plated shell must be largely impervious by now), but I have to say that my own recent measurements of low latency performance by audio interface manufacturer do largely tie in with these :headbang:

RME have slipped a little on occasions with driver performance (as sadly have Lynx Audio, who used to be up there at the top with them), but it’s good to M Audio come back with such comparatively good results 8-)


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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Parco » Mon Jun 06, 2011 1:41 pm

So how about the echo audio? :headbang:
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Mon Jun 06, 2011 3:00 pm

Hey Guys,

I think its high time we collectively hold these audio developers accountable for the delivered driver performance , and its just becoming more and more of a bloody minefield lately as more and more developers simply tack on these generic OEM FW controllers without any regard of the overall performance. The recent spate of mixers/come audio interfaces are prime examples , and there is one currently extremely popular "Digital Live " mixer that has the worst drivers I have encountered in all my years, even worse than Dice II , and they market it as perfect for studio use, I almost fell flat on my arse laughing qualifying it a while back. I'll hold my cards on that one for now...:-)

Re The Dice II powered interfaces , as bad as they perform on DAWbench DSP, on DAWbench VI its even more pronounced where I recently tested a Focusrite unit which collapsed under that test to the point of it being practically unusable for anyone working with sample based VI's at the preferred working latencies. Those ongoing results can be read at the DAWbench forum thread until I finalise the second report.

Thread is Here

Out of interest , in the recent review in SOS of an "unlocked" Sandybridge system that was shipped with a - quote "well‑known Firewire audio interface" to Martin for review, that then had to subsequently be replaced to get a respectable test result, it would be interesting to get some clarification on what that interface was.

Now I know that is walking a very sensitive line for Martin seeing the name of the interface was withheld , but I am not asking Martin, I'm asking the DAW builder who supplied the unit to disclose what he supplied for the review, and I feel he should be extremely grateful that Martin went the extra yard instead of just reviewing as supplied :-)

@ Parco,

Interestingly with the ECHO, I just completed a config for a client with his existing Layla 24 under Win7 x64, and it performed reasonably well against the current crop of PCIe cards, but it does have the trick of using double buffers on playback which becomes a juggle with Round Trip Latency using Guitar Amp sims for example. You can wind it down to the 032/064 setting when tracking the guitars thru the sim, and it felt quite comfortable. Drivers are very solid overall.

Peace

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Parco » Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:00 am

And so how about the Apogee and Motu?
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby CaptainChoptastic » Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:29 pm

Hmmm, somewhat disturbing news, given that I have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP (kind of rolls off the tongue, don't it?). It doesn't mention the FW chipset on the spec sheet, but given the above and the reference to JetPLL, it's probably all but a given.

Vin: as you were running this under Win 7 x64, can you tell us if you were using the "regular" Win 7 FW drivers, or the legacy ones that Focusrite mention on their site as potentially having better performance under x64?
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:53 pm

CaptainChoptastic wrote:
Vin: as you were running this under Win 7 x64, can you tell us if you were using the "regular" Win 7 FW drivers, or the legacy ones that Focusrite mention on their site as potentially having better performance under x64?


Hey ,

The Focusrite and most of the Presonus units are definitely using the Dice II chipset , no question whats so ever.

Test system is actually running under the legacy FW at the moment due to the large number of interfaces that are constantly on and off the rig. In testing I found that even units like the RME's that run fine under Native FW drivers( TI in this case ), do have a small performance advantage under legacy as well at the lowest latencies 48 , but by 064 it levels out. In short there is no disadvantage running the legacy drivers, so I leave them on as default , but also test and compare with the native as new drivers come out.

To add insult to injury, I can't get the Dice II interfaces to be even recognised on my new audio notebooks at all ,due to the inability of getting a TI controller option , and this will become even more wide spread . I suspect Apple have also dropped TI on the new line and lack of Express slots becoming the norm, this is sounding loud bells for these interfaces.

Lets hope the devs don't play Ostrich.

I digress..

Peace

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Dishpan » Tue Jun 07, 2011 10:17 pm

Can I ask: are you including information on the safety (and other) buffers used, as well as the buffer size set in the application. There is quite a difference here between manufacturers and by way of a (possible exaggerated example), a system with 40 sample safety buffer and 32 sample latency (set in DAW) would have the same overall latency as a system with an 8 sample safety buffer and 64 sample latency set in DAW, yet on the charts you'd show them at different latencies making the first system look far more efficient than the second.
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Wed Jun 08, 2011 1:31 am

Dishpan wrote:Can I ask: are you including information on the safety (and other) buffers used, as well as the buffer size set in the application. There is quite a difference here between manufacturers and by way of a (possible exaggerated example), a system with 40 sample safety buffer and 32 sample latency (set in DAW) would have the same overall latency as a system with an 8 sample safety buffer and 64 sample latency set in DAW, yet on the charts you'd show them at different latencies making the first system look far more efficient than the second.


I hear ya.. :-)

Yes I am including all that info ,I make a note of that in the initial article and all of the actual I/O latency figures for the respective interfaces are listed with the results on the dedicated thread at DAWbench.

I'll create some charts to show the total I/O and Round Trip figures for each respective interface as I progress.

It needs to be noted that the output buffer value is the one that takes precedent on these tests , so the devs who use the double buffer trick will be definitely be highlighted, none of the listed used that tweak and although output value differed, there was not huge discrepancies.

Thats not to say the Input value and or RT - Round Trip - is any less important, because its those values that takes precedent when playing the Virtual Instruments live and Guitar Amp Sims for example.

Peace

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby robinv » Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:38 am

TAFKAT wrote:Hey Guys,

I think its high time we collectively hold these audio developers accountable for the delivered driver performance , and its just becoming more and more of a bloody minefield lately as more and more developers simply tack on these generic OEM FW controllers without any regard of the overall performance.

Hi Vin,
I'm not convinced that developers disregard overall performance quite like that. I imagine they work very hard trying to get their interfaces to do the job. It also depends on who you talk to as to where they believe the challenges lie.

You should bear in mind that there are many many happy users out there - the best feedback a manufacturer gets is in sales and returns. Obviously clever marketing and features can get the sales but if the performance was "unworkable" then they would become quickly aware of that you would think. You look at performance from a bit of a narrow perspective - from your position of scrutinising latencies of 64 samples and such (and you've been doing it for years) i can totally understand your concerns. My experience in the industry is a bit different and i find that most people i encounter are using buffer sizes of 256 or 512 samples very happily - this is where your tests show a bit more of an even level of performance. I know that there are people for whom this is completely unacceptable and unusable but i would suggest that there are many many more for whom it's completely fine and "real-time" etc etc.

I did my own tests on some interfaces last year when i was looking for a new laptop and i compared an Edirol FA66, Saffire Pro 24 and Presonus Firestudio and there were marked differences between the Firestudio and Saffire so i'm not convinced that they are the same, at least these models weren't. The Edirol beat the other two by a huge margin and it has very unsophisticated driver set with bugger all control panel ( http://www.pc-music.com/content/lifting-lid-audio-laptops-part-2 ). I was shocked at how poorly the Firestudio performed in these tests. However I have run them on desktop machines and other laptops without problems at the usual 256/512 level. The Saffire did all right i thought :)

I guess it comes down to what you believe is "fit for purpose". It might be more interesting to find out what sort of buffer sizes people actually use - i don't imagine many venture below 256 samples (but i could be totally wrong but i'm going on the complete lack of having to do tech support for latency related issues). You'll note that the only trouble Martin had in his review is when running your low latency tests - any other test that both he and i did before sending it out using what i'd suggest are more common buffer sizes, it performed fine.

I think comparing audio interfaces like this is a really great idea and will generate a lot of useful data that will help people chose the right interface for them - good on ya mate. Similarly the Cubase/Pro Tools comparison is a real eye-opener. But i also don't believe this level of low latency is the whole story for everyone. Not sure you're going to start a revolution but any improvement to driver performance is certainly a good thing :protest:

So, yeah, you know, different perspectives and stuff :)
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby onesecondglance » Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:49 am

this stuff is fascinating as always, Vin. i would be very interested to see how higher end FW stuff like Prism and Apogee stack up in this dept.
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Spangler » Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:19 pm

Fine for mixing, but for playing virtual instruments or realtime FX, I'm one of those who need it a lot tighter. Playing eDrums through Superior, anything over 64 samples is no good on my interface (of course midi performance also comes into play in that scenario).

robinv wrote:

My experience in the industry is a bit different and i find that most people i encounter are using buffer sizes of 256 or 512 samples very happily - this is where your tests show a bit more of an even level of performance. I know that there are people for whom this is completely unacceptable and unusable but i would suggest that there are many many more for whom it's completely fine and "real-time" etc etc.
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:28 pm

It looks as if I ought to set up a thread/poll so SOS Forum users can tell us what buffer size they currently use, and for what purpose (live monitoring, playing softsynths, or mixing/mastering), so we can all get a better handle on who wants what ;)


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