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Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:07 pm

O.K, here are the final results for the current series of testing.

Image

Some notes on the latest interfaces tested.

The MOTU 424 PCI / 24 I/O delivered exceptional performance right down to 032 samples , and despite the overall numbers being below that of the RME reference card, if you take a closer look the I / O and RTL are measurably lower as the MOTU uses very minimal padding on the buffers. By taking that into account using the RTL % rating of 1.17 , it drew level with the reference RME HDSPe.

The MOTU's have always drawn mixed reports on Windows and I know first hand how flaky the cards can be having 3 different revs of 424 cards across the bench in the last few weeks, and its a crap shoot whether the respective revs will work on current systems , but the drivers themselves have always been good with the PCI/PCIe cards, ( as long as you don't use external clocking- LOL )

The ESI U46XL was the USB audio interface that I had hinted at a while back that surprised me and the results speak for themselves. Yes the reported latencies are nominal and it has the oddity of having the highest buffer setting of 256 ( actually one step higher to 288 ) , so I had to do some juggling with calculating % ratings , but seeing that this whole exercise is about LLP , I gave ESI some rope with the interface not having a 512 setting. Great little interface , especially for it being USB2.

Staying with ESI, the Maya 44e is a mixed bag, respectable performance although beaten by the U46 , but the card has an issue where the driver has to be reset in Cubendo every time you open a project with any buffer setting below 512 ??? !!

PITA - Still waiting to hear back from ESI who have initially said they can not reproduce it.

The Steinberg MR816 delivered decent overall performance, latency settings available all the way down to 032 samples, mind you that's with the help of some extra padding on the output buffers, which resulted in higher RTL values and subsequent lower comparative RTL %. The 032 setting is more Window dressing IMO.

SSL Nucleus - the results don't tell the whole story as the unit is so inconsistent across multiple systems and even respective USB ports. The results are pretty decent but it took some major arm wrestling to settle the system to achieve those results. The driver panel still looks like the vanilla OEM breadboard and the odd non standard buffer sizes are a sore point if you want to try and use it with Protools 9 - which it is advertised as being compatible with - as PT9 simply will not accept the odd buffers.

The Mackie Onyx actually performed O.K for a Mixer/FW combo, DAWbench DSP were quite good, but it collapsed under the VI testing - the OEM controller definately feels different to some of the Dice variations, so not sure what Mackie are using there.

The Midas Venice was an interesting one, basically a mid size live desk with a Dice FW hacked into the back - I/O - RTL were identical and performance was close enough to identical to the Focusrite Sapphire , so its obviously using the same ( poor performing ) controller.

AVID Mbox 3 is identical to the M-Audio FTU range with slightly better I/O and RTL , not too hard to see that AVID are using the same under bonnet components across the AVID Mbox 3 Pro / Mbox 3 / Profire / FTU ranges.

AVID HD Native card under ASIO , well to say it was an interesting experience is an understatement. Input buffers are double the usual, Output are reporting Nominal , overall performance isn't too bad right down to 032 samples, but there were some major hoops to activate the ASIO driver in Cubase . i.e : needing to toggle off the ASIO driver back to the Generic and then back again to simply wake the driver on every session load .

Its obvious to me that the card is specifically geared to Protools , the ASIO driver really being only for convenience for some compatibility with other DAW hosts , so its not really a player in the current comparative.

Thats it until the next round..

Peace

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby robinv » Thu Jul 14, 2011 8:36 pm

TAFKAT wrote:

Thats it until the next round..

Simply not good enough - i demand a graph!
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:42 pm

robinv wrote:Simply not good enough - i demand a graph!

Ya just can't please some people... LOL

You mean graphs, each for RXC, CV, NCV, I/O , RTL and LLP rating.

I'll see what I can muster up... :-)
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:24 pm

By popular demand , the LLP results in graphical form.. :-)

Image

* Quick Note - The AVID Mbox Pro 3 results and rating have been amended as I discovered I had a slight miscalculation in the RTL % results which has been amended from 1.04 to 1.05 , not huge but enough to bump the rating a notch. The tables have been amended as well *

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby robinv » Sun Jul 17, 2011 2:51 pm

Dammit man, i wanted it in green!

Ok, trying to get a handle on what your performance rating means. Here's what you said earlier:

Explanation of how the LLP- Low Latency Performance Rating is derived.

The results for the DAWbench DSP RXC across the latencies of 032 thru to 256 ( which has been the M.O for the last 5 years ) are added and the total is then % wise gauged against the result for the RME HDSPe AIO baseline card. The same is then calculated for the DAWbench VI CV/ NCV tests for 032-512.

Those 3 % results are then added and divided by 3 to give an average % .

I thought it important for the I/O and RTL figures to be an influencing factor on the rating as some cards have a lot lower overall latency than others, so the average % results is then multiplied by the last % result for the RTL.

So, just to get it straight in my own head the graph shows an overall performance figure in relation to the RME Ai/o which scores the maximum 10. So cards with good low latency performance get near to the 10 whereas those with poorer performance (in comparison) get a lower mark. Is that about right?

Can you conclude then that if you were using a Focusrite Saffire 56 at 128 samples and reached the limits of your system, you could spend 100 quid on an ESI U46XL and actually be able to do a load more tracks, or run more effects or more instruments while staying at the same latency? Is that the reality of what you're saying here?

(please note i'm not trying to be clever, sarcastic or ironic, i'm genuinely asking if this is saying what i think it's saying and how awesome is that?)
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:04 pm

Hi Vin,

Now that WILL put the cat among the pigeons - make sure you mount extra guards from now on, and have the searchlights on full power in case of reprisals. I’d better buy some extra barbed wire as well :beamup:

Numerical results can be ignored, but once you print them in a graph everyone can see at a glance how things stack up.

I suspect you’ll now get some flak on how you calculate your LLP (Low Latency Performance) figures next.

Stay strong when it arrives! :headbang:


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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:08 pm

robinv wrote:So, just to get it straight in my own head the graph shows an overall performance figure in relation to the RME Ai/o which scores the maximum 10. So cards with good low latency performance get near to the 10 whereas those with poorer performance (in comparison) get a lower mark. Is that about right?

That's it exactly Robin!

Can you conclude then that if you were using a Focusrite Saffire 56 at 128 samples and reached the limits of your system, you could spend 100 quid on an ESI U46XL and actually be able to do a load more tracks, or run more effects or more instruments while staying at the same latency? Is that the reality of what you're saying here?

Right again!

Of course you wouldn't expect the audio to 'sound' as good as from a more expensive interface, but ESI have for many years been releasing some extremely capable and versatile drivers that I've always been impressed with in my interface reviews - I'm pleased to see that they are finally getting some recognition for this 8-)


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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby robinv » Sun Jul 17, 2011 7:59 pm

Martin Walker wrote:

Of course you wouldn't expect the audio to 'sound' as good as from a more expensive interface, but ESI have for many years been releasing some extremely capable and versatile drivers that I've always been impressed with in my interface reviews - I'm pleased to see that they are finally getting some recognition for this 8-)


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ESI and Audiotrak before them have always made bonkers drivers, they just do stuff that no one else does like looping GSIF drivers back through ASIO all within the driver model. Always worked great except when they go wrong when they blow your speakers and freeze up solid :)

You could use the U48 to keep the creative flow going and when you were mixing down switch back to the Saffire once you've bounced a few tracks or instruments - just a thought.
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:24 pm

robinv wrote:
So, just to get it straight in my own head the graph shows an overall performance figure in relation to the RME Ai/o which scores the maximum 10. So cards with good low latency performance get near to the 10 whereas those with poorer performance (in comparison) get a lower mark. Is that about right?


Correct.

Can you conclude then that if you were using a Focusrite Saffire 56 at 128 samples and reached the limits of your system, you could spend 100 quid on an ESI U46XL and actually be able to do a load more tracks, or run more effects or more instruments while staying at the same latency? Is that the reality of what you're saying here?


Well the interfaces you selected aren't really comparative feature wise, but speaking purely in regards to LLP , that is exactly what I am saying. The ESI U46 XL easily outperforms the Sapphire at 128 across the board whether its the number of plugins or even more so, VI polyphony , which is even more dramatic at 256 where the ESI doubles the Sapphire result.

Quick edit - just noticed that Martin had responded in almost exactly the same manner... LOL

@ Martin,

I am expecting some resistance but I think the methodology of calculating the LLP is pretty clear , open and fair. The RTL % is an important variable that gives the advantage to the interfaces with the better I/O,RTL that may not have the respective numbers for the RXC/CV/NVC, case in point being the MOTU.

I am more than happy to converse with the developers if they have an issue with how the data has been presented , but I expect them to have something in the tank in the form of a tangible rebuttal with some empirical data to back in up... :-)


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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby OD23 » Mon Jul 18, 2011 1:03 pm

Feeling a little annoyed with Focusrite for the lame performance of the Saffire, I upgraded from an Echo card and noticed worse performance, but had been putting that down to problems with my system. Is this something that could be improved with better drivers or is it a hardware limitation?
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:36 pm

OD23 wrote:Is this something that could be improved with better drivers or is it a hardware limitation?

That is a good question and it is something that I am endeavouring to get some clarity on, but its a really sensitive area for the manufacturers using the OEM chips and also the developers of the chips themselves to be too open about the under bonnet detail.

Some of the manufacturers that have not faired so well using one of the variations of the Dice chips by TC Applied Technologies ( A division of TC Electronics ), which I initially thought was Dice II , but have since found out it may not be as Dice II has been long gone , will be less than energetic about disclosing what is being used.

Those performing well will probably be even less so as to not tip off the competition.

From my recent investigations I have learned that Dice currently have 2 available chips, Dice Mini - up to 16 channels of audio and Dice Jr - up to 64 Channels. Presonus / Focusrite/ Midas , etc are using one or both of the Dice variants with close enough to identical poor results , M-Audio/AVID are using one or both of them with incredibly good results.

The question is who is using what, and if its the same chip, why have AVID/M-Audio managed to extract exceptionally good performance, while others are not.

The only answer is drivers , unless of course there are some other variables in play..

How deeps the rabbit hole..

:beamup:

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby John Roberts » Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:22 am

Hi Vin,

There are hardware variables, ie, the particular SDRAM and flash ROM packages used, as well as the choice of 1394 PHY chip.

Then there's the efficiency and extent of any third-party code executing on the ARM core (which implies the assumption that any TCAT-supplied OEM code is sleeker than a jaguar, of course!).

Finally, the presence or otherwise of an external DSP/FPGA (and the use to which it's put) could be a factor.

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby John Roberts » Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:03 am

Hi again,

Just had a look at the final table.

Aren't ESI getting a tremendous boost here by 'not telling the truth'?

They're receiving praise for performance/LLP metrics that you and I both know are inaccurate in the latter regard.

And if all the other manufacturers, encouraged by this, follow their example, won't your estimable project have reached a very sad end?

Regards,

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:49 am

Hey John,

The ESI's may not necessarily be getting a boost as we really don't know whether the .95 figure I have assigned to the nominal latency figures is actually being a benefit or if it is in fact detrimental.

I needed to come up with something for the final RTL result for the cards reporting nominal figures after you brought it my attention, and I did that as I explained earlier by working out the average % of all the other interfaces and working off that. When I initially did the calculation it was .97, with the added list of cards its .98 , so .95 is still below the average , not perfect I know but not sure of what else I can do past make the note that figures are nominal.

I could drop it to 90% as a further penalty if its feels more warranted, or if anyone has a better idea of how to assign a figure to the nominal cards ,I'm open to being guided by the opinions of the others reading in.

I hope manufacturers would not try and bend some rules to get a better slightly better LLP rating by bluring the RTL, instead focus on actually getting better respective performance over all.

P.S : Thanks for the heads up on the other possible hardware variables.. :-)

Peace

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby John Roberts » Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:18 am

TAFKAT wrote:Hey John,

The ESI's may not necessarily be getting a boost as we really don't know whether the .95 figure I have assigned to the nominal latency figures is actually being a benefit or if it is in fact detrimental.

V:


That's the whole point. You could assign any "handicap" you like, but it will be pure guesswork. The only thing you know for certain is that the latency values reported by the ESI devices cannot be true.

In my opinion, the only option which upholds the credibility of DAWbench is to 'suspend' the ESI devices 'pending further inquiries'.

Do bear in mind that among the devices in the final table, ONLY the ESI devices report nominal buffers.

Regards,

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby John Roberts » Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:28 am

John Roberts wrote:In my opinion, the only option which upholds the credibility of DAWbench is to 'suspend' the ESI devices 'pending further inquiries'.


. . . With which, putting my money where my mouth is, I'd be happy to assist.

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:19 am

The Mackie Onyx and the AVID HD Native on the output are also reporting nominal... :-(

I have a member at the DAWbench forum currently developing a RTL measuring utility for me that he has tested on his FF800 , and preliminary testing is very close to the reported , so we may have a resolution to the nominal readings shortly.

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby robinv » Tue Jul 19, 2011 10:09 am

Try this:
MIDI drum pad, close mic'ed, connected to trigger a drum sample in a virtual instrument. The output speaker is also close mic'ed, ideally isolated from the pad. The two mics are connected to the soundcard on seperate channels and set to record. Hit the pad, record the sound of the stick hitting pad and sound of drum sample output. Match them up together in Sound Forge or something and make an exact measurement of the delay between the pad hit and the sound coming out. It's a bit heath robinson but it would measure actual latency :) ...... i guess.
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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby TAFKAT » Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:48 pm

Hey Robin,

Thanks Mate, there is only one vital aspect to that method which I don't have a lot in reserve... time... :-(

The Applet being developed is similar in concept to the Centrance utility , but is far more accurate and will take a few minutes across all latencies to get accurate RTL's to those reported in Cubendo/Reaper/SONAR.

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Re: Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base :

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:28 pm

Now that I'd love to have a copy of 8-)

The CEntrance LTU is usable, but you do need experience on reading its somewhat varying output readings. Having said that I've used it to sample accuracy on some occasions.

I also used modified MIDI cables and audio loopback tests when I wrote a 2-part investigation into Real World Latency way back in SOS September/October 2002 (yes, I have been doing this stuff for that long :beamup:)

www.soundonsound.com/SOS/sep02/articles ... an0902.asp
www.soundonsound.com/SOS/oct02/articles ... an1002.asp


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