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USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby Pete Kaine » Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:01 am

Bandwidth isn't really the point in this instance, in that we're more concerned with it being delivered in a timely fashion, rather than looking for more of it being shifted at a given point.

Ok, so my sticking point is this.

You have the CPU at the heart of the machine, where everything that is processed and actioned is done so via the CPU. The CPU has X amounts of cycles every second to process all the data that is slung at it.

Now data is either real-time or it isn't. So the example your already going to be aware of is audio buffers (i.e. ASIO) where it collects the data and releases it at a set interval. The CPU then has until the next buffer release to clear the workload you just chucked at it, otherwise data is dropped and lost.

Now outside of that and back into the world of USB we have a few stages it has to pass through. At the very least you have the PCH which is the controller that allocates access to the CPU itself. You then the USB controller that oversees each of the data slice allocations to the USB ports and finally you have the USB device itself at the end broadcasting the data.

Robins right, in that it's not necessarily the device or USB controller that could be at fault, it could come down to something at the board end and the implimentation on how the PCH slices the allocation with CPU access. This can come down to internal resource allocation problems and if it's that end of the chain your fairly likely to be seeing all kinds of random issues, not just with your audio.

But my point was regarding anything real-time, which largely points at audio and video capture / processing as being extra sensitive. A hard-drive just moving data over a USB connection has some leeway in how and when it delivers the data to the processor. If it takes an extra half a ms, it really doesn't matter in most cases. An extra fraction of a second opening up your word docs? You're never going to notice.

With real-time audio? That just glitched out on you and ruined the take.

Of course the are good hubs out there. Ones that are well designed and capable of getting everything done cleanly with the controller it's talking too. So if you can match up one of those with a good motherboard implementation of the USB controller and PCH, then your golden. In fact with Robins Surface scenario and the single port, the upside there is that the USB controller he's dealing with in there is the native one built into the PCH controller by Intel which already gives it a huge head start.

If you look around the market a number of firms recommend using the native Intel controller in that it's the only only one that is 100% validated with most of them. Given its native to the chipset and designed alongside the core PCH solution itself its going to have a far tighter integration than a third party chip that's just stuck on the board more of an afterthought... something that if you've ever struggled getting devices working on the front USB port on your PC, you may already be already too well aware of!

My rule of thumb is simply to keep the chain of data transferal as simple as you possibly can. You're using a number of small hidden buffers in the process of moving data from device to CPU. Well designed kit and well written drivers will interface with the system cleanly and do exactly what you need. My only suggestion here is that where you can, it's always worth simplifying the chain as much as possible, to ensure the clearest path from A-B.

As I said up top just a general guideline for best usage. It of course doesn't mean that setups that don't allow for this to happen are not going to work, I'm just saying you "might" have to juggle the configuration until it does. Equally it might just be flawless for you out of the box. But given that it could come down to a simple miss-communication between controller A (Audio interface) and controller B (board controller), it's hard to give 100% accurate solution advice when every hardware combination is likely to be different.
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby ef37a » Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:27 am

Thanks Pete. As ever with computers, you can never tell!

If I have understood you correctly, I could buy a very good USB 3.0 hub but not have it work well with an AI because of a MOBO configuration? Anyway to tell?

My "best" computer (if I dare mention it in this company!) uses the Asus M59A7 LE R2.0 motherboard. Has 2 USB 3.0 ports but Speccy tells me nothing about those nor the gaggle of 2.0 ports front and back. I dare say Asus would have the information but what would I be looking for?
I have also fitted a PCIe 4 port USB 3.0 card. I take it that would be another "layer" and best left to drives and such?

I know what you mean about USB ports not all being the same! The HP laptop upon which I type this has 3 2.0 ports. Two left side one right. The two LH ports seem pretty universal but some USB sticks are simply not recognised in the RH port. The KA6, as usual, does not give a monkey's!

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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby Rich Hanson » Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:59 am

You might also get a conflict between a USB2 AI and a USB3 hub. Initially my UMC404 wouldn't work through my USB3 hub but was fine through my USB2 hub or connected directly to my Mac's USB3 port.

I did discover there was a firmware update for the UMC404 due to incompatibilities with certain USB3 chipsets, although I haven't had the opportunity to try it since I applied it.
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby robinv » Fri Sep 30, 2016 12:51 pm

ef37a wrote:Thanks Pete. As ever with computers, you can never tell!

If I have understood you correctly, I could buy a very good USB 3.0 hub but not have it work well with an AI because of a MOBO configuration? Anyway to tell?


This is the whole trouble - what is a very good USB 3.0 hub? A quick search on Amazon reveals brands like Anker, Aukey, Ugreen, Onchoice, Tonsee, ECHTPower, HooToo and many many more, all with 4-5 stars in user reviews. How do you make that call or do you go on the one that looks nice? Or do we assume that Belkin has to be better because it's a bit more expensive. The Amazon "Basic" hub gets 5 stars from 999 reviews.....

It's a bit of a thing. I was told by someone that UAD recommended Anker hubs for their Apollo interfaces but i imagine it's just because they had one and it worked rather than spending any time comparing different makes.

This sort of thing drives me nuts - almost as much as Thunderbolt 3.
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby Pete Kaine » Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:04 pm

robinv wrote:This is the whole trouble - what is a very good USB 3.0 hub?

Bingo... stuffed if I know. :lol:

Dave - from your manual.

USB1 x Asmedia USB3.0 controller: 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports at back panel (blue)

AMD SB950 Chipset: 12 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 ports at the mid-board, 6 ports at the back panel)

So it looks like the USB 2 are all on the native controller, and I would expect them to be the better choices for compatibility. The USB 3 looks to be the same ASMedia chip that they had in use on the X79 boards and was a little patchy at times in my experience.
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby Agharta » Wed Oct 05, 2016 1:08 pm

I have a workaround as I decided to change PC and the new one uses the same Dell dock but has two ports on the tablet part of the 2-in-1 whereas the old one has none so I am two ports up. Yay. :)

Thanks for all the replies as it may become an issue when working without the dock.
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby IvanSC » Fri Oct 14, 2016 10:43 pm

Agharta wrote:
Rich Hanson wrote:It appears to be this one: https://www.amazon.com/Koutech-13-Port- ... B0015BR7KO

Some mixed reviews there, but it's worked for me for over five years now.

Thanks, but I need USB 3.0 as I am connecting an SSD.

Not necessary. I regularly connect a USB3 external drive via my USB2 powered hub.
Blew one of my 3 port completely and the second one is a bit iffy - mostly through my failing to allow for just how much power two external drives would pull, especially if one of them had an "optional" 5volt input socket! - so I am reduced to 1.5 working USB 2 sockets.
At the last count I had the 2 external drives, a Babyface, a wireless mouse and a couple of dongles running happily off a USB2 powered hub
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby Agharta » Fri Oct 14, 2016 11:25 pm

IvanSC wrote:
Agharta wrote:
Rich Hanson wrote:It appears to be this one: https://www.amazon.com/Koutech-13-Port- ... B0015BR7KO

Some mixed reviews there, but it's worked for me for over five years now.

Thanks, but I need USB 3.0 as I am connecting an SSD.

Not necessary.

It is if you want to utilise the speed of the drive which I do otherwise I'd use a HDD.
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby Scoox » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:27 am

damoore wrote:I use a powered USB 3 hub in my live setup with two keyboards, a pedal to (USB) midi convertor and my USB interface all attached and have seen/heard no problems at 128 sample buffer size (the interface won't go any faster even directly connected)

I was expecting the interface to not like being driven via the hub but it seems just fine. Of course, I am only running two channels of audio.

We'd love to know what hub you are using!
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Re: USB 3.0 Hubs for general and DAW usage. What are the issues?

Postby The Elf » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:00 pm

I use an Orico 12-input USB3 hub for all my studio synths. No problems here so far.

I wouldn't connect an AI via a hub - that always gets a dedicated input.

The Orico devices were recommended to me, and so far I'm happy with them For some reason the 12-input model seems to have disappeared from outlets.

I've just bought a 10-input Orico hub for live playing, since many laptops now feature only 1 or 2 USB ports. When I've run it in anger I'll report back.
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