Beating Performance Latency with MIDI - Tips?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by mild, Sep 29, 2008.

  1. mild

    mild Member

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    I've recently discovered Reason by Propellorhead Studios. It has pretty well changed the way that I look at making my music. I'm using Reason 4.0 with a Line 6 KB37 Midi Keyboard, into a mid-spec Windows XP machine. Playback is via an original Mbox.

    First off - the sounds are great! I am having so much fun building virtual rack chains of crazy equipment, dialing up strange synth sounds, and putting enormous reverbs on everything! For ethereal effects and pads, it just can't be beat.

    Here's the thing though - there's a delay between me pressing the key and the sound coming out. Not a huge one, by any means - and with pads, you don't notice it, because its a swirl of noise anyway. But, sit down and try and play a regular dry piano patch, or anything requiring precision, and its going to drive you mad!

    MIDI is simply commands sent from the controller to the PC - so I have a hard time believing that the issue lies on the interface side. Is it simply my hardware? Is it the Mbox? If I spring for a shiny new Macbook Pro and a 003, will this issue be gone? Or is it the nature of the beast? I would love to be able to play live with an upgradeable soft-synth instead of sinking money into a Nord - but I need to be able to play in time with Wurlitzer and Mellotron patches, etc. and sound as tight as possible.

    Any advice on this would be very very welcomed - especially if you've gone this route live as well.
    (Though I might be better off asking a synth forum, huh...?)
     
  2. iaresee

    iaresee Member

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    It's been a while since I've used Reason on a PC but...in Reason what audio output have you got selected? There's a list usually. You want to use ASIO if it's available. And there's a latency buffer you can dial down. The default may just have been set too high by Reason to begin with.
     
  3. Rick1114

    Rick1114 Member

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    It's a complicated issue, and you will hear many opinions. Fact is the modern "windows" operating system gets in the way of the midi timing. Macs are generally considered better than pc's for latency, but if you have a really supercharged PC (dual core etc..) with XP and a very good soundcard (RME, LYNX), I think you can achieve a usable mid timing for perfomanced based music. The latency will have be set really low on the soundcard and you will need a CPU that can handle the power needed. It will cost a few bucks....
     
  4. Randaddy

    Randaddy Member

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    I have a PC with a Pentium 4 (2.8 GHz), Windows XP, e-Mu 404 interface, and I'm using Ableton Live 5. When I first installed Live, I had the same problem with latency. But once I used the proper precedure to adjust the latency settings (as provided in the Live 5 help files), everything is perfect. No latency problems whatsoever.
    My guess is that Reason has info in the help files to make the proper adjustments.

    The latency is system specific and based on your sound card or interface. The recording software you use will make adjustments to compensate for this latency so that you don't notice it.

    Although Macs are indeed wonderful for music production, I definitely would not say that PCs are a problem for midi production.
     
  5. iaresee

    iaresee Member

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    Having moved from a PC to a Mac setup this year for audio I can say this is not true. My PC was an aging Athlon XP 1400 based system: 32-bit, single core, 1200 MHz. Running WinXP SP2, no special optimizations on the OS but I did kill off as many processes as I could before running Reason or Cubase SX3 on it. Audio hardware was an M-Audio 2496 PCI-based card, 2-in/2-out full duplex. Running Reason 3 or Reason 3 slaved to Cubase SX3 the performance was stellar. Really, Reason's ultra-light CPU use is what kept that computer going for 8 years (I built in 2000) as my main DAW machine. Between Reason and SX3's freeze function that machine kept going and going. I never had latency issues running Reason either slaved or standalone. The M-Audio ASIO drivers were the ones I used.

    Now I'm using a brand spanking new iMac, dual core, 4GB of RAM. Reason 4 and Logic 8 Pro. Reason stand-alone is great. But when I slave Reason to Logic 8 and use Logic 8 to record the MIDI that gets sent to Reason there's a delay. And I can't freaking get rid of it. At first I thought Logic 8 was quantizing stuff as I recorded, but nope. Replaying a recorded MIDI track in Logic 8 and having it sent to an instrument in Reason has everything slightly delayed and notes aren't falling where they were played or sustaining for as long as the should. Aftertouch control functions are also missing. It's frustrating. There's very little out there for help with Reason 4 and Logic 8. And Propellerhead's tech support keeps saying, "It's Logic call Apple." And Apple's support keeps saying, "It's Reason, call Propellerhead".

    So far the only "fix" I've got for the problem is to do my Reason MIDI sequencing in Reason's seqeuncer and only ReWire the audio output from Reason to Logic. It means switching between two sequencers to work which is slowing me down. Thankfully Reason 4's sequencer is much better than Reason 3's.

    I like the Mac. I really do. But this has been a frustrating transition from my fast, working SX3/Reason3 setup to a only semi-functioning Logic8/Reason4 setup.

    I eagerly await some Logic 8 books. The manual it ships with flat out sucks.
     
  6. jcground

    jcground Member

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    I started sequencing on a 486 something close to 14 or 15 years ago, using Cakewalk and a dedicated MIDI I/O card (not the MIDI interface on a sound card). With that setup controlling a variety of outboard hardware synths (just called "synths" back then), with MIDI chained together and no MIDI patcher or other interface, I never had a lag problem at all. MIDI could get laggy in those days if you were daisy chaining together a large number of devices, but I had a fairly complex setup and never had an issue.

    If you see a MIDI timing problem on a modern PC, I'd have to think that the problem must be coming either from the configuration of your drivers (as mentioned in a previous post), or latency in the software synth programs you are using. Sorry I can't be of any help there - I'm gettin' old and I still have most of those old synths, dating back to the early 80s when I was in high school. I'm not sold on the software synths... yet.
     

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