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Add High Efficiency Mode to Dropout Protection in Studio One

+1 vote
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asked Jul 15, 2018 in Recording by alancloughley (2,300 points)

Studio One is by far the best DAW I've ever used, I've tried them all and nothing else can touch it in terms of productivity and workflow for the types of project I work on, it just keeps getting better! 

A significant problem though is that Dropout protection a feature designed to allow you to run complex projects with many plugins while simultaneously allowing you to record in real time without maxing out your CPU in the process (have your cake and an eat it basically!) doesn't work. It's an awesome idea and must have been incredibly complicated to implement, the problem is it's hugely inefficient, offers at best marginal performance improvement and often makes things worse.

My idea is for a new Basic Mode option in dropout protection which could potentially realise this goal albeit with some compromises to the integrity of the mix while recording.

Basic mode dropout protection concept

Dropout protection uses some special double buffer magic to make things work, the big buffer is used for most tracks which saves CPU and a small buffer is used only for tracks you want to be able to hear in real time such as virtual instruments or when recording vocals. Studio one automatically switches between the buffers when you record enable tracks so it's "set and forget" and very easy to use. This approach means a lot of additional work for your CPU synchronising tracks across these two buffers which is highly inefficient and doesn't deliver any significant improvement or real world gain over leaving it switched off which is a darn shame. Warning it can also make the situation a lot worse and cause more dropouts!

This is where the new feature request comes in, for those willing to live with a bit of compromise dropout protection in Basic mode could operate differently and use a single buffer across the whole project.

When tracks are record enabled S1 could automatically switch from a large efficient buffer size to a low latency small buffer size while simultaneously disabling heavyweight plugins(perhaps just the worst offenders) until the PC can cope with the load at a the low buffer size, it would need to auto-compensate levels a little to prevent big gain issues on tracks from EQ and compressors. 

Tracks being recorded could be disabled only as a last resort allowing effects such as compressors or reverb to remain enabled on these tracks (something which can cause huge issues with existing dropout protection feature!) to help artists get the best performance.

The mix wouldn't be perfect during tracking as some plugins would be disabled but there would be massively less dropout issues as less CPU power would be required during recording. When no tracks are record enabled the buffer size could automatically switch back to the higher less CPU intensive setting and re-enable the plugins again allowing users to run many more plugins when mixing. 

This would be much simpler to implement, yes more crude and not perfect but it would deliver MASSIVE real world benefit and solve the problem unlike the present approach which is deeply flawed. 

Dropout protection already has the concept of degrees of protection and this would fit perfectly with the concept of Basic Mode, at maximum protection all VST plugs in the projects could be auto-disabled and at less aggressive settings a smaller percentage of the plugins would be disabled preserving at least some of the integrity of the mix during tracking.

Recording at very low latency with almost any modern budget interface and PC is possible if you're not using plugins (or very many of them) so this could be a massive benefit across the board form laptops to expensive dedicated audio PCs albeit with some sacrifice to the quality of the mix during recording. 

This would be a true solution to the problem at hand and I would have no problem with the existing dropout protection being dropped and replaced entirely with something like this which would actually work. 

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