Questions & Answers

Pops and crackles issues at Low latency for VST instruments with busy mix in Studio One 4.5

+25 votes
asked May 23, 2019 in Instruments and Plug-Ins by alancloughley (3,060 points)
The latest Studio One 4.5 release is awesome a whole host of free new features, performance increases a lot of work has gone into making a great DAW even better so thumbs up for this it is much appreciated by all loyal Presonus customers myself included.

Studio One in this release still has problems running VSTs at low latency on a busy mix without pops and crackles though and it would be great if this could be enhanced. This is a long post as it's a tricky and complex area apologies in advance but I'm sure many are in the same position and hopefully this can be fixed.

I understand this is probably not something ALL customers want or need but as a huge number of people (1000+) up voting the multi-core performance feature request to over 1000 one the biggest ever S1 feature request it suggests many of them likely work the way I do with templates and therefore hopefully it's worth perhaps investing some effort to resolve it in the way described or with a little lateral thinking and a new approach if others agree and up vote this feature request.

To make it workable to use VST instruments you need a reasonable low latency it's no fun playing percussive instruments like piano or drums when latencies start to creep over 10-15ms.

It's a fact of life and has always been the case that setting too low buffer settings to achieve low latency creates pops and crackles caused by the processor not being able to cope with a busy mix with lots of other plug ins running.

I work from a mix template where effects are pre-loaded into my template across tracks ready to go which is an efficient way of working. Few DAWs cope that well with this (except notably Reaper) as they have to run VST instruments and VST effects at the same time and at some point in any DAW this causes pops and crackles.

Those who DO NOT use templates may still find they want to add an VST instrument track or re-record a part in a song near the end of the mix stage and will then find themselves in the same boat so it's an issue that will probably be a pain point for anyone using VST instruments or those using a lot of CPU intensive VST FX during tracking..

Studio One 3 introduced Dropout protection an approach to solving this but unfortunately counter-intuitively switching it on to allow instruments to be played at a reasonable latency when the mix is loaded heavily MAKES DROPOUTS WORSE (crazy huh!) even worse it also causes Studio One to become unstable with some common 3rd party plug ins to the point that projects become unrecoverable. The sad part I believe many users are turning this feature on thinking it is making their machine perform better when in the most cases this feature in reality makes little difference and can make things worse.

My preferred solution at present is to work at a high buffer setting the computer can cope with while mixing then if I need to record a VST instrument part disable a range of effects and then click through various audio options dialog boxes and menus to drop the buffer to allow low enough latency to record a part using the VST you wish to re-record at low latency. This is hit or miss and has to be repeated server times unless you want to select all tracks and disable all insert effects...a good fallback option!

Once recording of a VST instrument track is complete you go through the tedious reverse process of more dialog boxes to up the buffer size to something the computer can handle then re-enabling the VST effects you'd disabled. To say this is a tedious workflow inspiration killing process is an understatement we are trying to stay in the flow here!

There are other options like changing other aspects of workflow as well render to audio any channels, commit compression, EQ etc. by rendering to audio etc. if you're happy with that and this can work to a degree and help sometimes get round some of the issues but you don't want to do that all the time as it breaks the flow waiting for rendering and with bus effects that's not possible AFAIK!

You can alternatively shell out thousands in the denomination of your choice on several UAD Octo cards and plugins and be done with it (under serious consideration!!) but UAD plugs aren't much better than native these days and I like many probably already have all the plugins I need or want so it would be nice if there was a native solution that didn't cost so much or tie you into a proprietary ecosystem like UAD or Waves soundgrid.

What's incredibly frustrating is that the dropout feature is supposed to do all this automatically and in a much more intelligent way but it doesn't work in a real scenarios under load with 3rd party plugins. I've tried it on various PC systems and invested months trying to get it to work.

There are two solutions:

1. Presonus drastically overhaul their audio engine to make it vastly efficient a la Reaper

This would be welcome but I'd imagine a huge technical challenge and this will always be an uphill struggle fighting against the hoards of VST vendors bent on their relentless quest to suck the life out of our CPUs with the evil intent of tempting us to buy their honeypot of gorgeous sounding FX plugins and VST instruments know who you are Acustica Audio et Al! This would help short term but is an order of magnitude less effective than an effective and working implementation of Dropout Protection.

2. Fix dropout protection so it actually works

This makes more sense, who cares if the engine is a little less efficient than it could be, we all just want to make music right? A working dropout protection system would kick this issue into touch. We could then set the buffers to ridiculous levels allowing hundreds of plugsin to run simultaneously with low load on the CPU then forget about it. Select a channel and it would run a low enough latency to record a VST instrument track but leaving the rest of the channels at the second higher independent buffer setting. Totally awesome it is the silver bullet.

One of the many reasons I bought into Studio One was that I thought dropout protection would work. From the #1 feature request I'm assuming 1000s of people like me want to run virtual instruments at low latency, I think the recent improvements from looking at core usage seem to spread the load much more evenly across cores but I still can't play virtual instruments at low latency on a busy mix on Studio One it just doesn't work :(

Please Presonus fix this next it's a fundamental issue that dropout protection doesn't work when the machine is loaded with insert effects and worse that it causes instability with 3rd party plugs in what is otherwise a completely awesome product. If Presonus fix this they will absolutely slay everything else in the market. .

I'm really grateful for the host of great new free features in Studio One 4.5 I love my Studiolive 32 mixer DAW control over S1, integration with Console 1. No DAW is perfect so I'm going nowhere I love S1 too much and Presonus are a great company who treat their customer well nobody else offers this level of features so well executed at an incredible price, free updates and nobody else is innovating at this level they are truly game changers and all round great guys!.

Come on Presonus fix this in some way for the group of us who use S1 as a creative tool to write and want to use templates so we can play VST instruments without having to cripple our workflow or live with compromise you will then leave the competition completely in the dust!

6 Answers

+2 votes
answered May 23, 2019 by paweduy (390 points)
Im going to answer your question because it looks like you took some effort to write this down. I was just looking for other people having issues with CPU spikes after update but it looks like it's not only this update problem and not only mine :) This is going to be huge thing for PreSonus to workaround somehow I guess, but I believe they will fix this for you and rest of people who are in need of low latency. I truely understand you since I feel respect for Presonus developers too for delivery of such a great DAW and no less good support and plus I don't want to be forced to come back using other "music making" utilities,  so that's why I bump your thread. Not the best time for you to post this because of dozens of other complaint about recent update issues, they must be very busy right now so lets be patient. Hope we see some good changes soon. Greets!
0 votes
answered May 23, 2019 by robertgray3 (42,210 points)
edited May 23, 2019 by robertgray3
Hey! Didn't read your username, can you reply to my message on the forums? I realize I hadn't gotten back to your message on this until recently.

From looking at old posts it looks like around 3.3 or so more plugins behaved this way (performance problems in DP) but it got a little better. It seems like there are still some problems with it but they'll likely need data to address it.

Sent you another message on the community support forumsabout it, maybe we can gather a little more data on it for them to fix it.
0 votes
answered May 23, 2019 by alancloughley (3,060 points)

Totally agree paweduy massive respect for the Presonus developers they are a seriously talented team, I'm a software developer and hats off to these guys they constantly deliver and innovate. Yup fingers crossed there's enough interest for this to be looked at seriously and the issues resolved! :

Thanks Robert, I got your message I'm definitely up for knocking heads together to deliver some concrete findings to send to Presonus maybe help make a case to give the developers some time to look into this and come up with a fix. I'll drop you a message back in the morning.

+1 vote
answered May 31, 2019 by delaniinaled (2,940 points)
OR disable/enable VST&VSTi automation.

Its a viable workaround - they dont have this feature yet however
0 votes
answered Jun 3, 2019 by mikedetar (600 points)
If the latency is lower than your hardware can handle, you may hear breaks, gaps, or pops while playing audio, or midi. You may also hear lag while playing V-instruments. Check that your hardware can handle the latency.
0 votes
answered Jun 5, 2019 by alancloughley (3,060 points)

Yes mikedetar pops and crackles are caused by load the CPU can't handle in real time at low latency..

Dropout protection is supposed to alleviate this but turning dropout protection on creates either a similar level and sometimes MORE pops and crackles which makes the feature redundant..

I wanted to test this more fully so I created a set of 8 test projects for Studio One 4.5 using only native/built in plugins. The tests use soft non-percussive synth sounds and sine waves so pops and crackles are easy to spot..

The first test starts with a light CPU load then subsequent tests progressively load the CPU with more audio tracks and instruments until audible pops and crackles occur. I recorded my results at Minimum (equivalent to turning DP off), Medium and Maximum dropout protection(supposed to make things better) and rated the results for each project at each setting,. 

I'll post up the tests and results on another thread here or on the forum when I have more time, in summary though I found the general pattern was that turning Dropout Protection ON by setting it to Medium or Maximum caused more dropouts..

If anyone is interested in trying them out to see whether turning Dropout protection on makes things better or worse PM me and I can send you the tests.

On a positive note though it took quite a lot of effects and instruments(lots of Mai Tai!!) to create dropouts, for anyone using just stock plugins in S! it's unlikely there will be many issues on a decent spec PC/Audio interface. It's more likely with CPU intensive 3rd party plugins that people will run into these kinds of problems on real-world projects. Most of the stock plugins in S1 are great too so I might think about substituting some of these in my S1 template.