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Author Topic: The peculiarities of USB audio  (Read 5353 times)
Kara-Moon Master
Posts: 5330

Who? Me?

« on: March 31, 2012, 05:12:58 PM »

Although this has software issues, I think this is still the right place for it.

I started fiddling with electrical stuff when I was 8. That was in 1957. Over the years, as both hobby and employment, I've worked in most areas of electronics based technology. I can say with total confidence that over this time systems have become streadily less user manageable. Added to this is the fact that most manufacturers these days seem to try to find some lock-in to stop you mixing & matching.

Now if I find all this frustrating and confusing...

In particular USB which was supposed to be the mutts nuts of connectivity, is actually more like a dogs breakfast, and that is right across the board. It is also still as flaky as hell!

I don't know if you remember the first memory sticks, but you had load up special software to read them, and no two makes were compatible. Eventually, the people who designed the standard woke up and defined the USB MASS STORAGE class which almost overnight stopped the rot (although Apple in particular are going against the tide here).

Audio was much worse until, again, a USB AUDIO class was defined. Things improved, but there was still a lot of stuff that requred specialist drivers.

The advent of USB 2 just blew everything out of the water agaion. You would think people would have learned, but there was no USB2 AUDIO class until about 2 years ago, and Microsoft still haven't implemented OS-based drivers for it (everyone else has).

Now anything handling USB is supposed to gracefully select whatever speed it can find hardware and drivers for, so a lot of people think they are running their audio stuff under USB2, when in reality they are running at USB1 speeds, with all the attendant bandwidth and latency problems. Some manufacturers didn't implement the standards properly, and went back to dedicated drivers to get USB2 performance and then charged the users arm+leg+firstborn for it. If you were on Linux - tough you had no chance.

As soon as the class was defined both Apple and Linux people knocked out OS-based class complient drivers sharpish, so you now have the ironic situation that only Windows can't natively handle properly written class-complient USB audio kit - sounds familiar doesn't it?

If you have a poem, I have a tune, and we exchange these, we can both have a poem, a tune, and a song.
- Will
Kara-Moon Master
Posts: 4478

Studiophile,Audiophile & Synthophile.

« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2012, 11:11:39 PM »

Incidentally,I recently bought a USB mixer,under the assumption that it was a standard audio interface.The fact that it didn't have a built in sound card,wasn't terribly surprising & I took a haphazard chance in using it as one.

The real issue with it,is that it is only USB1 and that's shocking to me,as I thought USB2 was the standard..especially under the Mackie name. Roll Eyes

As it turned out,the mixer's only purpose,was for streaming audio in a live set up,via a laptop and apparently...USB1 is sufficient for such applications.

Even if the mixer was USB2...I wasn't thrilled with downgrading to my PC's factory sound card anyhow.


Marc JX8P
Kara-Moon Master
Posts: 1087

« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2012, 02:48:50 AM »

Still - drivers and chipsets always seem to come back as one of the main issues for latency and clicks, with also some other issues interfering (eg., my laptop's ethernet controller will sometimes produce clicks). On the other hand, my USB 2 based RME interface works lovely in low latency and can do cd quality simultaneous transmission of 18 channels in and 18 out.

Also known as Marc JXP
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