Annoying Technical Issues And How To Fix Them

technical-issues-in-daw

Have you ever had “clicks” and “pops” in your recordings or mixes?

Have you ever had a dialog box pop up and tell you that the system got overloaded and had to stop? Or that your hard drive was too slow?

It really sucks. Especially when it distracts you from making music. No one wants to be fussing around with computer glitches when you finally have some time in the studio.

Well, in this article, I want to give you simple solutions to some of the most common technical issues you might run across in your studio. So without further ado, let’s start with…

System Overload

That’s what Logic calls it, anyway. The dialog box says “The audio engine was not able to process all required data in time”.

Depending on your system, this problem may cause an error message to pop up, or you might just get “clicks” and “pops” in your audio.

This problem is caused by the system getting…well…overloaded. Luckily, there are a few things you can do. This is going to get just a little technical, so bear with me.

When audio is played through a DAW (or any software, really), it goes through a few stages. It starts on your hard drive, then gets moved into a “buffer” in your computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory), and then finally it gets processed by the DAW.

Similarly, when music is being recorded, it comes in through the audio interface into another buffer in RAM. Whenever audio has to pass from one system to another, it goes through a buffer.

Most DAWs have a configuration setting whereby you can set the size of this buffer. A larger buffer setting generally means that your computer doesn’t have to work as hard. Since the buffer is nice and big, it takes a while to empty out, so the computer doesn’t have to rush to re-fill it.

However, a larger buffer means that it also takes a while to fill. This introduces latency, because the computer has to wait for the buffer to fill up before it can start playing back the audio.

So it’s a balance. You want a small enough buffer size to reduce latency, but a large enough buffer size to avoid errors or artifacts in your audio.

A good rule of thumb is to use a larger buffer size when mixing, and a smaller buffer size when recording.

You only really need the low latency when you’re recording, so bring down the buffer size then.

However, when mixing, you don’t need low latency. Plus, chances are you’re going to have more plugins, effects, and virtual instruments. These all eat up processing power as well. Have a nice large buffer size can reduce the load on your computer so it doesn’t have to struggle to keep up while you’re mixing.

As a sidenote, you can also hit this issue if you use too many plugins or virtual instruments. Your computer’s processor can literally just get overwhelmed and overloaded.

In this case, consider printing some of your tracks so that you don’t need to be running all the processing on them. Some plugins and virtual instruments take a lot of juice to produce their sounds. If you bounce them down to an audio file and remove the unneeded plugins/tracks, it can save a lot n processing power.

Hard Drive Too Slow

Whenever you’re playing back audio, it’s coming from the hard drive. Whenever you’re recording audio, it’s getting written to the hard drive.

Either way, if the hard drive cannot handle the amount of data that is either being requested or delivered, you’re going to run into problems.

Again, this could cause artifacts (clicks and pops) in your audio. Or a dialog box telling you that there is a problem. In Logic, it says “Disk is too slow”. Pretty straightforward.

Think of your hard drive as being a large bottle with a small opening. Although it has a lot of capacity, only a small amount of data can pass in and out of it at a time.

The simple solution to hard drive problems when recording is to get a dedicated, external hard drive to use for recording and mixing.

You see, using your default internal hard drive means that there will be multiple programs on your computer all competing to get data in and out of the bottle. Your operating system, background processes, and other software on your system all need to access the one hard drive.

For most of these programs, it’s ok to have a bit of competition. They don’t need data in “real time”. If they have to wait, it just means that your computer might just seem a little sluggish.

But for audio programs like your DAW, they need that data as soon as possible, because they need to queue it up to be played through your speakers. If you have an external drive, you eliminate the competition and your audio software can get the data it needs in a timely fashion.

The next important thing to consider for an external hard drive is the speed.

First, go for USB 3.0 if you can. Check to see if the USB ports on your computer are USB 3.0, and check to see if your hard drive is as well. USB 3.0 is waaaaaay faster than USB 2.0, and it’s well worth the extra price you’ll pay for it.

Second, see if you can check the actual rotation speed of your hard drive. Usually they come in 5400rpm or 7200rpm. Faster is better, so get a 7200 if you can.

Finally, another option would be to use a Solid State Drive. Solid State drives are much faster than spinning hard drives, and they solve virtually all of the problems introduced by hard drives. They’re expensive though, so they aren’t a viable option for everyone.

So those are some of the more common technical issues in your DAW. Luckily, they have some pretty simple fixes.

Have you ever experienced any of these issues before? Frustrating, eh? Leave a comment and tell me your story.

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2 thoughts on “Annoying Technical Issues And How To Fix Them

  1. Hey Alex,
    my 2009 IMAC has 2.0 USB, ( I think)? Can u plug USB 3.0 into 2.0?? Does this help??

    thx,
    mitch
    ps. I commit all virtual instruments to audio!! Love LPX

    Like

    1. Hey Mitch,

      Unfortunately not. If your computer only has USB 2.0, then USB 3.0 won’t help you. I mean, if you upgrade your computer, then the USB 3.0 drive will be much faster at that point. But it won’t make a different on the USB 2.0 computer 😦

      Yeah I always commit VI’s to audio as well before mixing. Just makes it simpler, plus it saves CPU of course 🙂

      Have a good one!
      Alex

      Like

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