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View Poll Results: Interface or USB Mixer?
Interface 5 83.33%
Mixer 1 16.67%
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Old 01-17-2015, 12:59 AM   #1
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Default Audio Interface VS USB Mixer

So I've been going back and forth between getting either an interface like the Akai EIE Pro or Presonus Audio Box 22VSL, or just getting one ov those USB mixers like the Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB. What do you guys think pros/cons-wise?

For what it's worth, my recording is pretty straight forward; pretty much just mike & hit record, I don't do any FX or throw anything extra on my tracks save for an EQ or comp after I've recorded, do I don't think I've much to worry about as far as buffer and sample rates, it's a pretty straight forward process with guitars/bass/vox/keys, etc.

My main concern is recording live drums; would it be better to get an interface and get a separate mixer for the drums (the more "tried and true" method it would seem), or could I take the shortcut route ov a USB mixer without loosing too much ov the quality & versatility ov an interface?
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Old 01-17-2015, 08:00 AM   #2
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A USB mixer IS an audio interface.

It just comes down to your choice.

Just be careful tho... Many USB mixer only pass a stereo stream to the computer.
Always read the specs to make sure it passes independent channels.
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Old 01-17-2015, 12:42 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by TimOBrien View Post
A USB mixer IS an audio interface.

It just comes down to your choice.

Just be careful tho... Many USB mixer only pass a stereo stream to the computer.
Always read the specs to make sure it passes independent channels.
What do you mean by a stereo stream and independent channels?
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Old 01-17-2015, 01:45 PM   #4
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What do you mean by a stereo stream and independent channels?
He means that even though a mixer may have multiple channels the thing will only send a 2-track stereo stream to your DAW. So you can mix all your drums on individual channels in your mixer, but what gets recorded is just the left/right signal.
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Old 01-17-2015, 03:59 PM   #5
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In this case, the XENYX is one of those stereo stream USB devices.

If you're looking to record drums I wouldn't go with either of the devices you mentioned, assuming you are going to need at least 3 microphones and up to as many as 9 or 10 microphones.

I would be looking at things like the Focusrite 18i20, Tascam US 1800 for entry level, or if you want to drop big $$$ the A&H Ice-16, Behringer Audio Snake S16.

I have an older Tascam US1641 which is 16 channels and doesn't get in the way at all. They are easy to pick up cheap as they are discontinued. I got mine for $60. The US 1800 can be found at similar prices, too.
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Old 01-17-2015, 10:58 PM   #6
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He means that even though a mixer may have multiple channels the thing will only send a 2-track stereo stream to your DAW. So you can mix all your drums on individual channels in your mixer, but what gets recorded is just the left/right signal.
Well, I guess for now that's not really a setback for me (if you pan something in the middle of a stereo track it should come out evenly on both ends, right?), as long as I can still record it as a stereo track on Reaper I think I shouldn't have any trouble.

I guess I'm leaning more towards a Xenyx type of interface now that I think about it, but I'm hoping someone could point out all the cons for me so I know what I'd be getting into.
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Old 01-17-2015, 11:38 PM   #7
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The cons are large size, and more expensive for equivalent I/O (because most channels have hardware EQ and sends strip) so if you don't make any use of that EQ you're wasting money. If you use it live that's useful, and if you want to spend time getting the tone you want at the analog end first ok, but you better be fast at that if you have musician's waiting on you.

So much easier IMO to get a big interface with just gain knobs and nothing else fancy built in, send all the tracks into DAW, then EQ ITB. There's really no reason anymore not to.
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Old 01-18-2015, 05:30 AM   #8
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What do you mean by a stereo stream and independent channels?
The issue will be that with an audio interface with, say, 8 inputs, you can record 8 simultaneous channels and still be able to edit each channel independently after the recording. Nice for drums.
With a stereo stream, you have to get the mix right on the way in, cause that's what you're stuck with.
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Old 01-18-2015, 07:40 AM   #9
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http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-a...-mixing-system

best of both worlds imo. a little pricey, but hindsight tells me to save up and only buy once!
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Old 01-18-2015, 11:55 PM   #10
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Fergler, you and KevinW make some good points. So regarding an interface, what are some you all have had experience with?
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Old 01-19-2015, 12:59 AM   #11
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If you're set a getting a mixer style interface, the Mackie Onyx series is good but you'll need a firewire connection on your computer.
http://mackie.com/products/onyx820i/

I use an M-Audio Profire 2626 and it's been mostly awesome since the day I bought it in 2008.

Focusrite makes great stuff too. The Scarlett series is very affordable.
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Old 01-19-2015, 01:03 AM   #12
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I'd recommend the Zoom R16, it triples as audio interface, controller, and 16-track mobile recorder with 8 tracks able to go directly to DAW (i.e. if it's hooked up to Reaper you can put in 8 tracks, if you're recording to the SD card it's 16).

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/R16

Best bang for buck I think.

The Presonus boards are nice too but I think that's overkill for you - they are designed with features for live use with built in effects and recall features.
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Old 01-19-2015, 10:54 PM   #13
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I'd recommend the Zoom R16, it triples as audio interface, controller, and 16-track mobile recorder with 8 tracks able to go directly to DAW (i.e. if it's hooked up to Reaper you can put in 8 tracks, if you're recording to the SD card it's 16).

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/R16

Best bang for buck I think.

The Presonus boards are nice too but I think that's overkill for you - they are designed with features for live use with built in effects and recall features.
Yeah, I'm looking for something as bare bones as possible as far as FX & extra stuff like that, just plug & rec is what I'm looking for. I have an M-Audio interface I've been using for guits & bass, but it's only 1 track (picked it up for $80) and I don't think they even make it anymore, but regrdless, I feel I'm ready to upgrade to something with more inputs for tackling multiple tracks.
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Old 01-20-2015, 05:22 AM   #14
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Fergler - do you have any hands on experience with the R16 as an interface/controller?
My brother in Fla bought one and whilst he has been able to record just fine with it to its internal card, he has never managed to get reliable low-latency performance out of it as an interface.
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Old 01-20-2015, 10:24 AM   #15
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Fergler - do you have any hands on experience with the R16 as an interface/controller?
My brother in Fla bought one and whilst he has been able to record just fine with it to its internal card, he has never managed to get reliable low-latency performance out of it as an interface.
None, I want one but I can't vouch for it's latency. Then again, I don't know many devices under 400 dollars that deliver better than 12ms round trip on low-latency asio settings. Luckily the types of performances that require 0 latency tend to also involve only a handful of microphones, so I'd suggest a loopback monitoring setup for it.
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Old 02-19-2015, 03:21 PM   #16
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Yeah, I am in the same deciding boat as the OP. I want to use my living room computer for recording some basic stuff, preferably using a usb mixer like a Behringer Xenyx or get a Behringer UCA 202 or 222, as I have a nice Tascam 164FX mixer that I bought on sale a year or so ago, that I never use. Please help us with some choices, tx, psingman
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Old 02-21-2015, 08:32 AM   #17
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Getting either an Akai EIE Pro

Don't.

I can't comment on the pros/cons of mixers vs interfaces, but absolutely do not get Akai EIE pro (or its clone, the M-Audio M-track quad). It's just absolutely useless. Extremely poorly designed, full of design flaws - I managed to utterly destroy two preamps because their phantom-power circuitry wasn't wired properly and I'd plugged a guitar lead into one input and three condenser mics into the other three and turned phantom power on - for some reason they'd wired the jack connectors in the combo to the phantom power as well - which ended up totally destroying half of the preamps. They are now unusably noisy.

Aside from that the drivers are awful. The only way to get it to play back without unspeakably awful clicking popping and grinding sounds (and I mean seriously unrecognisably glitchy) is to operate it at 96khz - which would be fine except my projects tend to be very large and involve a lot of sampling - which means my templates just don't work at such a high sample rate, and everything starts chugging pretty quickly.

Right now my Akai EIE pro is sitting on my desk wired into the output of a far superior interface - so it's basically just a really expensive VU meter. That's literally all I use it for.

I know this isn't really the point of your thread but if you end up deciding to buy an interface please do not buy Akai or M-Audio, for your own sake.
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Old 02-21-2015, 11:30 AM   #18
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I'd suggest avoiding any type of audio interface connected via USB, and go for Thunderbolt or FireWire connectivity instead.
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:39 PM   #19
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Don't.

I can't comment on the pros/cons of mixers vs interfaces, but absolutely do not get Akai EIE pro (or its clone, the M-Audio M-track quad). It's just absolutely useless. Extremely poorly designed, full of design flaws - I managed to utterly destroy two preamps because their phantom-power circuitry wasn't wired properly and I'd plugged a guitar lead into one input and three condenser mics into the other three and turned phantom power on - for some reason they'd wired the jack connectors in the combo to the phantom power as well - which ended up totally destroying half of the preamps. They are now unusably noisy.

Aside from that the drivers are awful. The only way to get it to play back without unspeakably awful clicking popping and grinding sounds (and I mean seriously unrecognisably glitchy) is to operate it at 96khz - which would be fine except my projects tend to be very large and involve a lot of sampling - which means my templates just don't work at such a high sample rate, and everything starts chugging pretty quickly.

Right now my Akai EIE pro is sitting on my desk wired into the output of a far superior interface - so it's basically just a really expensive VU meter. That's literally all I use it for.

I know this isn't really the point of your thread but if you end up deciding to buy an interface please do not buy Akai or M-Audio, for your own sake.
Ha ha, no worries man, I appreciate the heads up. I've been leaning more towards a PreSonus, probably the 44VSL. Any input on that one?
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:42 PM   #20
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I'd suggest avoiding any type of audio interface connected via USB, and go for Thunderbolt or FireWire connectivity instead.
What's the difference between USB & FireWire/Thunderbolt?
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Old 02-21-2015, 01:13 PM   #21
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What's the difference between USB & FireWire/Thunderbolt?
I'm not an expert on the technical specifics (maybe someone else can chime in on this?), but I consider USB to be quite unreliable in general, more suitable for connecting less demanding peripherals such as a mouse, while FireWire and especially the more modern Thunderbolt is more suitable for more demanding audio / video peripherals (low latency, high bandwidth, better suited for connecting multiple devices on a single hardware port). This also seems to be reflected in the range of devices using the respective protocols; the more expensive gear typically uses FireWire and/or Thunderbolt rather than USB.
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Old 02-21-2015, 01:46 PM   #22
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I'm not an expert on the technical specifics (maybe someone else can chime in on this?), but I consider USB to be quite unreliable in general, more suitable for connecting less demanding peripherals such as a mouse, while FireWire and especially the more modern Thunderbolt is more suitable for more demanding audio / video peripherals (low latency, high bandwidth, better suited for connecting multiple devices on a single hardware port). This also seems to be reflected in the range of devices using the respective protocols; the more expensive gear typically uses FireWire and/or Thunderbolt rather than USB.
You're mostly wrong here. Bits is bits, and there is no qualitative difference between one delivered over USB and one delivered over Firewire. Yes, firewire gives you the ability to daisy chain devices, which is nice, but from a throughput standpoint, USB 2 will give you ~480MB a second, which is actually more than Firewire 400. USB 3 transfer speeds are on par with Thunderbolt.

Whether it is appropriate or not is entirely dependent on your needs. Do you do a lot of mobile recording, where you're packing up and tearing down gear all the time? USB might be a better choice. Are you working a studio where future growth is a concern? The ability to pack more devices onto a Firewire chain might be the better choice. Another consideration is how many USB ports you have available. That is one I fight on my Mac Mini all the time. I've got 4, and that's it.
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Old 02-21-2015, 01:59 PM   #23
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You're mostly wrong here. Bits is bits, and there is no qualitative difference between one delivered over USB and one delivered over Firewire. Yes, firewire gives you the ability to daisy chain devices, which is nice, but from a throughput standpoint, USB 2 will give you ~480MB a second, which is actually more than Firewire 400. USB 3 transfer speeds are on par with Thunderbolt.

Whether it is appropriate or not is entirely dependent on your needs. Do you do a lot of mobile recording, where you're packing up and tearing down gear all the time? USB might be a better choice. Are you working a studio where future growth is a concern? The ability to pack more devices onto a Firewire chain might be the better choice. Another consideration is how many USB ports you have available. That is one I fight on my Mac Mini all the time. I've got 4, and that's it.
Thanks for correcting me and elaborating on it. As I said, I'm not an expert on these technical specifics.

So, if I understand you correctly, out of (1) low latency, (2) high bandwidth, and (3) connecting multiple devices on a single hardware port, number (2) isn't relevant, but (3) is (I'm also fighting that one all the time, I only have 2 USB ports on my MBP, and using USB hubs often give me trouble; I also have the impression that the form factor of USB connections makes connections go bad more easily, they typically feel less robust to me, at least).

That still leaves me wondering about (1) though; do you also know how latency compares between USB vs FireWire / Thunderbolt? I was under the impression that FireWire and Thunderbolt typically outperform USB in that aspect. But I may be wrong on that account, too.
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Old 02-21-2015, 02:52 PM   #24
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Thanks for correcting me and elaborating on it. As I said, I'm not an expert on these technical specifics.

So, if I understand you correctly, out of (1) low latency, (2) high bandwidth, and (3) connecting multiple devices on a single hardware port, number (2) isn't relevant, but (3) is (I'm also fighting that one all the time, I only have 2 USB ports on my MBP, and using USB hubs often give me trouble; I also have the impression that the form factor of USB connections makes connections go bad more easily, they typically feel less robust to me, at least).
I think that is a pretty fair assessment. My next interface is going to be firewire or T-bolt just for that reason.

Quote:
That still leaves me wondering about (1) though; do you also know how latency compares between USB vs FireWire / Thunderbolt? I was under the impression that FireWire and Thunderbolt typically outperform USB in that aspect. But I may be wrong on that account, too.
Well, latency is about what happens to data before and after it gets on the bus, and there are a whole lot of moving parts between them. Even before it gets to the DAW, there is the transport driver, the bus clocking buffers, and the audio system your system uses (ASIO, for example, or Core Audio if you Mac it up.)

So in that regard, USB might be more latent, as it has a fixed 1ms clock rate, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it is. A firewire implementation could be more or less latent than that depending on how the other things are configured.

If you're playing live through your interface, it is something to consider.
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Old 02-21-2015, 03:17 PM   #25
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Thanks again, Jerome.

Fwiw, I was also thinking of applications other than audio interfaces, such as running UAD-2 plug-ins - there's a quite lot of data going back and forth between computer and external device when using them, and I figured, if USB's overall performance would allow for this, they probably would have made devices such as their Apollo interfaces compatible with USB3 as well in order to to reach a significantly wider market.
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Old 02-21-2015, 07:17 PM   #26
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You're mostly wrong here. Bits is bits, and there is no qualitative difference between one delivered over USB and one delivered over Firewire. Yes, firewire gives you the ability to daisy chain devices, which is nice, but from a throughput standpoint, USB 2 will give you ~480MB a second, which is actually more than Firewire 400. USB 3 transfer speeds are on par with Thunderbolt.

Whether it is appropriate or not is entirely dependent on your needs. Do you do a lot of mobile recording, where you're packing up and tearing down gear all the time? USB might be a better choice. Are you working a studio where future growth is a concern? The ability to pack more devices onto a Firewire chain might be the better choice. Another consideration is how many USB ports you have available. That is one I fight on my Mac Mini all the time. I've got 4, and that's it.
Whoa man, this guys knows his stuff, I thought. I guess on that note USB is my best choice; I'm trying to keep my load as barebones as possible just because I'm usually recording in different spots & I've yet to have the need to record more than two tracks at once. I think I'm gonna go with the PreSonus USB 2x2 for now & see how it works.

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Old 02-21-2015, 11:40 PM   #27
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The thing to remember is it's just tools. Sometimes you need a screwdriver, and sometimes you need a wrench, and you always need a hammer. But there's no "best" tool, just tools best for whatever the application calls for.
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Old 05-01-2016, 03:02 AM   #28
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The new Behringer X18 digital mixer looks pretty nice for $500+VAT (requires a tablet)
http://www.music-group.com/Categorie...P0AWZ/Features

Doesn't it ?
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Old 05-01-2016, 06:54 AM   #29
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Fergler mentioned the Tascam US1800. This is a very inexpensive interface and the same one I started out with. It is perfectly fine on latency and can be "piggybacked" with another to give you 16 xlr channels of input. I now use the x32 from behringer but I can vouch for the 1800. Perfectly good interface for the price.
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Old 05-01-2016, 06:07 PM   #30
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You're mostly wrong here. Bits is bits, and there is no qualitative difference between one delivered over USB and one delivered over Firewire. Yes, firewire gives you the ability to daisy chain devices, which is nice, but from a throughput standpoint, USB 2 will give you ~480MB a second, which is actually more than Firewire 400. USB 3 transfer speeds are on par with Thunderbolt.

Whether it is appropriate or not is entirely dependent on your needs. Do you do a lot of mobile recording, where you're packing up and tearing down gear all the time? USB might be a better choice. Are you working a studio where future growth is a concern? The ability to pack more devices onto a Firewire chain might be the better choice. Another consideration is how many USB ports you have available. That is one I fight on my Mac Mini all the time. I've got 4, and that's it.
Some important stuff left out. What it boils down to is that the 480mb for USB2 is a theoretical best case scenario, not what the peripheral is working at. Firewire 400 utlizes both asynchronous and isocnronous transfers simultaneously, the latter delivering the data guaranteed continuously and on time, which USB2 doesn't offer. USB2 is also half duplex so it only functions in one direction at a time, whereas Firewire, full duplex, can communicate in both directions simultaneously. More importantly, especially for less than top shelf processors, USB2 is CPU host reliant so anything else happening on the computer can affect the transfer. Firewire is not host reliant, so nothing else the computer is doing affects its transfer. This is less of an issue with fast computers but on others it's important.

Another huge difference, and IMO the biggest, is in the drivers and how OS X and Windows deal with them. With OS X the drivers are either part of the system (FW) or supplied by the vendor (USB2). With Windows all drivers for both must be written by the vendor. What happened here is that Apple made rock solid FW in their OS and never really had optimum USB implementation on Macs. And truly the reverse has been the case for Windows. Far superior USB implementation and such spotty FW support that Windows users frequently can't get fast or stable enough FW use and often don't see what the advantage of FW is based on their bad experiences. Neither of these were accidental. Apple wanted to push FW as the port for data transfer, since they created it, and Microsoft and PC makers resisted.

But as you say, it all depends on what you're doing : ) Context is king.

Pretty moot now as FW, which had a good run, is over for new computers and USB3 brings USB into modern times. But since there are still tons of USB2 and FW computers and especially interfaces out there, the difference between USB2's spec and what it delivers in use are worth noting.
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Old 06-03-2016, 05:08 PM   #31
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Thought I would add a EUREKA to this old thread. A friend of mine noticed that I haven't had any troubles with my Tascam USB MKiii for a long time now and for a while there was experiencing all these hindrancesa and kept checking all sorts of connections with the proggies people recommended in here and elsewhere.

So, we decided that when a friend of ours who puts together and fixes computers for a living had a spare afternoon, we would take him out to lunch and talk to him about all this tinkering. When we brought the subject up, he laughed so hard, but we could see he had experienced the same scenario and that actually it wasn't funny. He said, that with Windows computers, all sorts of things are being accessed and remembered when you use a program and even though it is supposed to stop being used when you opt out of it it somehow stay in the mix. He said, did everything finally go back to normal basically when you stopped fiddling with the stuff like latency and noises, etc. Heck, we said yeah, and he replied...that all those programs that are supposed to detect interruptions actually make connections worse. Well, that is what I was beginning to comprehend. To shorten the story, he said, just use the computer for awhile and forget about checking on stuff and it will come around....good to find and finally figure out, psingman
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Old 06-04-2016, 12:26 AM   #32
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Location: Near Cambridge UK and Near Questembert, France
Posts: 18,578
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Been following your posts over the last few hours.
What happened?
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Brexit Schmexit. Lets have a violent revolution instead. Bagsy the first go with a nuke! (Here, Moggy Moggy...)
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