Lately I have realized my M-Audio 2496 cards are starting to show their age. Among other things, they don’t really play nice together on Windows 7, do not sound as good as my Audio 4 DJ USB sound-device, and do not work on my laptop given that they are PCI sound cards. I have been thinking about a better solution for some time (probably a Firewire solution so I can use it on my PC or Mac, such as the Focusrite Sapphire Pro 40). Since those aren’t cheap, in the interim I have been trying to use my Audio 4 as my recording solution for Ableton Live.

Unfortunately, I replaced one set of issues with another. For some reason I get USB drop-outs from time to time, even when using very conservative buffering settings. The issue basically nukes any recording I was doing at the time so I have to go back and do it again. After researching online, it seems like the issue is not the Audio 4 but the USB interface on my motherboard (and/or Windows 7).

So, I went about looking at USB controller cards and settled on this guy. I bought it off NewEgg it was neither the cheapest nor most expensive so I figured it was a safe bet. I received it in the mail today and after installing some drivers, was up and running!

Or so I thought. Initially, my Audio4 was recognized but the latencies as reported by the Audio4’s diagnostic panel were the same as they were previously. When I tried to play something through Live, it would crash and using other applications (such as FamiTracker) to generate audio was also met with failure. Turns out that while the Audio4 is recognized, audio streaming fails miserably.

I chatted with StarTech support and they were actually rather helpful for the most part but were not able to really confirm much and suggested I talk with Native Instruments (the makers of the Audio4) instead. Disappointing since USB3 controllers should be backwards compatible with USB2. Granted, I didn’t expect to get USB3 speeds – I was simply wanting a dedicated USB controller and figured getting a USB3 one would future proof upgrades for if I ever needed it in the future. That and I figured PCI Express would offer better latencies than PCI and, well, PCI is dead to me.

On the bright side, I did notice that part of the latency issues on my Audio4 could be related to power saving features. Even with these off, however, the latency is still higher than I would like and, either way, the bigger issue is buffer overruns. I can’t determine if the USB3 controller would have solved that, however, since, well, it doesn’t work :(