V For Pro Audio!

As a former-professional, and current advanced-amateur audio engineer it pains me that most (non-Apple) hardware manufacturers have little-to-no regard for / understanding of the requirements of the Professional Audio trades; I refer to real-time music production in particular.

Real-time audio production—unlike video production and graphic design; the other two legs of digital media—requires a host system optimized for the lowest possible audio latency under load.

The key idea here is OPTIMIZATION. While raw CPU power, memory capacity, bus speeds, etc. are all important, real-time nirvana is achieved only when hardware, firmware, drivers, OS, software and all relevant subsystems work in harmony.

Speak with any Windows-based audio engineer and you’ll hear stories of hair-pulling, white-knuckled anguish as high-spec’ed, megabuck systems with all the bells and whistles glitch and stutter under the most trifling of loads. Sometimes one lucks-out and builds or buys a machine that works with minimal issues, but I’d say that’s the exception rather than the rule.

Indeed, professional DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) builders scrutinize each and every hardware component and agonize over revisions in firmware, BIOS, drivers and so forth until they happen upon a suitably performant and reliable combination. Over the years I’ve built many such machines for myself and for others, and I remember the hours spent researching specific motherboard revisions (v1.01 and not v1.01a!), memory chips on DIMMs and this BIOS and not the other. It’s really quite tedious.

I have long dreamt of the day a system integrator takes these issues to heart and develops a machine optimized for real-time audio from the get-go. It might not be easy… but it might just be worth the effort!

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Hi Helmanfrow,

I’m working as a production sound recordist (on film sets) and I bought the EVE V as a handy device to work with on set, especially as it is bright enough for outdoors and absolutely silent.
To make it clear, although I can run PT Ultimate and other audio software on it, I do not use it for audio editing as you would with a proper DAW in a studio or similar. It’s more about annotating script/dialogue by pen, editing sound reports, backing up recorded data, putting out a baseline for a disco scene… stuff like that.

For more studio-like working (at home) I was always looking for something optimized but Win-based like you describe it. For this I couldn’t really foresee, if a notebook would ever be suitable when starting to use it more and more with bigger projects in the future. But anyway…
As far as I know (meaning I didn’t check it out myself yet), there’s a German company specified in building such audio pro devices - desktop PCs as well as notebooks - at reasonable prices: https://www.da-x.de/

They’re actually in walking distance of my place here in Berlin as I found out recently. So I’ll visit them for sure once Corona-restrictions allow them to open their store again.

I just wonder, if there’s enough interest / need among the EVE-community members to dig into this specific field of building / designing an audio optimized PC.

Stay confident - Va Banque

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Forgive my ignorance, but wouldn’t most of the audio transcoding, etc be handled by external devices anyway? I’m no audio engineer so I’m having trouble to see what the issues have been in the past and why the attention to such details matters?

Personally I have a dynamic mic setup hooked onto an external audio interface which also connects to my headphones. Though its driver does have issues (not playing audio on youtube or spotify or even BSOD). The darn thing is almost 12 years old and didn’t support anything over Windows 7, so that it’s even working is awesome. I’m just curious as to what details you need for audio engineering.

Ugh… to keep it simple:

No, “most of the audio transcoding” would not be handled by external devices, but by a DAW-suite like ProTools or other with a lot of audio tracks including FX-plug-ins etc. (For a standard feature film sound post you easily sum up 96 or more tracks).

And with your 1-mic-into-PC-setup we’re really talking about different planets here…
But yes, recording audio directly into the computer is just a part of what the audio pro machine should be able to do - and actually one of the least performance consuming ones.
That I can already do with my EVE V easily, given it’s connected to an appropriate interface… but for reasons of reliability under nearly all imaginable conditions (cold, heat, moisture, quick movement, no power sources etc.) we still work on set with dedicated recorders, not on computers.

But it would really take too much to explain the field of work of professional audio recording here (and I’m only in film business, not in music or game production etc.).

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Thanks for the reply! What is the advantage of the 2-in-1 form factor over a laptop or even a tower pc in these cases? I’ve worked on some student films as the audio engineer so I should have some base knowledge … Though, it’s very base.

Actually, I see the most important advantages of the EVE V for me work8ng with it on set mostly in being literally quiet, having a very bright display and coming with touch/pen input for quick annotations, technical notes etc.

The 2-in-1 is a nice add so I can use it as a tablet for e.g. remote controlling of a mixer (for a band’s live recording) while standing in the middle of the room listening to the output from a good position.

Or I mount it as a tablet directly to my sound cart to follow the script while the dialogue is being performed, and I can make some quick notes.

I wouldn’t do that with a classical notebook, because of its bulkier form factor.


I think, the actual reason for thinking about an optimized PC design for audio pros is coming from the experience that you need special knowledge of both PC designing and audio creation /handling on one hand, plus a company/community able to realize such a highly customized/specialized product that would never reach mass market selling numbers on the other.

This is probably a big part of what makes EVE and the connected community look very interesting from the view of a few(?) sound pros in this forum and around…

So to give the whole idea of an audio optimized PC really a chance, it might be basic to find out how many audio pro people we actually have.

On the other hand, I have DA-X right around my corner to check their machines out first. Much easier (and quicker) from my sight, than trying to push an audio-EVE-idea forward and up to a main project’s level…

Instead I rather follow (than develop myself) what’s going on here and if I find it might be useful for my audio demands as well, I won’t hesitate to participate.

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Hi, pro audio engineer here
I work mostly in live audio/concerts

I use my macbook pro for real time audio processing as an integral part of my mixing workflow.
My max performance requirement use case would be like this:

Digital audio console
Mac connected to the console using network based digital audio interface

The mac is then tasked with the following:

  • Multitrack recording, to an external disk
  • Playback of various audio (pre show music, intro, outro)
  • Running measurement software (Rational acoustics Smaart) displaying various spectrum measurements, transfer functions and SPL-measurements
  • Running audio plugins connected as “inserts” on the digital mixing console
  • Running reverb&delay FX

This might not seem like that much, but the thing is, the processing I do needs to happen in near real time, with as low latency as possible.
Although I would never typically use more than 30-35% of the CPU-cores, this is still close to the edge where you risk glitching. Going above 50% is no go. When using the small buffer sizes required for ultra low latency, other apps&processes suddenly requiring CPU time can easily push the peak usage above 100% for a short period, causing a glitch.
Plugin interfaces with modern high resolution graphics also tend to use a lot of GPU as well.
So getting a computer to do these tasks reliably and fast is difficult and in the PC world VERY difficult.
I´ve pretty much given up on using PC+Windows for audio these days.
The mac has its challenges also though, so I´m always interested in potential alternatives.

Given its portability a future version of the V could fit nicely into a future setup of mine.
A super compact version of a Waves LV1 mixing system would also be a good use case.
The current V is not stable enough for any of this (just the flimsy usb-c ports exclude it for me)

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hello good, the truth is that there are many of us who dedicate ourselves or make audi on windows 10. I would be delighted that Eve was a pro audio tablet, due to the windows 10 remarks on the kernel, the sound card should be 100x100 compatible with Asio divers and DAW applications type-. OBS-Qbase,Audacity, etc… and thus ensure the lowest possible latency. I would like it to be our EVE and the audio reference in windows 10, as apple does. I know it is a long fight, but working well, I know they have achieved it with the Surface, I show you videos, I show you their website, and the example to follow http://www.surfaceproaudio.com
Greetings.

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For production recording, post-production, sound design, editing, mixing and any other non-realtime audio workflows, latency is not a constraining factor and as such almost any well-specified modern PC will do.

The litmus test, again, is real-time music recording. Real time implies that a signal being recorded can be monitored without perceivable delay. Typically, a delay of more that about 3ms from input to output tends to throw off a performer’s timing. Performance, of course, is everything, and therefore a low round-trip latency is absolutely critical.

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Hi, Tristan.

In a so-called native DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) all processing is handled by the CPU. There exist outboard DSP platform products (UA Apollo, Antelope Synergy, ProTools HDX, etc) which offload processing for their respective platform effects, but outboard DSP does not negate the need for host systems to exhibit low latency under load. Aside from the fact that not everyone owns outboard DSP platforms, plenty of processing still happens on the CPU, including that for most virtual instruments, which are notoriously demanding.

Essentially any modern computer can handle non-realtime audio workloads but real-time music production is highly specialized, requiring perfect playback free of stuttering, cracking, popping and other artifacts, as well as imperceivably low latency. Typically, once latency begins to exceed about 12ms the delay can become distracting, and may begin to interfere with a performer’s ability to play in time, but the ideal is considered to be 3ms or below.

I’m emphasizing under load because low RTL (round-trip latency) becomes harder to achieve as effects and virtual instruments are added to a session. Increasing sample buffers can help alleviate their demands on the CPU but doing so also necessarily increases RTL.

It is not uncommon for well-specified, powerful, modern PCs to be brought to their knees when pressed into music production service. A single instance of a virtual instrument or effect plugin is often enough to turn a session system into a glitching mess. This is why, for real-time music production, raw processing power is not as critical as a highly-optimized system with hardware, firmware, drivers and software all firing in step.

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Fair enough, I did not consider realtime processing

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Hello in reference to audio I think we should be a benchmark in category 2 in 1, and thus make a difference against the competition,.

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