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VI Dropping Notes
Last post Sat, Jul 23 2011 by Phytopep, 7 replies.
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Posted on Sun, Jul 17 2011 03:29
by Phytopep
Joined on Sat, Jul 09 2011, Posts 6
Vienna Instruments is dropping notes on me. A note will start playing, and then suddenly stop when it's supposed to sustain. I just purchased VSL SE, and am very disappointed that it's acting this unreliably.

It happens when I'm using a MIDI keyboard with VI in standalone mode. It's relatively unpredictable; it might happen on the second note I play, or I might go a minute or two without encountering it, then suddenly it'll happen.

It happens in a DAW when playing MIDI sequenced with a mouse (so it's not my playing or my MIDI keyboard).

It happens with just solo violin sustain patches, playing one at a time. Nothing taxing or complex. No other VSTs are loaded.

It happens in a DAW when rendering (bouncing) output in online or offline mode. I'm puzzled as to how this is this even possible. I thought the point of offline mode was to allow a sample player as much time as it needs to stream samples from disk?

It happens much more in "full speed" offline rendering compared to "real time" offline rendering. A full speed render, for example, could drop as many as 50% of the notes played.

It happens less if samples have played before, presumably because of disk caching (if I render the same sequence over and over it happens less and less).

It happens on two different hard drives (one a 7200 RPM, another a 5400 RPM, both SATA). I measured the 7200 RPM drive's worst-case seek at 17ms (average is 10), and its slowest transfer rate at 59 MB/sec (average is 115).

I've tried two different audio interfaces, one Firewire, one USB 2.0. I've tried changing the ASIO buffer size. Not that it should matter, because offline rendering shouldn't be affected by any of that.

Here's my setup:
  • Windows 7 64-bit
  • Core i5-2500 3.3 GHz
  • 16 GB RAM
  • SSD for operating system and programs
  • 7200 RPM SATA hard drive for samples
  • Windows power settings on "High Performance"
  • No unnecessary programs running

Suggestions are most welcome. I'm very motivated to solve this problem.
Posted on Sun, Jul 17 2011 12:07
by Paul
Joined on Sat, Aug 03 2002, Vienna, Posts 11940

Hi Phytopep, 

That´s very strange, shouldn´t be a problem with your setup.

Which DAW are you using, which soundcards?

Also, which latency are you using? Latest drivers for everything is always a good idea. 

Make sure that you are using the latest eLCC and the latest Vienna Instruments/ Vienna Ensemble Software



Paul Kopf
Product Manager - Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Mon, Jul 18 2011 03:31
by Phytopep
Joined on Sat, Jul 09 2011, Posts 6

Thanks for the reply. I've tried three different hosts:

VI standalone 4.1.8008 (64 and 32 bit) - notes drop about 2% of the time
Reaper 3.76 (64 and 32 bit) - notes drop 25% of the time in a full-speed offline render, about 2% otherwise
Ableton Live 8.2.2 (32 bit) - notes drop 0% of the time in a full-speed audio export, about 2% otherwise

So we can't only blame the DAW, since VI standalone does it too. Obviously Reaper is doing something wrong to make matters worse during an offline render, so I've posted on the Reaper forums to ask about it.

I tried various ASIO buffer settings. Low settings like 1ms cause stuttering, but do not affect note drops. Normal settings like 10ms eliminate stuttering, but again, have no effect on note drops. My interface is a Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 USB 2.0, but I've also tested an Echo AudioFire 4 Firewire. Changing the audio interface had no effect.

I'm using eLCC All other software, like hardware drivers and sound drivers, are up to date.

I'd appreciate any suggestions of other tests I could run.

Posted on Tue, Jul 19 2011 17:30
by Phytopep
Joined on Sat, Jul 09 2011, Posts 6
I did more testing.

When using VI in "online" mode (playing at real-time speed in VI standalone, Reaper, or Ableton Live), notes drop about 2% of the time if the sample hasn't been previously cached. That is, if I play 50 new samples, one at a time, one of them (on average) will stop playing prematurely.

I've looked at a waveform of a dropped note, and it looks like it drops after no fewer than 16,000 samples (64KB at 44.1 KHz 16-bit stereo) of the note have played. I assume VI is buffering the first part in RAM, then going to the disk to stream the remainder of the note, then somehow timing out when waiting for the data to come off the hard drive.

My sample-playing hard drive is a WD Caviar Black 1.5 TB 7200 RPM SATA drive. It is not a slow hard drive, so I don't understand how it could possibly be a weak link in the chain?

I've tried putting the sample library on an SSD, and that solves the problem. Obviously this isn't a desirable solution if I want to play a lot of sample libraries. Perhaps in 5-10 years it will be cost effective, but not today.

I've tried putting the sample library on a 5400 RPM drive, and the problem still exists, and is even a bit worse. Still, I would hope that even a 5400 RPM hard drive could handle one note at a time.

So how can I determine the bottleneck? What in my system, software, or VI itself could possibly be making a fast, 7200 RPM hard drive not able to keep up with a simple streaming request?

Thanks in advance,
Posted on Tue, Jul 19 2011 18:05
by andyjh
Joined on Wed, Dec 15 2010, Posts 600

 I use WD Cavier Black drives, and they are really fast, I have a full orchestra running on them, with no glitches ever. Make sure that the drive your library is on is not the system drive, check you have no virus protection programs running and make sure the drive is not fragmented or too full up. You don't need SSD drives with the cavier blacks, though you don't mention how much RAM you have, as too little RAM can make the drive have to work too hard,

Posted on Tue, Jul 19 2011 21:29
by Cyril Blanc
Joined on Thu, Dec 19 2002, Paris France, Posts 2653

If it plays ok with a SSD, your problem is the disk drive.

If you don't want to go for a SSD, you may have a  solution ; this to have a raid 0 for your samples

MacPro 2010 12 core 2.93 ghz 64 GB Mac OS X 10.11 2722 Rocket Raid Sata III card with 8 x ssd
VSL lib on a Raid 0 of 4 x 256 GB ssd Sata III - Raid 0 of 4 x 64 GB for other libs
System on a 1 TB ssd
Audio Motu PCI system 84 ins / 64 outs
Kbd : P80 Yamaha, S88 and S25 Komplete Kontrol, DX7
I-Controls Pro, 2xMidi expression pedals
Synth : many....
Macbook pro Retina 2.7 ghz 16 GB
Mac Mini server 10.10 (server EyeTV, Itunes, WEB, and Backup )
Logic X , Dorico, Band In A Box, ORB Composer
VSL : MIR PRO, Appassionata Strings I, Solo strings , Wind and Brass Complete, Dimension Brass, Overdrive
Kontakt, Omnisphere, QLSO, QLSC, CS 80, Arturia V5, Maximo, Realivox Blue. CS 80 V3, The Orchestra, Art Conductor 5, Genesis Children Choir, Lunaris, Lacrimosa

Final Cut pro
Camera full HD
Posted on Sat, Jul 23 2011 15:32
by Phytopep
Joined on Sat, Jul 09 2011, Posts 6
I found three different reasons for my dropped notes and solved them all.

The first was a setting in Reaper: "Inform plugins of offline rendering state." Strangely, this setting is turned off by default. Turning it on allows me to render at high speed with no dropped notes.

The second was a bug in Reaper that I discovered by mistake. I accidentally loaded a 32-bit instance of VI into a 64-bit Reaper. Reaper's 64-to-32-bit bridge ignores the "Inform plugins of offline rendering state" setting, so I started getting dropped notes again. Using a 64-bit instance of VI in 64-bit Reaper works just fine. If you have any old 32-bit plugins, it's good to be aware of this bug, however.

The third was the trickiest and most frustrating of all. Cyril, you were right; it was the hard drive. Andyjh, you'll definitely want to check your Caviar Black for the same problem I was having. Extra RAM and an SSD, ironically, make the problem worse.

I'm writing an article about how to identify the Western Digital note drop problem and how to solve it. I'll post it in a new thread soon.

New thread: Fixing Western Digital Hard Drives to Work with Vienna Instruments
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