Trying to get AUDIO working on the PC with Cubase VST 5.0 etc.

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OK, so I already have a MAC G3 450 stuffed to the gills and working properly with a 24 bit MOTU card and Cubase VST 24... But that just aint good enough... Well, there's more to it than that, but lets just say that I have been spending a lot of time tinkering on my PC with all those cool shareware, freeware, soft synths and PC only music programs that are not as readily available for the Mac. It has been a blast! So many options to create music.

So, thinking I'd have the best of both worlds, I decided to once again try and configure my PC to go beyond the noodling and tinkering stage and enable it to produce results I could then take over to the MAC for finalizing etc.

So, I decided to try Cubase VST 5.0 for the PC. I also bought a separate midi controller for the PC so I wouldn't have to unhook my MAC instruments every time I wanted to play something. I opted for an inexpensive Kaysound MK-4902. I already had a USB midi interface working (Midiman Mididsport 2x2) on the PC so hooking up the controller was a breeze.

enter to WIN!

I was already well versed in the PC way of music making and was quite satisfied doing midi and such utilizing software such as Fruity Loops, Reason, Reaktor, ACID and VAZ MODULAR etc. with no problems. SO I figured adding CUBASE VST 5.0 to the mix would be a painless way to get some added functionality. Besides I was already familiar with working with Cubase VST 24 on the Mac (4.1r2) so it should be easy to set up, right??? Wrong...

As it turns out adding Cubase was the beginning of a mess of problems, some that have yet to be resolved. First a little background on my PC. It's a Micron Millennia with a Pentium II 450 and 192 MB or RAM. I have lots of hard drive space. The built in soundcard, an ESS MAESTRO had been more than adequate up to this point. Granted, it didn't sound like my Mac set up, nor have the functionality of the 24 inputs the Motu 24i provided, but since I only intended to capture rough ideas I expected the setup to be adequate and easy to implement.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

So.... I had the midi controller working with Reason and all seemed well and fine. I tested MIDI and AUDIO and was now ready to install Cubase 5.0. I followed the directions in the INSTALLATION manual and installed Cubase.

After doing the install I rebooted and made the MME settings (midi input etc.) as directed, and then opened Cubase. No problem - I quickly tested the controller with NEON (VST Instrument included) and it was working. Granted there was a HUGE latency problem but it was working. Sound and all. But hey, the latency was unbelievable... something like 350 ms... There was like a long long pause between striking the keys and music coming out. I did not have this problem with Reaktor or Reason, so I never expected latency this bad with Cubase. Upon investigation I discovered some driver options and switched the setting to Direct X ASIO (from ASIO Multimedia) hoping that would reduce the latency. Kaboom. Just when I was thinking to myself how good the installation went.

CRASH. My computer froze and would not work at all. I had to pull the plug as it would not shut down. Then rebooted and I tried going in and adjusting the Direct X settings further (already had DirectX 7 installed prior to Cubase). FATAL EXCEPTION ERROR with a blue screen. Uh oh...

To make a long story short, I finally switched back and settled on the ASIO Multimedia driver and just packed it in for the night. I assumed that my internal sound card, the ESS Maestro, just wasn't up to the task. I realized I had another soundcard I could use... The KORG 1212 IO. Originally in my Mac before I upgraded to the excellent Motu 24i, the unused KORG card seemed like a workable option. I jumped on the net and did a little research and found that my serial number was recent enough to be approved to work on the PC. I downloaded the PC drivers and installation info. I also found enough positive comments about the KORG 1212 and decided I'd install it and see how it worked with Cubase. After all Cubase even came with the ASIO drivers for the Korg 1212 (on the installation CD-ROM). The latency would have to be better.

Day two. I uninstalled Cubase VST 5.0. I opened up my PC and installed the Korg 1212 into the free PCI slot (I had 2 total with 1 available). I followed the directions and soon had it working. I tested it with SIREN (playing MP3 files), Reason and Reaktor and the card sounded wonderful. Much better than the built in Maestro. And no problems. This seemed to be the fix I needed. A better soundcard. But I was wrong. That is where the problems really began.

After installing Cubase and doing all the setup stuff I opened the program and it worked with the new Korg card. Latency was better (43 ms) and it sounded good. But wait... what's this... An error message popped up... "Warning EXCESSIVE PCI activity". Suddenly no sound and it didn't work. OK, so I rebooted and tried again... Cubase opened with an alert saying I was missing drivers and needed to reinstall the software. I also investigated the problem and found in the KORG FAQ's an item saying that sometimes video cards or other PCI devices would interfere on the PCI bus and cause the KORG card to lock up the audio. Hmmm.... I then tweaked my system in all the ways suggested.

Frustrated with the problem not going away (in Cubase), I called Steinberg tech support and they suggested it was an IRQ conflict. The KORG 1212 was sharing an IRQ with the Nvidia RIVA 128 video card. Seemed reasonable. Although Windows didn't think it was a conflict??? OK, but worth a try... So on Steinberg's suggestion, I uninstalled Cubase. Removed the PCI card and swapped it with the other PCI card (ethernet) and low and behold it got another IRQ assigned. Surely this was the problem and I had it solved, right? Wrong.

Upon reinstallation of Cubase (my 6th or 7th time - I stopped counting) and reconfiguring, I opened Cubase to an immediate ERROR Excessive PCI activity again... I hadn't even played a key... After several reboots and much adjusting I realized it was NOT the IRQ that was at fault. I searched the net and found numerous papers suggesting adjustments in the BIOs. I disabled the internal soundcard in BIOs. Still didn't help. I adjusted Virtual memory to swap in and out in even chunks. Still didn't help. I tried removing startup items. Still didn't help (although it did make my computer snappier!). I finally gave up. I spent all day trying everything under the sun and still couldn't get Cubase to like the Korg card. Now, keep in mind that the Korg card worked with EVERY other program. Yes, it did have hiccups and occasionally would get that same EXCESSIVE PCI ACTIVITY error message, but only caused a hiccup in those other audio programs. It didn't shut down the card completely as Cubase did.

So I called Steinberg the next day and explained the continued problems, and they said SORRY, that cards ASIO driver hasn't been updated in over 3 years and besides its an old outdated shitty card... We can't help you any more. They suggested getting a new better card. Geez... All that effort and no solution. That sucked. I didn't wanna go out and buy a new card. The Korg worked well with other programs???

So, just to consider the options, I called Guitar Center and they suggested a card that was only $149., the M Audio Audiophile 2496 (by Midiman - same company as M Audio). Reluctantly I searched the web to see if there was any buzz and low and behold the buzz was good. In fact it was better than good. Rave reviews. I was stunned... How could it be that a $149. card could be 24 bit with Analog & SPDIF inputs, low latency with an ASIO driver and have impeccable specs and a good reputation???

So I decided to get the card. I uninstalled Cubase (even cleaning out the registry) and also uninstalled the KORG 1212. I got everything in tip top shape and installed the new Audiophile 2496. Installation and setup was a breeze! In a short time I had it working well with my other programs (Reaktor, Reason etc.). It sparkled. It sounded incredible. It even gave new life to my MP3 and WMA files which now sounded better than ever. So I moved on and reinstalled Cubase again. Set it up to work with the Audiophile 2496 and it worked. I reduced the buffer size to get latency down from 23ms to a stunning 8 ms. And all worked well. I was very happy. I shut down the computer and called it a night thinking all was well again. I was wrong.

The next day I awoke and eagerly switched the computer on and tinkered about in Cubase. It was working wonderfully. I then closed it and went to my other apps to make sure they too worked with the new Audiophile card. Everything was going well UNTIL... I opened up VAZ modular. Now it did work with VAZ but for some reason the latency was unusually large... like 246ms or something. I noticed it was using the ASIO Multimedia driver and switched it to the ASIO and it froze. I had to reboot the computer. Tried VAZ again it frooze.... OK... I kept trying and finally settled on the Multimedia driver as VAZ at least liked it and worked. So I tried Cubase which was working just fine prior and it now gave me that alert on startup (missing drivers need to reinstall and reboot). I couldn't get any audio. I opened up the System settings and found it now was grabbing the ASIO Multimedia driver instead of that nice Audiophile (Delta) ASIO driver it was using originally with the Audiophile 2496. AND it would not let me switch back to that driver. GEEZ.... what happened? It was fine before???

So a call to Midiman and they said they knew the problem... They suggested I remove the PCI card (Audiophile 2496) and uninstall Cubase. Install the updated drivers from their web site etc. So I removed the card, reinstalled it, updated the drivers, reinstalled Cubase and guess what??? Still have that problem. Cubase wants that ASIO Multimedia driver. AND I Still get that annoying message upon startup (missing drivers need to reinstall and reboot). Geez... this sucks... It was working fine before but now Cubase will not let me switch to the better ASIO driver... Midiman said remove VAZ MODULAR and then reinstall everything again... I did it. Still same problem... I had now installed and uninstalled Cubase over a dozen times... Ridiculous. Midiman finally gave up and said sorry - that seems to be a CUBASE problem, talk to Steinberg... There is obviously something wrong with Cubase because the card works so well with all my other audio programs. They were right, I guess, as the card worked flawlessly with REASON, Reaktor and everything else except Cubase.

So... unwilling to accept the fact that Cubase would not work I tried tinkering around with the Cubase system settings. I tried changing buffer sizes, tweaking settings and finally by accident found that when I unchecked and rechecked the card in the advanced settings and ran a buffer size test - low and behold when I closed that advanced settings window it would suddenly LET ME select that good ASIO driver. Hooray! I fixed it! It worked! Wrong... it was only a temporary fix. Now every time that Cubase loads, it defaults to the shitty ASIO Multimedia driver and to get it to work I have to open the System settings in Cubase and tinker till it lets me select the good ASIO driver. Geez. That really sucks.

Yes, I can do this work around and eventually get Cubase to work, but what an unpleasant way to start working with a program. The annoying (missing drivers need to reinstall and reboot) alert on open and then the system settings need tweaking every time I open Cubase just to get it to work. Now, I know someone out there is saying SAVE THE SONG with the new settings. I did that... Still didn't hang on to those settings.

So here I am... 4 days after originally installing Cubase VST 5.0 and I still haven't really had much fun with the program. Regardless of how great it may be at MIDI and AUDIO, it still sucks that I have to jump through hoops each and every time I open the program.

There must be a solution???

Any ideas out there??? If so please send me an e-mail at support@beatmode.com

I will admit that the silver lining in this sad story is the Audiophile 2496 PCI card. It sounds incredible. I'll report further after I do some recording and such, but from the standpoint of how it sounds PLAYING AUDIO and the low latency, I must say this audio card is a winner.

I'll be doing my best to resolve that situation and will give Steinberg the opportunity to get it working, but as of now I must say that I am far from happy working with Cubase VST 5.0 on the PC.

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Arping on - VST MASTERCLASS - Computer Music's "how to" on arpeggiating in Cubase VST.

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