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PC Recording Studios: Configuring Audio Application Hardware Settings

PC Recording Studios: Configuring Audio Application Hardware Settings

If you think that after installing your PC recording software you can start documenting your musical genius right away, think again. Before you can do any recording, you need to configure your hardware in your audio recording program. This involves several steps, including installing hardware drivers and choosing hardware settings, choosing I/O buffer settings, and selecting input and output routing. You also need to adjust a few settings in your audio application to get your system up and running and to give you the best performance possible. For example, you need to assign drivers and adjust buffer settings.

Setting up your hardware

If you use an interface and audio recording program from different manufacturers, you need to set up your interface within the recording program in addition to setting it up in its own software. Just to give one example, if you use Logic Pro, follow these steps:

1. Double-click the Logic Icon in your application folder (or wherever Logic is located in your computer) to launch the application.

Logic opens with a new song file.

2. Choose Audio --> Audio Hardware & Drivers.

The Audio Hardware and Drivers panel of the Preferences dialog box opens.

3. Select the check box for the type of driver that your interface uses.

The driver type expands to show the hardware options.

4. Select your audio interface from the Driver drop-down list.

5. Click OK to accept your selection and close the Audio Hardware and Drivers dialog box.

Adjusting buffer settings

Audio recording programs allow you to control to some degree the amount of stress you put your computer through. These settings are in the form of buffers, which store data and parcel it out as appropriate to help your system run most efficiently. Buffers come in several varieties, depending on the particular software you use.

Inputs and outputs

In Logic, this particular buffer is called the I/O buffer; in Pro Tools, it's referred to as the H/W buffer size. Regardless of what you call it, this setting lets you determine how many samples are placed in memory before being written to disk.

The specifics of each recording program vary, but the bottom line here is that tweaking this setting determines how much latency (delay) you have from the audio coming in to your system and the audio going out again to your headphones or speakers. This is an important setting because this latency can be noticeable when you record and can easily make it harder for you to get into a groove.

Every audio recording program offers you several settings to choose from. These can be as low as about 64 to as high as 1024 or more. (These numbers refer to the number of audio samples that are placed in the buffer at a time.) Here, lower numbers mean a lower degree of latency — with an accompanying greater strain on your processor — whereas higher numbers mean more latency.

To adjust the hardware buffer size, follow these steps:

In Pro Tools:

1. Choose Setups --> Playback Engine.

The Playback Engine dialog box opens.

2. Select the setting that you want from the H/W Buffer Size drop-down list.

3. Click OK to accept the setting and close the dialog box.

In Logic Pro:

1. Choose Audio --> Audio Hardware and Drivers.

The Audio Hardware and Drivers dialog box opens.

2. Select the setting that you want from the I/O Buffer drop-down list.

3. Click OK to accept the setting and close the window.

Keep this setting as low as possible while recording (especially when you do overdubs). How low you can go depends on how many tracks you record at once — and whether you want to use plug-ins such as reverb while recording. Using lots of tracks and lots of plug-ins requires lots of memory, which might force you (rats!) to bump up the hardware-buffer size. Higher buffer sizes mean higher latencies, which can make overdubbing tracks more difficult, so reserve high buffer sizes until after you've recorded all your tracks.

When you're ready to mix, go ahead and raise the buffer size — it doesn't matter if there's a delay within your system because you're not trying to record a new track to it. This puts less stress on your system and allows you to have more plug-ins going at a time before you run into performance problems.

Playback or disk/process buffer

The playback or disk/processor buffer deals with the amount of memory the audio engine uses to manage the hard drive's buffers. As with the hardware buffer, you want as low a setting as you can get without sacrificing system performance. If the setting is too high, you experience a delay between when you hit the Play command and when your program starts playing the recording. Too low a setting, on the other hand, can create problems such as audio dropout when you record or play back tracks — the sound can just cut off. Start with the default setting and make adjustments as needed. To set this buffer, follow these steps:

In Pro Tools:

1. Choose Setups --> Playback Engine.

The Playback Engine dialog box opens.

2. Select the setting that you want from the DAE Playback buffer size drop-down list.

3. Click OK to accept the setting and close the window.

In Logic Pro:

1. Choose Audio --> Audio Hardware and Drivers.

The Audio Hardware and Drivers dialog box opens.

2. Select the buffer setting that you want from the Process Buffer Range drop-down list.

3. Click OK to accept the setting and close the window.

Congratulations! Your system is ready to start recording.

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