Struggle with Drivers and Software Updates

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 18:01 by salim

So, continuing the saga of setting up the Vista64 Daw.

I have the following audio hardware that requires drivers

1. ESI Wamirack 192X
2. Mackie Onyx Firewire
3. Yamaha Motif ES Rack
4. KORG microKontrol (rarely used, haven’t looked for one yet.)

I have the following software that potentially needed updates in Vista64

1. Sonar 8 Producer
2. FL Studio
3. Gigastudio (Yes, I know they are gone. I bought it way before they planned a shutdown)
4. GVI
5. SwarPlug
6. iZotope Ozone
7. JMT Orchestrator (MIDI Plugin)
8. Swarshala and SwarLibrarian

So the hunt started.

ESI Wamirack
For a long time I was waiting for a Vista 64bit driver for Wamirack. The version 5.1 and 6 XP drivers were ok, but still caused unexpected hangups and crashes. It also installed 8 different drivers one for each channel. That was a mess. I think it was end of last year when they announced the new Unified drivers which also included Vista64 bit support. The drivers are available here. Good thing about the new driver is that there is only one set of drivers installed. I haven’t had time to run it through any heavy load. These days I use Wamirack mainly for the MIDI interface. I have been considering using it for surround mix testing. But I don’t do a lot of surround mixing. In any case the driver works perfectly for my purpose. One annoyance though is that every time the control applet comes up, Vista is giving me a UAC warning. This would have been avoided if it was integrated with the device manager like Mackie did (see below).

Mackie Onyx Firewire
A new version for Mackie Onyx took a long time to come out. My primary mixer is a Mackie 1620. There was no way I was going to move to 64bit unless I got drivers for it. Every time I go there to check, I was dismayed by seeing the driver is still the old 1.0. While both the firewire interface and the mixer itself are fabulous (especially the preamps!), the driver was quite unfriendly. It was relatively stable, but had two major annoyances. One, it did not support changing sample rate from other software. So, every time I wanted to change sample rate (I usually record in 96 and mix in 48), I had to go to drivers control panel and change the setting. Furthermore, every time I changed it, the system will freeze up for over a minute. So, I was expecting a lot when I installed the V 1.1.1 driver from Mackie (here).

The new drivers, to my surprise was very well behaved. Now I can change the sample rate both in WDM and ASIO mode. It also support WSAPI, which so far shows very good latency. The driver control is integrated to the device manager. This is a nice touch, and it is something that missing from Wamirack. There is no more system hangup when trying to switch sample rates. The driver provides a separate sample rate setting for shared applications. This is very useful when it is also the default audio driver for the OS. So I can have 44.1 Khz 16bit for shared mode, which provide a good common ground and have my sequencer set to another sample rate. It works quite nicely, so if I am in Sonar and I want to listen to a quick clip in media player, I can just stop the audio engine in Sonar and let media player use it as the default driver.

Yamaha Motif ES Rack
It took me a while to figure out that the driver I am looking for is the USB MIDI driver for Yamaha, which has a 64 bit version. I also found out that ES is now a legacy product. That is the third legacy product I own. Oh well.

Once I figured out USB MIDI driver is what I wanted, it was easy to download it from here. It works. Nothing spectacular.

Sonar Producer 8.0
Sonar had a 64 bit version for quite a long time and I think it was Vista 64 bit compatible even in 7.0. Well, version 8 is definitely certified for Vista 64 and I already upgraded a few months ago. So, no problem there. Ok, I take it back. Just visited Cakewalk site and found that they released an 8.5 Version today and it is a free download only if I bought the upgrade after July 1st. I bought it in May and I am totally pissed off. Now I have to think if I need to dish out 80 bucks and get the update. Hmm.

FL Studio
I really like the step sequencer in FL studio, better than the one in Sonar. May be I am just more familiar with the FL one. So, I use it despite its strange behavior of filling the whole screen even when it is run as a plugin. Version 9.0 runs fine in Vista 64, but as a 32bit application. They do have an extended memory version, so that saves me from running editbin. The Teleport Server (BitBridge) crashed a few times when connecting to FL. It however seem to work when playing. The problem happens when it is closed. I should troll the forums.

Version 3.0 does not support even Vista32. Version 4.0 is supposed to, but I have no intention of paying money to get a dead product. I can reuse the instruments in GVI. I liked the convolution reverb that GS had. Well, I will live without it. I never did a lot of voice editing anyways.

After 3.60 update, it works with Vista 64 as a 32 bit plugin. Have been playing with it and so far no problems. Of course the increased system resources help here. I tried with full 256 polyphony and it played without any trouble even at very low latency and high bit rates.

For those who have not heard of it, this is an Indian music sampler from SwarSystems. It is a VST mono-aural plugin. The version I have comes with a large number of Indian instruments and the samples are quite good. The plugin itself work correctly and is not a huge system hog. I use it quite extensively. So, getting an upgrade for this was crucial. Apparently, I did not need an upgrade. The version I had worked fine. (Very different story about other two, SwarShala and Swar Librarian).

iZotope Ozone 3
Ozone 4 clearly states it supports Vista x64, but in case of Ozone 3, it was kind of dubious. Good thing, it worked without any problems. The continuing gripe I have, its presets are pretty much unusable for my kind of music.

JMT Orchestrator/Onyx Arranger
The Orchestrator was part of Sonar 5 or 6 distribution. It actually was a very nice MIDI plugin that could play chords according to preset styles. It had a reasonably good algorithm and humanization. For a person who is reluctant to write orchestration (I would rather just play my flute), this was a very nice addition. I added arranger to the repertoire to create my own styles. I was not too excited by the presets. Well, to my surprise, I found that the orchestrator and the arranger have not been updated since 2004. I sent a couple of mails to them to see if there is any plans for an update. The plug-in got installed but failed to load. Then I found the nifty utility called jBridge, which promised to load 32 bit VST plug-ins. So, I tried that. This did load the VST. But the original plug-in that I used was the MIDI DirectX (MDX) one and that of course did not load. I haven’t been successful in making the plug-in work yet. The arranger however installs and works. I tried using LoobBe, the only 64 bit Vista compatible virtual MIDI driver I could find so that I can record it in Sonar. It works in most cases, but I am getting feedback warning in a few cases. Haven’t figured out how to solve that one.

SwarShala and Swar Librarian
One thing I could never understand is that why SwarSystems in their infinite wisdom decided to write SwarShala and Librarian in Java. I can understand the urge to support different OSes, but wouldn’t C++ be a better option for an audio application? I think the biggest drawback of SwarShala is Java.

Anyway, I never liked the UI of SwarShala but the idea behind it is quite interesting and very useful in writing parts in Indian music. But, being in Java, it has no direct connectivity to any other audio application. The only way to transfer composition was to save it in MIDI or save it as Audio (which, with its 16bit, 44.1 Khz max support was quite useless), which was quite cumbersome.

One of the things irked me was that it was only capable of using the default audio driver. That too, if it is set to below 44.1Khz, 16 bit.

There was an update for Vista at the SwarShala website. I also sent them a mail which was promptly got answered. This is something good about SwarShala. They have always been very prompt in responding to my query.

However, after installing it, I found a small issue. It supports only pre-SP1 Vista. I am on SP2. The “solution” given in the help file is to uninstall SP1. They also pointed to a Microsoft page that talks about uninstalling SP1 for diagnostic purposes. I definitely don’t want to run my OS without patching it regularly. I don’t want the additional resource wastage by installing an anti-virus as well in it. So, uninstalling SP1 and not updating was out of question. So now, both applications will come up, when I click play, I can hear it initializing the soundcard, but no sound. Nada. The librarian did not even copy and paste MIDI. This latter issue, I found, was due to the fact that I installed it to my program files folder. The drag and drop actually works by creating a temporary file in the background to the installation folder, which Vista prevents. Solution was to just move the installation to an unprotected folder. So, I do have partial functionality with Librarian.

The software is very slow. Even in my new DAW, it takes infinitely long time to start playing a composition. Since I don’t hear any sound this is not an issue I guess.

So, for the last two days I have been playing with the tools (toys). So far everything looks fine. Only crash is linked with BitBridge and FL. The machine is handling load so nicely. Even with several audio tracks, many instances of GVI, SwarShala and Ozone, the processor never goes beyond 30%.

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