USB audio problems

USB audio problems

Here’s some text I cut out of the Recording page that might still be useful:

I use a hardware multi-track for recording and a Mac Cube without audio inputs for tweaking and uploading. The lack of audio inputs is unusual—there are audio connections on most older and some more recent Macs. My multi-track is an old Akai DPS12 and it can burn CDs on a SCSI drive but it’s not very flexible. I burn stereo mixes and multi-track backups on a stand-alone audio CDR machine with optical inputs, and read (rip) them into the Cube.

I’d like to be able to get audio from any source directly into the Cube by optical or line input (you might want to offer downloads other than multi-track recordings). Fortunately, while I can’t get audio into the Cube, I have an old PowerMac with line inputs and although it’s slow, it’s rock solid. I use this to get MiniDisc and other sound clips into computer format.

The Cube has an audio input problem and I’m reluctant to spend a lot of money (on a Firewire interface for example) to try and make it work. I tried USB audio into both Spark and Peak audio software and couldn’t get it clean enough, the recordings had additional noises (popping, clicking, skipping). I tried a Griffin iMic and an Edirol UA-3, and spent a long time eliminating processor, software, USB and hard drive bottlenecks using a G3 and G4.

My conclusion is that something about USB audio is inherently flaky on my set-up. It obviously works OK for some set-ups but I wouldn’t spend any more time or money on it for mine. The next release of Mac OS X (10.2) improves audio handling, so it might be worth trying again later. I haven’t had any problems with USB for scanning, printing or external drives, just audio.

(I still haven’t tried OS X 10.2 + audio but I’m told it’s no better for this kind of set-up. The Cube may have inherent hardware problems.)

I frequently see questions on the Internet about the same kind of digital audio problems, so my experience isn’t unique and the Mac Cube isn’t the only culprit. There’s some way to go before real time digital audio transfers work reliably with all computers and interfaces.

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