Optimizing your machine for audio

Due to the fact that Windows is an "everything for everyone" type operating system, it is not the greatest Operating System for professional audio applications. An OS dedicated to and written simply for multimedia is a more stable audio platform. That's great, but everyone uses Windows. As developers we have worked extremely hard getting maximum performance from an OS that was never designed to be particularly good for audio. We've done our part with regard to the programming, your part is the following.

For those who are deadly serious about getting clean, skip-free audio, here are our recommended guidelines:

Tips for Perfect Audio

Use quality hardware: If your machine is underpowered and/or has poor hardware with poor core drivers, you may be fighting an up-hill battle. If you adhere to the following points however, you may still be able to get excellent performance from it, so read on. If you're buying a new machine, don't skimp on hardware.

IDE Configuration: If at all possible have your Hard drives and CD-Rom drives on different IDE channels. This will eliminate the bus transfer rate having to step down to accommodate the slower CD-Rom drives bus transfer rate.

Start with a clean installation of Windows: Format your hard disk and re-install Windows. You'll be amazed at how much faster and smoother your system will run. Months or years of installing and uninstalling many programs (and their associated drivers) will have clogged your system. It's no secret that most uninstall programs do not properly uninstall everything they set up.

Only install necessary hardware and software: Do not install a program unless you really will use it. If you will not use a printer, do not install a printer driver. It only takes one poorly written driver to cause a slight delay at the wrong time for you to experience an audio glitch.

Set virtual memory to a fixed size: By default Windows dynamically allocates the size of the virtual memory swap file it uses. This is great, except that while adjusting the size it tends to hog the system a little, especially on some computers. Best thing is to set the swap file to as large as you would ever need it to be, for example 256MB.

How to set your computers virtual memory:

Turn off Auto Insert Notification: If Auto Insert Notification is not already switched off, switch it off. The Auto Insert Notification feature will cause glitches in audio when it tries to access the CD-Rom.

How to disable Auto Insert Notification:

Set your power managment features to Always On: You are best to disable the power managment features in Windows, and in your computer systems bios, as these features can cause audio glitches.

Note: See your computer documentation for system bios power managment features.

How to set your Windows power managment features to Always On:

Disable Use transition effects for menus and tooltips: If you are using Windows 2000 disable the Use Transition effects for menus and tooltips feature. This feature will cause skipping when you open or close a window.

How to disable Use transition effects for menus and tooltips (Windows 2000 only):

Only run your virus scanner when you receive new files: Virus scanners are horrible programs for your PC's performance. The only time you need to run a virus checker is when you receive a new file, whether it be from a floppy disc, CD-ROM, file downloaded from the internet, etc. Run your virus scanner when you need it.

Disable anything that constantly runs: It has become a recent trend for many programs to include a "user agent" or program that keeps it partially active so that you can invoke it quickly from the system-tray (area on your task bar near the clock). If you want to start RealPlayer, for example, you'll click on it's desktop icon or go to the Start menu. You don't need a program running constantly and displaying an icon in the system-tray!

Disable Microsoft Office Fast Start: When you install Microsoft Office, it places three new icons in the Start->Programs->StartUp group. These programs run every time you boot your computer. None of them are necessary for Office to work, and they definitely consume valuable memory and CPU cycles. Delete those three icons from the StartUp group. (Okay, move them into a temporary folder if you are the nervous type, but seriously, Office will still work perfectly without them.

Do not open an MS-DOS box while using OtsAV: On some machines, opening an MS-DOS box while using Ots DJ will cause a short skip. This is unavoidable due to the way MS-DOS emulation works in Windows.

Do not run other programs while using OtsAV: This point is only for those doing a serious gig. Although you can run other software, and probably won't encounter any problems, if your machine is going to skip, it will likely be while another program is doing something extreme. Best policy is not to run anything else, particularly anything resource hungry or unnecessary. Obviously if you're doing a serious gig you will have played with your specific machine beforehand and will know the boundaries of what can be run, etc. This is simply a best-practice point.

Defragment your hard drives on a regular basis: A heavily fragmented hard drive can cause increased disk access time, which will lower the performance of your hard drive.

Do not print or use your modem while using OtsAV: Again, this really depends on the power of your machine, the quality of your hardware, and the behaviour of your drivers. Some modem drivers can cause long delays, especially while initializing the modem. Most users will find they can print or use the internet fine while using OtsAV, if so, good luck. Best practice though is to not do these things. Think of your OtsAV setup as a dedicated piece of equipment, strictly for playing and mixing music/video/karaoke. You wouldn't try and use your Denon CD player as a stool now, would you?

If you follow these guidelines, you will experience perfect audio/video, every time. You may find you experience perfect audio anyway, even while breaking all of these "rules". That's fine too, but it pays to be informed, especially if you're using OtsAV for professional purposes.

Disable the sound scheme in Windows: It is a good idea to disable the sound scheme in Windows so you don't have windows sounds coming through your audio system, e.g. error chime. Go to the Windows Control Panel, click on the Sounds and Audio Devices icon, select the Sounds tab, and select No Sounds from the sound scheme drop down menu.


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