Bill Roper (billroper) wrote,
Bill Roper

Turn On, Tune In, Dropout

This upgrade project for the studio computer really should have been simpler.

Yesterday, I was down to replacing the failing case fan. Or so I thought.

I still needed to load my FabFilter EQ plugin, having gotten myself locked out of my account temporarily yesterday. Today, I managed to log in correctly, retrieve the plugin, pay for an upgrade to the plugin, get it installed and authorized, and confirm that it was available in Cubase. I also helped Cubase find the assorted Lexicon plugins that I'd installed yesterday. The end was clearly in sight.

To test the backup, I loaded one of the tracks from the lullaby project that I am very far behind on and started it playing. I was really, *really* disconcerted when the audio started dropping out and coming back. No, no, no. Surely the backup wasn't bad. I looked at the images of the waveforms, which were fine, so it didn't seem like the audio was damaged. It was just that the sound from Cubase would go away and come back.

(This was, in some ways, a good thing, because if I lost the audio due to a computer failure, I would *literally* never hear the end of it. This would start with Gretchen, who had warned me that this had better not happen when I started doing computer-based recording some years back. On the other hand, if I couldn't get the audio to behave, it was still going to be my fault.)

Maybe it was the SSD. Maybe there was some weird problem with the alternate SATA controller that it was running under. I could move it to the more standard SATA controller and see if that helped. And I had already decided to pull the spinning hard drives and move them to the NAS, since they were completely misformatted at the moment for the computer and OS that they were running under.

In the meantime, Gretchen and I had hauled our load of recyclable e-waste over to the recycling center and disposed of it. Then we picked up food from Portillo's and had a lovely lunch in the Forest Preserve, looking out on a lake. This was by far the best thing that happened today. :)

I continued searching through posts about Cubase, interfaces, and dropouts. I moved the interface to a different USB port. It didn't help. I discovered that the X-Touch wasn't talking to the computer, so I downloaded the firmware update, moved *it* to a different USB port, and uploaded the new firmware to it and the extender. It didn't help with the dropout problem, but at least the controller worked now.

Finally, the fan arrived. I unscrewed the old fan to install it and promptly dropped a screw, which fell *inside* one of the casters on the console. This meant I had to get down on the floor again -- and I'm at the stage of my career where getting down on the floor is not one of my favorite things -- and after failing at poking at the screw inside the caster, gave up, shoved the console forward, picked up the screw, and got back up.

Then I dropped not one, but *two* more screws while installing the fan, but at least they had the good grace to fall into the mass of cables behind the machine instead of into a caster. Fan screwed in, I then needed to plug it into the motherboard connector, which was -- much like the power connectors from the previous day -- in a tight space due to the fan on the heatsink. Having learned yesterday, I quickly gave up, popped off the heatsink fan, and got my big old fingers in where they needed to work.

Time for dinner. :)

And after a lovely dinner, I headed back to the basement to try to get this system to work.

I pulled the front back off of the case, popped out the old spinning drives, and put them safely aside. The SATA cables for the old drives were a little hard to get out, but they came. Moving the SATA cable for the SSD over one slot was being really difficult until I realized that the problem was that my fingers couldn't get around the cable for the DVD drive that was one socket over. Well, there was another socket available to move the DVD drive to, so I slid it over, and *then* the SSD SATA cable went into its new home easily.

I had already reset the BIOS so that these SATA ports were back in AHCI mode instead of RAID mode, so Windows happily booted up without a problem. But Cubase still had dropouts. I went to look at the properties for the SSD drive and discovered that the driver for it was fine, but there was something wrong with the DVD drive's drivers. A bit of searching led me to a post from someone who said "Delete this setting from the registry." I did and -- after yet another reboot -- the DVD drive now checked out fine.

Cubase still had dropouts.

By now, I am in a mood. It is not a good mood by any measure.

I play with the setup for the SSD drive. Cubase still has dropouts.

I try loading a different track from the lullaby project. It misbehaves the same way.

I try loading an older track from a different project. It plays just fine. Of course, there are only two audio tracks there. There are more audio tracks in the lullaby project.

I load the lullaby project track back up. It continues to misbehave.

I keep searching and reading reports about Cubase and dropouts. I scroll frantically.

And then I see someone who has solved his dropout problem, because it turns out that his iZotope Ozone plugin did not believe that it was properly authorized until he opened it up and it saw the iLok on his new install. And the Ozone plugin will drop audio periodically when not authorized so that you can kind of hear what it does, but you can't actually use it for anything.


Guess what was sitting across the mix bus on the lullaby project?

If you said, "iZotope Ozone", you have clearly read all the way down to here. I opened up the plugin, and suddenly the big dropouts went away. Now there were only random dropouts on the individual voices, which had different iZotope plugins loaded there. I opened those plugins too and -- surprise! -- all of the dropouts went away.

So things are better now.

Tomorrow, I will button up the computer and generally clean up my mess down in the studio.

Tags: computers, dodeka, filk, home, musings, tech

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