Thursday, February 19, 2009

M-Audio Fast Track USB with GT Player

Latency!!! ...resolved... ahhh :)

Yes, at first there was latency -- and then there was none. I bought an M-Audio Fast Track USB 2 Computer Audio Interface for use with my laptop. I'm planning to move from San Francisco to Thailand later this year, and want to bring as little as possible when I go. I, however, am unwilling to give up music -- writing and recording.

Since I track one by one (drum machine, guitar, bass, vocals, fun sounds), a single channel sound card will do just fine. So I go out and buy the very affordable $100 Fast Track USB. It has 1 XLR mic input with level control, 1 quarter inch guitar input, headphones jack, and stereo RCA output. Simple, perfect; now does it work?

I plug it right into my Vista laptop and it recognizes it straight away, tells me it has installed new hardware successfully and is ready to go. Cool. I fire up Audacity -- simple freeware recording software , and test out recording. I make some noise with a mic and it shows up on the track. Excellent. Now I grab a guitar and want to try out the GT Player software that came with it. I install it and plug my guitar in, and right off I hear about a 2 second delay from the time I strum a chord to the time I hear the sound. I do, however, hear the nifty effects from the software. The interface looks really cool too. It's like images of pedals with adjustment knobs and dials. Fun! But wait... I can't record with this latency.

The included guides don't help much, but suggest playing with the buffer size and quantity of buffers to reduce latency. So I spend about an hour trying different combinations and reduce the latency a little bit, but not enough. I go online and find out that M-Audio makes a special Vista 32bit service pack 1 driver for this card. You can find the right driver for your hardware / OS here: . After installing the new driver and restarting, a little red icon appears in the tray that lets you adjust latency. It solved my delay problem after trying one adjustment. Yay! No more Latency!

I'm nearly golden. Just need to try recording now. It turns out that you can't record the effects from GT Player into a recording software without adding the effects as vst plugins to a vst compatible recording software, which Audacity isn't. Hold on! I found a plug-in that makes audacity VST compatible , but not VSTi compatible, the "i" standing for instrument. So with Audacity you can't play your guitar through the GT Player effects and have it record onto a track. :(

That's ok, it's still fun for practicing, and you can record on the GT Player interface itself, and then, I think, import your files to Audacity. Either that, or I'll find another recording software that allows VST plug-ins. The Fast Track did also come with a demo disc of Pro Tools M-Powered 7, but I haven't tried it. I'm not even sure that Vista supports it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Troubleshooting Linux Gos 3.1 Gadgets

After becoming once again disenchanted with Windows’ buggy and virus ridden OS, I decided to try out a Linux distribution. A couple of years back I had tried Ubuntu 7.04 and had given up after many hours of trying to solve an unsupported video driver crisis. The laptop in question is an Everex va2001t. My main objective this time around was to set up a lightweight fast running OS, and primarily run web apps. After a small amount of research I discovered that Gos, an Ubuntu based operating system which often comes preinstalled with some Everex machines, is considered a lighter Ubuntu with a sleek feel reminiscent of Mac OSX. I’ve never been much of a mac user, however I have no aversion to its styling.

Gos stands for “good operating system,” although with its bright green desktop background many think it stands for “green operating system.” To add to the confusion, Gos 3.1 Gadgets comes loaded with Google Gadgets, leading some to believe that Gos stands for “Google operating system.” But it’s not. Gos also comes in another version called “Gos Space” which includes a bunch of mySpace linkage and usability.

I didn’t really care for either bundle but went for the gadgets because it was a more recent distro. I downloaded the iso and burned the image to a bootable disc. You can run the disc from memory and test it out before making any decisions about installation or partitioning. Initially I couldn’t get the computer to boot from the cd and kept messing around with the boot order from the setup menu that you access when your computer first starts up. It turned out that I didn’t specify to make the disc bootable when I burned the cd, and was able to find the right setting in Nero Burning Rom to eventually turn out a good disc.