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View Full Version : What sound card should I use to get accurate sync between SB3 and SoftSqueeze?



orenb
2008-10-22, 04:15
My current cards (on-board and SB-Live) typically can't pull it off. Is there a card, preferably an inexpensive one, that can?

I'm using SqueezeCenter 7.2 and SoftSqueeze 3.7.

Thanks,
Oren

thing-fish
2008-10-22, 06:26
My current cards (on-board and SB-Live) typically can't pull it off. Is there a card, preferably an inexpensive one, that can?


I've never been able to get them to sync, using a variety of machines over a number of years. They are close, but never spot-on. I don't think it's possible.

I just did get a second Squeezebox and was amazed that their sync is perfect, even when using Rhapsody content over-the-internet.

Lerch

Skunk
2008-10-22, 06:41
I must be one of the lucky ones. It was working ok with on-board sound card, which is being listed as Realtek AC97.

Mine was set at lowest quality sample rate conversion and medium hardware acceleration. Maybe you could try adjusting some settings or minimizing DSP?

orenb
2008-10-22, 09:21
I just did get a second Squeezebox and was amazed that their sync is perfect, even when using Rhapsody content over-the-internet.

If the SB3 hardware can do it, then why can't a good sound card? I'm not happy about spending hundreds of dollars just to be able to get my PC to sync properly.

Oren

orenb
2008-10-22, 09:22
I must be one of the lucky ones. It was working ok with on-board sound card, which is being listed as Realtek AC97.

Can you share the motherboard brand and model? I'm curious to find the sound chipset it uses.


Mine was set at lowest quality sample rate conversion and medium hardware acceleration. Maybe you could try adjusting some settings or minimizing DSP?

I'll try that, thanks.

Oren

peter
2008-10-22, 10:37
orenb wrote:
> thing-fish;352136 Wrote:
>
>> I just did get a second Squeezebox and was amazed that their sync is
>> perfect, even when using Rhapsody content over-the-internet.
>>
>
> If the SB3 hardware can do it, then why can't a good sound card? I'm
> not happy about spending hundreds of dollars just to be able to get my
> PC to sync properly.
>
The problem is that lots of software and drivers cause delays. I've been
playing with some music software and virtual synths recently and an
unavoidable problem with those is latency, very short delays between the
time that you press a key on the (music) keyboard and when the sound
appears. This is not a problem when playing music - that's why a
standard PC system doesn't bother minimizing latency, but it becomes a
big annoyance when you're playing the piano or guitar over the PC. Or,
when you're trying to sync an SB with a PC.

The best solution is to use a sound card (or sound interface) that has
ASIO drivers. These drivers bypass most of the Windows/Mac sound driver
layers and access the hardware directly so that the latency is as small
as possible. Using ASIO an acceptable latency of 3 of 4 ms is possible
on fast systems. Of course SB's have a latency of their own, so to get
perfect sync you should probably be able to tune the latency on the PC,
that's possible with most ASIO drivers. You can adjust the latency.

I haven't really tried it, but I have my PC soundcards (AC97 and M-Audio
Transit) as well as an SBR connected to a mixer, so I could do some
tests to see if I can get the SBR and SoftSqueeze on the PC to get
synced perfectly. I wouldn't need it myself (I have 7 SD devices) but it
could be interesting to find out.

Regards,
Peter

orenb
2008-10-22, 11:10
The best solution is to use a sound card (or sound interface) that has
ASIO drivers.

Can you recommend an inexpensive card that supports ASIO?


I haven't really tried it, but I have my PC soundcards (AC97 and M-Audio
Transit) as well as an SBR connected to a mixer, so I could do some
tests to see if I can get the SBR and SoftSqueeze on the PC to get
synced perfectly. I wouldn't need it myself (I have 7 SD devices) but it
could be interesting to find out.

Thanks, this could be very helpful.

Oren

peter
2008-10-22, 12:25
On Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:10:22 -0700, "orenb"
<orenb.3hp2ez1224699301 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com> said:
>
> peter;352196 Wrote:
> >
> > The best solution is to use a sound card (or sound interface) that has
> >
> > ASIO drivers.
>
> Can you recommend an inexpensive card that supports ASIO?

I could, but it wouldn't do you much good. After sending my first
reaction I realized that softsqueeze probably won't support the ASIO
interface. The application needs to be ASIO-aware. I confirmed that when
trying it out.

> > I haven't really tried it, but I have my PC soundcards (AC97 and M-Audio
> >
> > Transit) as well as an SBR connected to a mixer, so I could do some
> > tests to see if I can get the SBR and SoftSqueeze on the PC to get
> > synced perfectly. I wouldn't need it myself (I have 7 SD devices) but
> > it
> > could be interesting to find out.
>
> Thanks, this could be very helpful.

As ASIO wasn't available I just tried the M-Audio Transit (which is a
USB interface) and the Dell PC's built in audio (which is not an AC97 as
I said, but a 'Soundmax'. Turns out the Soundmax did pretty well, I
think there was probably a slight letancy that could be heard when I
mixed the SBR signal with it over the headphones. The M-Audio OTOH, did
horrible, the sound was totally out of sync. Possibly because it's
optimized as an ASIO interface and the standard Windows interface won't
be used very much.

Not much help to you, I'm afraid.

Don't buy an expensive card but experiment with cheap ones or get a
(also cheap) SB Receiver instead. That oughta work without problems.
That Soundmax card produces horrible interference noise from the video
card. It changes when I open windows and things. It's best to keep the
analog sound generation outside your PC.

Regards,
Peter

iPhone
2008-10-22, 12:40
If the SB3 hardware can do it, then why can't a good sound card? I'm not happy about spending hundreds of dollars just to be able to get my PC to sync properly.

Oren

One answer might be that SqueezeCenter is contolling all the Slim Devices as dumb slave units. The PC is a smart device.

And here is my question. Why would anybody "WANT" to sync PC playback to the quality playback of any of their Slim Devices? Of course, I know there are a few reasons to use softSqueeze to just listen to ones music on the PC. But if one actually owns Slim Devices, why would you want to also sync the PC? Maybe I have too many Squeezeboxes (of course there is no such thing) to understand the need to sync the PC also, but also for me, I don't even care for music being played on my Creative Labs sound card (great for games, barely OK for music).

After all, isn't the "WHOLE" idea behind Squeezebox to free one from the crappy music that comes from a PC? I guess Squeezebox has made me see the light about PC music.

androidtopp
2008-10-22, 12:47
iPhone - I'm doing exactly what you're questioning the need for. My house is arranged such that I can walk the circuit from office (no SB, using SoftSqueeze) to bedroom (SBB) to living room (SB3) while tidying, etc, going about weekend tasks. I just start up a playlist, sync all three, and I never walk out of range of the music.

Eventually, I might upgrade to a hardware SB in the office, but for right now, I have higher end PC speakers with decent sound, and having the music going in the office is nice. I'll forgo audiophile quality (since I don't have that anywhere to begin with) just to have it playing.

I don't think you have too many squeezeboxes, but...I think you may have more disposable income than I do...;-)

Now, on another note - I routinely sync all three players, and I can detect little to no lag on the PC. Even moving my SBB into the office and syncing? I can make myself hear a sync difference, but it's incredibly slight, if anything.

I'm running onboard sound from an ASUS motherboard, Windows Vista Ultimate x64. So nothing terribly fancy, hardware wise.

ModelCitizen
2008-10-22, 14:01
After all, isn't the "WHOLE" idea behind Squeezebox to free one from the crappy music that comes from a PC? I guess Squeezebox has made me see the light about PC music.
I have a few squeezeboxes/transporters etc but I don't have one in the same room as my desktop (and why should I?).

On occasions (few, admittedly) I'd have liked Softsqueeze (or whatever) to sync with my hardware players.

The "crappy music" from my PC is the same music that comes from the rest of my players. I quite like it.


MC

androidtopp
2008-10-22, 14:11
Yes, I can't afford to outfit every room in my house with the same stereo I have in my living room (which itself would certainly not pass muster with most folks on this board) so sometimes, I have to make sacrifices...

orenb
2008-10-22, 14:58
As ASIO wasn't available I just tried the M-Audio Transit (which is a
USB interface) and the Dell PC's built in audio (which is not an AC97 as
I said, but a 'Soundmax'. Turns out the Soundmax did pretty well, I
think there was probably a slight letancy that could be heard when I
mixed the SBR signal with it over the headphones. The M-Audio OTOH, did
horrible, the sound was totally out of sync. Possibly because it's
optimized as an ASIO interface and the standard Windows interface won't
be used very much.

Well, good thing that I didn't rush to buy one then ;-)


Don't buy an expensive card but experiment with cheap ones or get a
(also cheap) SB Receiver instead.

$150 (for the SB Receiver) isn't that cheap. I'd rather get a $50 sound card if I can find one that syncs properly.

orenb
2008-10-22, 15:05
And here is my question. Why would anybody "WANT" to sync PC playback to the quality playback of any of their Slim Devices?

The PC playback quality is fine for my modest requirements. The sound card is only used as a digital output. It's connected to the S/PDIF input of my Harman/Kardon AVR-200 receiver, which drives a couple of Tannoy MX2 speakers. Not audiophile gear by any means, but good enough for my workroom.

Oren

pfarrell
2008-10-22, 15:11
orenb wrote:
> $150 (for the SB Receiver) isn't that cheap. I'd rather get a $50 sound
> card if I can find one that syncs properly.

I would *not* expect that you can find one.

What you want is not mass market, its not what most folks want.

If you are in the US, got to your local Guitar Center, and talk to them.
You need an audio I/O card designed for music, recording. Look at "pro
audio" sites/forums, etc.


--
Pat Farrell
http://www.pfarrell.com/

Skunk
2008-10-22, 19:11
Can you share the motherboard brand and model? I'm curious to find the sound chipset it uses.


Not sure if it's a chipset or just the CPU and a codec, but the model is ECS P4M800PRO-M (V2.0), Audio Spec:
Realtek ALC655 6-Channel audio CODEC
Compliant with AC'97 2.3 specification.

The sound card I have (Hercules Digifire) works equally well. I have a Sound Blaster I could try also, but I'm 90% sure it would work.

This is with an Intel Core2 Duo, 1G ram, and a clean Win2k. There are a lot more variables than just the card, and I don't think going and buying an expensive one is a guaranteed solution. I would buy a cheap one locally and return it if it doesn't work. If the the one after that doesn't work I'd look at the other hardware/software before spending a ton on a card (for this application).

iPhone
2008-10-22, 21:16
The "crappy music" from my PC is the same music that comes from the rest of my players. I quite like it. MC

I guess I should have typed, "less then pleasing playback reproduction" instead of "crappy Music". Because you are one hundred percent correct that as far as the music goes it is the same no matter if on a Slim Device or on SoftSqueeze.

I was speaking to the quality of the sound from a PC verses that from a Slim Device. I should not have used the word music. Could have used "cappy sound".

That will teach me to post when I'm tired.

iPhone
2008-10-22, 21:36
iPhone - I'm doing exactly what you're questioning the need for. My house is arranged such that I can walk the circuit from office (no SB, using SoftSqueeze) to bedroom (SBB) to living room (SB3) while tidying, etc, going about weekend tasks. I just start up a playlist, sync all three, and I never walk out of range of the music.

Eventually, I might upgrade to a hardware SB in the office, but for right now, I have higher end PC speakers with decent sound, and having the music going in the office is nice. I'll forgo audiophile quality (since I don't have that anywhere to begin with) just to have it playing.

I don't think you have too many squeezeboxes, but...I think you may have more disposable income than I do...;-)

Now, on another note - I routinely sync all three players, and I can detect little to no lag on the PC. Even moving my SBB into the office and syncing? I can make myself hear a sync difference, but it's incredibly slight, if anything.

I'm running onboard sound from an ASUS motherboard, Windows Vista Ultimate x64. So nothing terribly fancy, hardware wise.

Yeah, I guess itís mainly a quality issue for me. Not the quality of SoftSqueeze, but of a PC sound card and PC speakers. I spend so much time in my office in front of a PC when the markets are open, I felt I had to have a small system in the office that was above the sound available from a soundcard and PC speakers.

Speaking of computers, has anybody checked to see if it makes a difference if softSqueeze is running on the same PC as SC? Does running SC on a server and softSqueeze on another PC help or hurt the sync issue?

Also when I have run softSqueeze on the office PC, I have seen some odd behavior. It locks up or crashes every time I play Acoustic Alchemy The Colonel and the Ashes. There are no issues with any of the Squeezeboxes playing this song. It also does this on one of Michael Hedges CDs. And now looking up both of the songs, they both happen to be track 6. Wonder what that is all about?

Skunk
2008-10-22, 21:44
After all, isn't the "WHOLE" idea behind Squeezebox to free one from the crappy music that comes from a PC? I guess Squeezebox has made me see the light about PC music.

But this thread isn't about PC music vs. SB, it's about listening at the PC (or a place quality doesn't matter) and being within earshot of actual hardware players on systems that deserve them. I'm sure we all agree the long wire approach leaves a lot to be desired.

But at my PC, I'd find it a little redundant and ironic to set a small music-playing computer on top of my pc, which is more than capable of the task.

peter
2008-10-22, 23:38
orenb wrote:
> peter;352219 Wrote:
>
>> As ASIO wasn't available I just tried the M-Audio Transit (which is a
>> USB interface) and the Dell PC's built in audio (which is not an AC97
>> as
>> I said, but a 'Soundmax'. Turns out the Soundmax did pretty well, I
>> think there was probably a slight letancy that could be heard when I
>> mixed the SBR signal with it over the headphones. The M-Audio OTOH,
>> did
>> horrible, the sound was totally out of sync. Possibly because it's
>> optimized as an ASIO interface and the standard Windows interface
>> won't
>> be used very much.
>>
>
> Well, good thing that I didn't rush to buy one then ;-)
>

Certainly, I warned you I hadn't tried it though...
>> Don't buy an expensive card but experiment with cheap ones or get a
>> (also cheap) SB Receiver instead.
>>
>
> $150 (for the SB Receiver) isn't that cheap. I'd rather get a $50 sound
> card if I can find one that syncs properly.
>

That's a lot cheaper than the 1st generation soundblaster I once bought ;)

Regards,
Peter

androidtopp
2008-10-23, 06:39
Yeah, I guess itís mainly a quality issue for me. Not the quality of SoftSqueeze, but of a PC sound card and PC speakers. I spend so much time in my office in front of a PC when the markets are open, I felt I had to have a small system in the office that was above the sound available from a soundcard and PC speakers.

I agree - I spend too much time in front of PCs. But I don't work at home, and I obviously can't lug a real stereo with me from client to client. The iPod has to suffice during business hours. But weekends and evenings are when I want the music all over the house - just not enough time to justify really beefing up what's in the office.


Speaking of computers, has anybody checked to see if it makes a difference if softSqueeze is running on the same PC as SC? Does running SC on a server and softSqueeze on another PC help or hurt the sync issue?

To be more specific about my setup, I have SC running on an ancient Windows Server 2003 SP1 box with a P4 940, 4GB RAM, and all the FLACs are on a 4x200GB SATA RAID5 set. The server does lots of stuff - Exchange, domain controller (no private messages about why you shouldn't co-locate DCs and Exchange, please) web server, SQL server, etc, etc. It's not just for SC.

My desktop is a Windows Vista SP1 x64 box, Core 2 Duo E6750, and ASUS P5K-E motherboard (including onboard sound, ADI AD1988B chipset) 4GB RAM. So, OK, I have a goodly amount of memory, but I have not invested in any kind of super fast sound card. Both machines are on the same gigabit switch? That might make a difference?

The point I am driving at is that the sound card, in my experience, is probably not affecting things. Unless my specific crappy onboard sound card is the magic bullet for SoftSqueeze synchronization (probability: low) then there's definitely other variables at play.


Also when I have run softSqueeze on the office PC, I have seen some odd behavior. It locks up or crashes every time I play Acoustic Alchemy The Colonel and the Ashes. There are no issues with any of the Squeezeboxes playing this song. It also does this on one of Michael Hedges CDs. And now looking up both of the songs, they both happen to be track 6. Wonder what that is all about?

Track #6 is the track of the beast. ;-)