Audio Dropouts, Clicks and Pops When Playing and Recording

The term "Dropout" is sometimes used interchangeably to describe a few different behaviors. Technically a dropout is when samples are dropped during playback and/or recording resulting in the transport stopping. Sometimes the term "dropout" is mistakenly used to describe events not sounding audibly despite the transport passing over them, or it is used to describe an audible stutter, click or pop during playback.

There are many very in-depth procedures for tracking down what might be causing performance related dropouts and audible artifacts, however the most common causes of these behaviors are listed below.

Before proceeding, make sure your Cakewalk software is correctly configured for use with your sound card or audio interface. We have recommend settings for many devices in our Audio Hardware Setup Guide. We also recommend updating your sound card or audio interface's drivers to the most recent version available from the manufacturer's website.

Audio Driver Latency/Buffer Size Needs to be increased:

If you are experiencing dropouts in the sense that the audio engine is completely stopping and your Cakewalk software is reporting "DROPOUT" in its Control Bar or Status Bar, then you should try increasing your sound card's latency settings by doing the following:
  1. Go to Edit > Preferences > Audio - Driver Settings (Options > Audio  > General in legacy products)
  2. If you are using WDM/KS or MME(32-bit) drivers, try bringing the Buffer Size slider to the right towards "Safe"
  3. If you are using ASIO drivers, click on the ASIO Panel button. This will launch your sound card's proprietary control panel.

    NOTE: for the majority of dedicated audio interfaces you will want to use ASIO drivers for the best stability. This can be applied by going to Edit > Preferences > Audio - Playback and Recording (Options > Audio  > Advanced in legacy products) and setting the "Driver Mode" to ASIO.

  4. Try increasing your buffer settings from the ASIO Panel
  5. If the ASIO Panel button does not launch your device's control panel, try accessing it from the Windows Control Panel or from the Windows Task Bar.
  6. Click Apply and then OK (if available) to apply any changed settings
  7. Re-launch your Cakewalk software and then test performance again
 
Hard Disk Buffer Size Settings Need to be increased:
 
If you are experiencing dropouts in the sense that events that aren't sounding and/or you are hearing pops and clicks at random points in playback, then this behavior may be related to your hard disk buffer size settings. Typically when this is the case, projects containing more tracks and more demanding virtual instruments that load large sample libraries will exhibit more clicks and pops then simpler projects with lower track counts.
 
Try increasing your Cakewalk software's hard disk buffer settings by doing the following:
 
  1. In your Cakewalk software, go to  Edit > Preferences > Audio - Sync and Caching (Options > Audio  > Advanced in legacy products)
  2. Try increasing your Playback I/O Buffer Size and Record I/O Buffer Size. Typically you will want to increase these settings in double increments. For example, settings such as 128, 256, 512, 1024 and 2048 are recommended.

    NOTE:  It is not recommended to select "Enable Read Caching" and "Enable Write Caching". Choosing either of these options lets your software use the Windows disk cache while reading or writing audio data. Your software will usually perform best  with all caching disabled, which is the default setting. If your computer has an older IDE disk controller, or a disk controller that does not use DMA transfers, enabling caching may improve audio performance.

  3. Click Apply and then OK (if available) to apply any changed settings
  4. Re-launch your Cakewalk software and then test performance again
Ultimately, the larger the hard disk buffer size the easier it is for your hard disk to stream audio files with stability.
 
If neither of the above help, then you may want to look into more hardware specifics with your computer. There is a free utility called DPC Latency Checker that can test your system for DPC latency spikes. Essentially, if your system is experiencing these spikes, it can be prone to clicks and pops and dropping audio samples. DPC latency spikes can interfere with all real-time audio and video streaming applications on your computer. Try downloading the free utility at http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml
 
A common cause of DPC Latency Spikes on laptop computers is built-in Wi-Fi adapters. Per the suggestions in the link above, you might consider temporarily disabling your Network adapters from the Windows Device Manager to reduce your overall DPC Latency and reduce the amount of clicks and pops. More detailed information in regards to how to use the utility and suggested measures to take can be found at the link above. 
 
Lastly, you should strongly consider disabling any services that are unnecessary for recording that run on your computer in the background (such as anti-virus, anti-spyware software, gadgets and auto-updates).

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