How to avoid crackles and audio dropouts

  • Live Versions: 8 - 9
  • Operating System: All

There are various reasons that adverse audio issues might be experienced when using Live. These may manifest as crackles, pops, clicks, distortion, gaps in playback or audio dropouts.

Typically these issues occur due to the current CPU load, how powerful the computer is, the complexity of Live usage, the audio interface and the configuration of the audio preferences.

In this troubleshooting guide we'll cover the most common reasons for these audio issues and their solutions. We recommend reading through the entire article, however you can also jump to a specific section.

Update Everything

Firstly, make sure that everything is completely up to date: 

  • Update Live
  • Update Max for Live
  • Update your Audio interface drivers and firmware
  • Update all Plug-ins and Max for Live devices
  • Update the operating system

Adjust the Audio Buffer

An audio buffer size set too low or to the wrong size will typically result in crackles and dropouts. This is the most common reason for adverse audio issues to occur. 

The audio buffer size in Live's Audio Preferences, measured in samples, refers to the 'slice' of audio that is processed by your soundcard at any one point. So at a setting of 256 samples, a chunk of audio 256 samples long is processed and sent through the soundcard outputs, finally heard as an audio stream through speakers. The soundcard will then fetch the next batch of 256 samples, and repeat the process, as long as Live continues playback.

To change the Audio Buffer Size open Live's Preferences → Audio. Always use a value expressed in powers of two, starting at 32: 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024. The more complex and CPU intensive a set is, the higher the buffer size will need to be. Bear in mind that larger buffer sizes will also increase the audio latency. You need to find the sweet spot just above where the crackles and audio dropouts stop.

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If the buffer size cannot be changed, please see the following articles in case you're using an Apogee Duet, Digidesign/Avid interface or ASIO audio interface.

Check the Audio Interface

Make sure that the audio interface drivers and firmware (if applicable) are completely up to date. Older interfaces may not have drivers available for your current operating system. If the interface has been discontinued then you'll need to consider upgrading it.
On some new Macs and PCs USB 3.0 ports are installed. Make sure that your audio interface is compatible with this protocol.

If you suspect that your interface may be responsible for audio issues, test using the computer's built in soundcard instead.

Audio Driver Type (Windows)

For best performance we recommend using ASIO rather than MME/Direct X as the driver type. Where possible this should be the native ASIO driver provided by the manufacturer. If there is no native ASIO driver available for your soundcard, you can use ASIO4ALL, which is a freeware ASIO driver. 

Cables, adaptors and hubs

If using an audio interface which is connected via USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt, these cables or adaptors can easily cause crackles and dropouts if they have become damaged or are improperly inserted. Check the connections and replace the cables/adaptors if necessary. It's recommended to always connect your audio interface directly to a free port on the computer, but if a hub is absolutely necessary then it must be powered. Bear in mind that most hubs downgrade all connected devices to the speed of the lowest speed device plugged in.

Also check the computer's USB port to make sure it's free of dust and lint.

Reset Driver Error Compensation

Driver error compensation set to extreme amounts may cause audio issues. Check our dedicated article on Driver Error Compensation.

Check the Computer Performance

Underperforming computers may not be able to handle audio processing efficiently and this will increase the likelihood of audio crackles and dropouts. The Live 9 minimum system requirements list the absolute minimum specifications required for Live to function. It's likely though that if your computer satisfies just these minimum requirements and no more, then the performance of Live may diminish depending on how complex your required usage is. For pro audio usage, the more powerful your computer, the better. Check out our guide on which computer to buy.

Reduce the CPU load

If the value indicated in Live's CPU meter gets close to 100 percent, the audio processing is being maxed out and it’s likely that you will hear gaps, clicks or other audio problems. Note that the CPU meter takes into account only the load from processing audio, not other tasks the computer performs. It's possible for spikes in the CPU meter which aren't even close to 100% to sometimes result in audio glitches and dropouts.

Please read our dedicated article on managing the CPU load in Live.

Plug-ins and Max for Live Devices

Certain third party plug-ins and Max for Live devices can increase the CPU load, therefore exerting more stress on your system and potentially cause crackles and dropouts.

If you disable the plug-ins and Max for Live devices one by one, you may notice that the crackles and dropouts cease and the CPU meter drops. If you find any particularly intensive plug-ins or devices, the best strategy is to freeze those tracks. You may also need to raise the audio buffer size temporarily for very intensive sets.

Complex and Complex Pro Warping

Use Complex and Complex Pro sparingly as these are the most CPU intensive warp modes. Also ensure to turn off warping in Simpler if not necessary.

Close all other programs

Open Activity Monitor (Mac)/ Resource Manager (Windows) and switch to Processes to see how much of the CPU is currently being used by active programs. Close any that are using up too much of the CPU resources.

Turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Webcam

You may experience audio issues in Live while performing other tasks on your computer such as watching videos, video chatting, uploading/downloading files or just general internet usage. For best performance turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and disable the Webcam.

Minimize Hard Disk Overload

If the hard disk cannot read or write audio quickly enough, you may hear dropouts. In this case you will be able to observe the Disk Overload indicator turn orange. This is more likely to occur if triggering multiple large audio files at once.

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To avoid disk overload do the following:

Enable RAM mode for selected clips. This loads the sample into RAM rather than streaming directly from the hard disk. Be careful however not to load too many clips into RAM as you may exceed your allotted memory. We recommend using the 64-bit version of Live to utilise more than 4GB of RAM. More info: 32-bit vs 64-bit FAQ

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RAM mode is also available as an option when using Multisample libraries in Sampler.

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Try lowering sample rates (recommended: 44100 Hz) .

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Try recording audio with a 24-bit resolution instead of 32-bit. This setting can be found under Preferences → Record/Warp/Launch

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Try bouncing stereo tracks to mono, or bouncing some tracks together in order to lessen the load on the hard disk.

Please refer to Live's manual, Chapter 32.2 for more tips on how to manage the Disk Load.

Disable CPU Throttling (Windows)

If you find that disabling Multicore Support in Live's preferences improves the audio issues then your computer may be throttling the CPU.

Certain computers enable CPU throttling which is used to slow down the computer whenever possible to use less energy and conserve battery. However this setting may adversely affect the performance of the computer, especially when performing intensive tasks like audio processing causing crackles and audio dropouts. In order to adjust this, see our dedicated article on how to disable CPU throttling on Windows.

Further Troubleshooting (Windows)

In case you're still experiencing issues with audio dropouts, please see our guide to optimizing Windows for audio.