How to avoid crackles and audio dropouts
- Live Versions: 8 - 10
- Operating System: All
If the CPU load is too high and audio can't be buffered within the chosen buffer rate, then crackles, dropouts (gaps in playback), or glitches may occur during playback.
In this troubleshooting guide we'll cover the most common reasons for these audio issues and how to resolve them:
- Update Everything
- Adjust the Audio preferences
- The Audio Interface
- Reduce the CPU Load
- Minimize Hard Disk Overload
- Upgrade and service your computer
- Optimize Windows for audio
First, make sure that everything is up to date:
- Update Live.
- Update Max for Live (if using Live 9).
- Update your audio interface drivers and firmware.
- Update all plug-ins and Max for Live devices.
- Update the operating system.
In computer based audio systems a certain amount of latency, known as audio buffering, is necessary to ensure that playback, recording and processing results in an error-free audio stream. However if the buffer size is set too low, then crackles and dropouts may occur. In order to ensure optimal playback:
- Open Live's Preferences → Audio.
- Raise the buffer size. Find the sweet spot just above where the crackles and audio dropouts stop.
- Always use a value expressed in powers of two; 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024.
- Reduce the In/Out sample rate to 44.100 samples.
Note: Larger buffer sizes will also increase the audio latency.
Use ASIO as the driver type (Windows)
- For best performance we recommend using ASIO rather than MME/Direct X as the driver type.
- If there is no native ASIO driver available for your interface, you can use ASIO4ALL.
Reset Driver Error Compensation
Driver error compensation set to extreme amounts may cause audio issues. Check our dedicated article on Driver Error Compensation.
- Make sure that the audio interface drivers and firmware 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.
- Your computer may have USB 3.0 ports installed. Make sure that your audio interface is compatible with this protocol.
- If in doubt, test using the computer's built in soundcard instead.
Check the 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.
- Connect directly to the computer and not via a hub.
- Also check the computer's USB port to make sure it's free of dust and lint.
When the CPU load on your computer is too high, you'll probably hear gaps, clicks or other audio problems in Live.
To reduce the CPU load in Live take the steps listed here: Reducing the CPU load in Live.
Make sure to close all other programs and processes on your computer which might be using valuable CPU resources.
If the hard disk cannot read or write audio quickly enough, you may hear dropouts. In this case the Disk Overload (D symbol) indicator will flash. This is more likely to occur if triggering multiple large audio files at once.
To avoid disk overload take the steps listed in our dedicated article: Avoiding Disk Overload.
Underperforming computers may not be able to handle audio processing efficiently and this will increase the likelihood of audio crackles and dropouts. Our minimum system requirements article lists the absolute minimum specifications required for Live to function. However even these minimum requirements may not be enough to cope with the workload, depending on how you use Live. For audio applications, the more powerful your computer, the better. Check to see if it's possible to upgrade any individual components in your computer (RAM, CPU, Hard Disk etc). Check out our guide on which computer to buy.
In addition, your computer should be regularly serviced to ensure optimal performance:
- If fans and vents are full of dust or lint, they need to spin harder and longer to keep the computer cool. This results in thermal throttling, as the systems resources are increasingly reduced the hotter the computer gets. We recommend to clean the computer's fans and vents once a year.
- Ensure that you have adequate free space on your computer. A minimum of 10% is a good rule of thumb.
- Uninstall all unnecessary programs to keep your computer as efficient as possible.
Disclaimer: Ableton cannot be held responsible for any computer damage or loss of data arising from the above maintenance. If in doubt, make sure that this work is carried out by a professional computer technician.
7. Optimize Windows for audio
Windows generally needs a few additional adjustments to ensure optimal performance for use with Live, and indeed any audio processing. Please see our guide to optimizing Windows for audio.
Disable power throttling
Power throttling is a feature in Windows which extends the battery charge when using a laptop which is not connected to its power supply. Unfortunately this can limit the resources available to Live, resulting in audio crackles, dropouts or other adverse performance issues. In order to adjust this, see our dedicated article on how to disable power throttling on Windows.