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Vista and pro audio

An article in today's Guardian helps explain why professional audio engineers are avoiding Vista.

Last fall, Steve Ball, Microsoft's program manager for sound in Vista, posted a blog entry explaining some of the reasons why Windows audio can be glitchy. (That was supposed to be "Part 1" of a series; we're still waiting for Part 2.)


Today, Guardian writer Tim Anderson picks up the thread with an article called "Why Vista Sounds Worse." In addition to citing Ball's blog posting, he talks to the CTO for Cakewalk (a division of Roland that makes consumer and professional audio software) and an engineer at Steinberg (which makes the popular Cubase and Nuendo digital audio workstation programs). The basic story: Microsoft changed the audio architecture for Vista in some fundamental ways, introducing new APIs and driver models for audio devices. Some vendors didn't have time to adjust to the new technology, but continue to use older technology that Vista still supports through emulation software. Emulation equals worse performance. That tends to mean more audio glitches. (If you want to go much deeper, Create Digital Music posted an excellent in-depth interview with Cakewalk CTO Noel Borthwick a couple weeks ago.)

Interestingly, two of my audio production teachers are longtime PC devotees who prefer Steinberg's Nuendo software (they use v3). I didn't expect this, given that I've often heard that Mac+ProTools is the default platform for pro audio. But even with their PC preference, both of them have said numerous times that there's no way they'll move to Vista until some underlying issues are resolved. In general, because the interplay between pro audio hardware and software is so complicated, there's little incentive for engineers to replace systems that work well--if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But in this case, even if their PCs went belly up tomorrow, they'd stick with XP.