Changing this to "osnews" from "Vista News" with the coming of Windows 7
May 2011: Windows lost it.
It's a music technology tragedy that Microsoft and Creative let the music maker's options slip sadly away. This will probably be the last update on the topic. In trying to update a dualboot XP - Win7 machine - I jumped into the sea of Creative labs again.
There is a search underway to solve the entry level music making problems of the PC (Windows 7). Specifically, to:
- Provide a decent sounding General MIDI (or GM2), soundset available to all applications as MIDI OUT (when app doesn’t host vsts etc).
- Deliver reasonable (20ms or less) latency between playing, and hearing a sound.
- Omit audio cables to get sound in/out (ie the old sound module route).
- Function on a laptop – omits the soundcard option.
- Omit error condition if launching more than one MIDI program (compliant driver is single client - aftermarket via various mfrs features multiclient – a separate computing issue – but still a problem too often)
If anyone knows of a means to address this problem - please share!
Some discussion on Microsoft's Channel 9 regarding Audio in Windows 7.
Our posts on the forum try to frame up the issue regarding entry level music makers.
A great info source on Windows 7 musical facts:
July 2009 - Windows 7 - rescue or assassination of MIDI?
Excerpts from a posting on the Windows 7 developer/support forum:
Chris (MS support engineer), As founder of a company that develops music software and integrates music systems for schools as our primary business, and has installed over 300 PCs solely focused on their MIDI capabilities - mostly leveraging properties of Creative Labs Soundcards, I am continuously anxious about Microsoft's direction/support of MIDI and aspects of the Audio stack.
While Music and Arts is clearly not the prime target for Microsoft, to REMOVE or decrease support/functionality in this area is going tochallenge this portion of your business...
Here are the two simple requirements that Microsoft must consider to remain a functional competitor to Mac in this area (Mac has both of these):
1. Multiclient USB Midi support in Compliant Driver: Running more than one program that makes use of MIDI in or OUT will cause a program or the system to generate an alert/error condition to the effect of "Cannot find a MIDI driver on the system". There are solutions to this via Third party hardware/drivers - but more and more keyboards/instruments guitars featuring USB ports and "compliant" MIDI outputs will experience this error/condition and will only serve to diminish the Windows experience and create confusion.
2. Low Latency upgradeable GM sound source. GM wavetable synth may have been a great innovation at one time, but it is an unusable output for music making. The latency is unusable, and even though the sound quality poor, it's the latency that kills it. A solution with 20ms or less latency is the right choice. Being able to insert a soundfont would be strategic, and in one single move, regain the support of music education and entry level music production.
This is a request based upon living daily the possibilities of a software-enhanced music making world and its ability to benefit the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who will use the power of a USB keyboard and a desktop/laptop computer for music making. PC laptops are already handicapped for music making/MIDI, but don't kill the desktop too! Help? Is there anyone, anyplace I can direct this line of thinking to at Microsoft? This is my first post regarding this and I'd like to get in touch with a dept as MS that might benefit from some of our experience on this front.
Let's see what they say?!
I’ve been looking at the Soundcard upgrades - there is a evolution to PCI Express happening that is changing the options for internal cards and the PCI options - and to my amazement, it seems most of the PCI options that can handle real-time Soundfont playback don’t perform better than our default recommendation Audigy SE. The Soundfont remains the best way to get a quality, no latency, universally available General MIDI soundset into the PC.
http://n2.nabble.com/The-Microsoft-GM-Wavetable-latency-issues.-td2090172.html has an interesting sum up on the state of Windows GM Wavetable Synth issues. This is the perennial problem that has plagued all General MIDI oriented software on the PC.
The game is almost over for XP. Vista has won many converts - and although the Creative Labs situation hasn't really improved from what we can tell, the improvements in software-based sound and programs that use this feature are making serious headway. Vista is now the only practical option for a new system.
Here are some hardcore info resources Microsoft has regarding Audio Hardware. http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/audio/default.mspx
It seems that things are more or less ready to go with Vista for Music Making. From what we can tell, creative labs is struggling to make the Vista experience (for MIDI/Soundfonts) as good as the XP experience was.
It's unfortunate that they haven't updated their standard USB MIDI driver spec - but others (M-Audio) offer options for better MIDI drivers. Some programs are making use of the new WaveRT functionality that will offer better latency performance.
Creative Labs has improved, but not completed their Vista support. Our test Vista system has been running well, but a few features are still not working as well as we'd like in regards to audio, MIDI and MusiConsole. We still recommend XP for educational music technology use.
Any new system at this point will be capable of handling the Vista upgrade when (or if) it is recommended.
April 18, 2007:
Vista and Creative Labs - trouble and promise... While Creative Labs may have produced functional Vista Drivers for the Soundblaster family (SB Live, Audigy, X-Fi), it seems the Creative Labs software associated with these cards is not Vista capable.
However, it seems a Chinese developer (possibly associated with Creative Labs) has developed a version of the X-Fi software that works with Vista. There's an extensive posting on this regarding in the Creative Forum:
The link is: (opens new window) www.youp-pax.org/viewthread.php?tid=362&extra=page%3D1
April 15, 2007:
Progress report After building a Core-2 Duo based Vista machine with the Creative Labs X-Fi card, it seems basic audio features work. It is not clear form the Creative Labs Vista download whether the various Creative Labs software apps are also compatible.
Two good sources of Vista/audio information both in general, and as it relates to Creative Lab's products are:
Creative Lab's Solution ID 7369.
March 20, 2007:
Creative Labs Vista Drivers now "official". The fact that the Creative Labs Vista driver availability chart no longer shows "Beta Driver Available" is good news. We'll be doing testing soon to make sure the actual Vista w/ Soundcard experience is as good or better than the XP experience.
February 12, 2007
It's worth noting that Microsoft plans to Support Windows XP for at least seven years per the folks at PC World.
February 9, 2007:
Implications of Windows Vista for the Music Maker: At ePiano, we want to embrace all technologies that improve the music making experience. By improve, we don't just mean more powerful, but rather to make it more reliable, more stable, or easier to use. Frankly, there has been ample power in prior Windows versions for most music making activities. In regards to our key criteria (reliability, stability, ease of use), the jury is still out on the new Microsoft Vista for music makers. Our overall take is that, at least for music making tools, the advantages don't outweigh the trade-offs (at this time). This could change as drivers from the Soundcard companies evolve and more is known about how MIDI and audio actually respond in Vista, in the real world. The average user working with Microsoft Office, and internet browsing will probably love the cool features of the new Vista, now. Music folks, whoa!
Educational software companies, and many music hardware companies often don't have the budget to quickly re-program, test and update software to meet the challenges of an evolving new operating system and new hardware requirements. Right or wrong, many companies will wait to see how certain things "shake out" before investing in updated code/drivers etc. Our best guess is that by May/June of 2007, things should be stabilized.
FYI - Windows XP can still be sold/installed on a new PC. Per Microsoft - XP will be offered as a new system alternative after the release of Vista (so, let's say January 2008). See Microsoft's lifecycle policy at: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/lifecycle/default.mspx
This is a hot new topic, we'll plan to update the information below as facts evolve:
TOP VISTA AUDIO FACTS for Music Makers/Music Creation:
Same as XP? MIDI support doesn't seem to have improved nor changed per a post from Larry Osterman, one of the head audio dudes at Microsoft. The direct quote from a posting on his blog is: "we're not doing a lot with MIDI in Vista, unfortunately :(" . I'm not certain as to the exact implications of this, but it likely means that the standard Microsoft USB compliant MIDI Driver will remain the same as in XP and allow only one program to use the MIDI drivers at a time (aka is not Multi-client). As something a user is likely to do, either intentionally or inadvertently - this is a problem and a pain when trying to launch two applications that use MIDI at the same time, like our SoundSetter application at the same time as Home Concert, Cakewalk, etc. The user is given an error message that informs them that another program is already using the MIDI driver. ePiano avoids this by recommending and using 3rd party USB/MIDI interfaces that ARE multi client. Good: * Soundfont Support still OK. * MIDI still works?! Bad: * Still no standard Multi-client MIDI Driver * No improvements or extended MIDI features.
The change of the whole audio processing routine in Windows Vista is throwing a huge curveball at Soundcard manufacturers like Creative Labs. The facts are rather technical, but I think it is safely summed up as: Yikes!Creative labs is scrambling to release Vista drivers - and has written an extensive posting in their support group about the nature of Vista Audio architecture. They'll be using a new thing called OpenAL http://www.openal.org/ to replace the DirectSound architecture that seems was their prior foundation for effects, hardware processing speed etc. Good: hmmm..not easy but: *ASIO apparently not affected. *Technical improvements in Vista may eventually generate a more stable audio platform. Bad: *EAX effects not supported (real bad news for gamers). *CPU may have more work to do in certain audio situations. *Drivers/Software need to be updated for reliable performance across applications. *Some old apps might not work properly depending upon how they relied upon DirectSound for speedy processing (mostly gamers will have this problem).
- Creative Labs Driver Availability Chart: Overview of Creative Labs status regarding Vista audio: http://forums.creative.com/creativelabs/board/message?board.id=Vista&message.id=8
- Best info regarding the Vista changes and implications for Creative Labs Products. Very technical: http://forums.creative.com/creativelabs/board/message?board.id=Vista&message.id=1694
- Larry Osterman's Blog: The Windows Audio Guru: http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/default.aspx Larry's Audio blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/tags/Audio/default.aspx
- Windows guru Paul Thurrott's complete review of all things Vista: http://www.winsupersite.com/vista/