Why am I suddenly experiencing a major lag when using my USB sound card after Windows and Nvidia driver update?

Super User Asked by Stretto on December 11, 2020

About two weeks ago I started to get major lag in my USB sound card. I have no idea why it started. It is happening when the card is being used in Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) mode too so this is something more severe than WDM audio modern. About two weeks Windows updated and I installed the latest Nvidia drivers and added a new monitor.

I’ve tried reinstalling all the various drivers for everything and all I’ve been able to do is seem to reduce the quickness of it starting to lag.

After some minutes (1-10) the audio starts to lag. It crackles and pops progressively worse for about 30s to 1m then the sound starts working but there is about 1-2 second delay. Everything works fine except for the delay and this also happens in ASIO. This makes it useless to do audio mixing. I have not had this issue for years of using the sound card.

If I change most settings related to the card in some way and sometimes not(some related to Nvidia or Windows) then it will temporarily fix the problem. Also, it seems that sometimes after not using the sound for hours it can fix itself and not have the lag, but then after minutes of use it will lag.

FWIW, I have had this system functioning just fine for about 4 years without issue. Because it is a lag issue in both WMD and ASIO this pretty much proves it is a deeper issue than some superficial fix.

Generally it is exactly like how latency issues work. If one sets the latency issues too low and there is too much of a load on the computer it will crackle and pop. This behaves like that but seems to get progressively worse(as if the CPU is getting more and more loaded, but here the cpu might have near 0 load). But then magically it all starts working fine but with a much longer latency.

It as if Windows added some type of adaptive latency algorithm that attempts to find the best latency but it is fubar’ed. It starts off with a low latency and then thinks it has to increase it and does so then sets it to some max of like 1 second.

This seems to only happen with the USB ASIO sound card and not the internal Realtek. It happens though with WMD and ASIO. It is something more serious than settings because I changed no settings when this started happening except what I mentioned which was totally unrelated.

When it starts lagging it is exactly as if I set a very large buffer size. I have to go change some audio setting, which I guess resets whatever issues is occurring, to get it to function but this lasts only for a minute or so.

I have no idea except to try to reinstall Windows and check it (which I can’t do and don’t want to do). Either the hardware is failing (such as a clock becoming unstable and not being able to sync at the correct sampling rate and so progressively getting out of sync) or some screwed up driver or setting is causing the issue.

The same problem happens on any sound configuration (16-bit 41.1k, 24-bit 48k) although the precise progression of distortion might change. I did change the USB port that the sound card was plugged in to and it seemed to function better and function longer. This makes me think it might be a problem with the USB port. Not sure if it could be a hardware setting; something in the BIOS such as overclocking, etc… but I did not change anything.

Update: I used a different USB port and plugged it in to the front port and it seemed to increase the time to lag… but the lag lasts several minutes as it builds up before lagging the audio completely. I will try to diagnose it along these lines and if I can’t seem to find anything that makes sense I will put it on another computer to see if it is the device or not.

Also, I messed with 2 seemingly unrelated BIOS settings and I so far it ran for 50 minutes without lagging as far as I know (I left for that time). I still think the problem exists but at least it might be manageable and maybe there is a real fix. I do get some pops and clicks here and there tough. I’m wondering if it has something to do with the CPU itself or related settings that is causing timing issues?

Update2: I hooked the device up to another computer and I could not reproduce the issue. So either it is windows or my computer itself. I will install windows on another partition and check. Of course none of this helps determine the issue if it is a problem with windows, which it most likely is.

Update3: After about a month or so I no longer have these problems. I have no idea what I did to fix it. I was messing around a little with cables and such(nothing major) around the same time it started working. All I can think of is that the cable or connection might have short or open that works most of the time.

Update4: So I rebooted because I had my computer on for several weeks and the problem returned ;/ I did end up installing some USB drivers and other things in that time(and didn’t have to reboot) so who knows ;/

One Answer

ASIO is not to be taken lightly. Although ASIO is notorious for having a very small delay, because you can set the buffer really low, misconfiguring this setting due to misunderstanding how things work can cause really bad problems.

To start, there are a few things you need to know.

When using ASIO, your soundcard will interact with your CPU in a low level way in order to make the small delay possible. The lower you set the delay, the more tasking it becomes on the CPU.

If the CPU can't handle it, the core the ASIO driver runs on reaches 100%, your audio will start to crackle.

That said, your soundcard is USB driven, so that adds another layer of complexity. If for example your power management sets the USB device to a lower powerstate, it underperforms which may mean that the same problem happens.

So that said, here are a few guidelines that you should check which should resolve the issue.

  1. Set your buffer (latency) no lower than necessary. Often enough 10-20ms is low enough for what you want to accomplish. Lower should only be done with a powerful pc and integrated soundcard, and even then only when absolutely necessary, as the overhead usually is not worth the performance gain.

  2. If its a laptop, it should be connected to a power outlet, not running on battery.

  3. Power management settings should be set to high-performance to ensure the USB is not running on power efficient setting and thus underperforms.

That said, you should ensure that the audio crackling is not happening because you are playing a song with lots of VST effects and instruments, and your CPU simply maxes out because you think your pc is fast, but it really struggles. Keep in mind that if you run a DAW that has no optimization for multi-threading, all vst's will run on the same core, quickly maxing out that core. The more CPU intensive your song is, the worse it gets over time as a song usually has a build-up. So... it may actually not be your ASIO but just underestimating what you are doing and how CPU intensive it is.

Answered by LPChip on December 11, 2020

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