PC/macOS Optimization

How to Optimize macOS for Live Performance

MAY 27, 2022
Have a big gig this weekend and want to make sure everything goes off without a hitch? One of the easiest ways to ensure everything goes right during your set is to adjust your Mac for live performance. Whether you’re new to the world of Mac computers or a Mac veteran, optimizing your machine for use with resource-intensive audio applications is quick, easy, and highly recommended. The following basic system adjustments will help keep your Mac running smoothly, efficiently, and—fingers crossed—glitch-free. Contents Disable the Screen Saver Disable Sleep Options Turn off Airport and Bluetooth Disable Spotlight Indexing Disable Widgets Disable Infrared (IR) Reception Disable Automatic Graphics Switching Disable Time Machine Keep Your Computer Cool with SMC Fan Control Summary Disable the Screen Saver Yeah, I know your computer warns you about shortening your display life, but it’s either that or shortening your DJ career. To be honest, I’ve had my screen saver off for years and my display is still going strong (knock on wood). Screen savers are pretty and all, but there are much more important tasks for your Mac to ‘think’ about than turning on a screen saver. While using resource-heavy applications, any interruption the CPU is forced to deal with can result in an audio dropout, glitch or some other unpleasant surprise. Save your resources and disable your screen saver. Open System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon on your dock.             Click on Desktop & Screen Saver. Adjust the Start screen saver option to Never. Disable Sleep Options If there’s one thing you never want your computer or hard drive to do, going into sleep mode during a performance is at the top of the list. It’s like falling asleep behind the wheel while going 90 MPH, but with a few hundred people in the car staring at you in horror. Save yourself the embarrassment and set your computer to never go to sleep. Open System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon on your dock. Click on Energy Saver. Click on Power Adapter and adjust the Computer Sleep and Display sleep settings to Never. In addition to the above sleep settings, turn off the below options:  Put hard disk(s) to sleep when possible Wake for network access Automatically reduce brightness before the display goes to sleep. Turn off Airport and Bluetooth Browsing the Internet and checking Facebook while performing…..really? Not only is this a performance faux pas; it’s practically begging the computer gods for audio dropouts and other audible anomalies. Streaming audio through a low latency sound card requires uninterrupted USB communication between the operating system and the audio device. Wireless and Bluetooth® networking are notorious for interrupting USB communication and causing audio issues. You don’t have to turn these options off and never use them again, but it is in your best interest to turn them off before performing. Click on the AirPort icon in the Apple Menu bar. In the drop-down menu click Turn AirPort Off. To turn off Bluetooth, click the Bluetooth icon in the Apple Menu bar. In the drop-down menu click Turn Bluetooth Off. Disable Spotlight Indexing Have you ever seen the Spotlight magnifying glass icon with a pulsating dot in the middle? Did you notice your Mac running super sluggish while this was occurring? This is Spotlight creating a virtual index of all the files and folders in your system (i.e., indexing), allowing Spotlight to quickly search your drives. For everyday use, this is fine and not too much of a nuisance, but when using resource-intensive audio applications, having Spotlight suddenly start indexing in the middle of your set can be disastrous.  The easiest way to prevent indexing is to adjust your Spotlight Privacy settings. The only hitch: Spotlight will no longer be able to search the drives you make ‘private.’ If you’re a Spotlight addict, don’t worry, you can easily remove your drives from the Privacy list to restore searchability after your gig is over. Open System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon on your dock. Click on Spotlight. Click on Privacy. Click the + sign in the bottom left corner, click on the drive you want to make ‘private,’ and then click Choose. Repeat the above process for each drive you wish to add to the Privacy list. To remove the drive, click on the drive icon listed and use the – key. Disable Widgets Do you use Dashboard Widgets on your Mac? Does anyone use these things? When Mac introduced Dashboard to OSX in 10.4, I gave the mini-apps called Widgets a try, but couldn’t find anything particularly useful for what I do. The Weather, World Clock, and Stickies Widgets are kind of cool, but that’s about as far as I delved.   You might not know this, but those little Widgets, hiding out in the Dashboard, eat up your RAM, even if the Dashboard itself is closed. The remedy is easy, open Dashboard and disable all Widgets except for one. OSX requires at least one Widget to be active, not sure why exactly, so leave something like Stickies running. Open Dashboard by clicking the Dashboard icon on your Dock. Click the + icon displayed at the bottom left corner of your screen. Click the Manage Widgets button to open the Widgets manager window. Uncheck all Widgets to disable them, leaving Stickies active. Disable Infrared (IR) Reception Disabling IR reception is seldom mentioned in Mac optimization articles, but definitely worth doing. All it takes is some joker in the club to point an Apple remote at your Mac and click a button to bring your set to a grinding halt. If you’re using OSX 10.6.8 or earlier, an Apple remote click activates Front Row—a media center application for viewing videos, photos, music, etc.—and completely overrides all programs you’re using, yikes! Your best defense is to disable IR on your Mac. Open System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon on your dock. Click the lock icon to unlock it and enter your password. Select ‘Disable remote control infrared receiver’ to disable IR reception. For OSX 10.7 and higher, click the Advanced tab to find this option. Disable Automatic Graphics Switching If you’re using a MacBook Pro (15” or 17”) built-in 2010 or newer, your computer may have two graphics cards, one for normal use and one for high performance. By default, your Mac is set up to automatically switch between the two. When using graphic-intensive programs for DJing or visuals, it’s recommended to use the higher performance card. The problem is, by default, your Mac chooses which one to use and when to switch. If you're experiencing intermittent stutter, lag, or performance issues, this could be partially to blame. Switch your Mac to the higher performance card and take the guesswork out of it. Open System Preferences by clicking the System Preferences icon on your dock. Click on Energy Saver. If using an older MacBook Pro, select the Higher performance option. For newer MacBook Pros, disable the Automatic graphics switching option. If prompted, click Log Out for the new settings to take effect. Disable Time Machine I’m all for backing up and doing it often. If you’ve never made a system backup or if it’s been more than a few months since your last backup, go do it now, I’ll wait. Good job, now don’t you feel better? I’m all for backing up, but I’m not down with Time Machine wanting to backup my system while I’m DJing; not cool Time Machine! Time Machine is set to back up your files every hour, which can be a bit excessive, but I understand the importance of it. To keep Time Machine off my back, especially while DJing, I simply disable Time Machine by turning it off and when I’m ready to back up, I turn it back on. Easy breezy. Keep Your Computer Cool with SMC Fan Control Heat is one of the main contributors to premature hard drive death and overall system lethargy. In general, hard drives, computers, and electronics do not like excessive heat. As heat increases, thermal impedance increases, greatly impacting processor and internal component performance. An easy way to ensure your computer doesn’t go into ‘meltdown mode’ is to keep it cool by using a laptop stand—to increase air ventilation—and installing an easy-to-use application called SMC Fan Control. With SMC Fan Control, you can adjust the RPM speed of your cooling fan(s) within your Mac. Your Mac will automatically start the fan when your computer gets too hot, but once your Mac gets toasty in a hot club, it’s really hard to cool it down quickly. Using SMC Fan Control, I set the fan to a higher RPM (5000-6000 RPM) before I start performing. This helps keep my Mac cooler for longer—by increasing airflow earlier—instead of waiting until it’s scorching hot. Once installed, launch SMC Fan Control from your Applications folder. In your Apple Menu Bar, you’ll see the SMC display with the current temperature and fan RPM speed, click this to view a drop menu, and then click Preferences. Click the + sign to create a new Preset and call it something like Live Performance. Grab the min. Speed slider and drag it to a higher RPM speed (i.e., between 5000-6000 RPM) and then click Save. To activate your preset, click the SMC display in the Apple Menu bar. Go to Active Setting and select your Live Performance preset. When finished with your set, go to Active Setting and choose Default. Summary Performing live with a computer is serious business. If your computer isn’t properly optimized, it can have a major impact on your performance. If your computer goes down its game over, so do yourself a favor, make sure your Mac is ready to rock a crowded, hot, sweaty club for hours, and perform at least a few of the recommended optimizations.
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Optimizing Your Computer For Audio Performance

MAY 27, 2022
You can’t walk into a car dealership and buy a car that’s ready to enter a race. Even high-performance sports cars come tuned for the road, not the racetrack. The suspension, gearing, and timing all need to be tweaked before a car is ready to be pushed to its limits. The same is true of computers. While most new computers will perform well right out of the box, whether you buy a Windows or Mac computer, you still have some work to do before you’ll see your new machine perform to its maximum potential. Performing and mixing music is among the most demanding tasks you can ask of your computer, sometimes more taxing than professional graphics and video work. The suggestions below can be used to squeeze more speed, more tracks, and more plug-in power out of any computer. We're including basic adjustments that all users should perform, as well as more advanced tips for those interested in having the most rock-solid performer possible. Before you begin, make sure that your software and your audio device drivers are up-to-date. CONTENTS Tips for All Systems Don’t let your computer’s boot drive get too full Even a top-tier computer can get bogged down - eliminate the bloat, and run it lean and mean Disable WiFi and Bluetooth to keep hard-to-find gremlins at bay during important performances Close software that is not in use Store your music library on a second hard disk Choose the right USB port Avoid USB hubs when possible Install more RAM Beware of overheating Windows 10 Performance Enhancements Quit programs running in the background Turn off hard disk sleep Set your Power Options to High Performance Turn off automatic updates Disable graphical effects Increase Processor Scheduling Disable User Account Control Mac OS Performance Enhancements Turn off System and Hard Disk Sleep Quit programs running in the background Turn off Time Machine Turn off unnecessary startup items Turn off automatic updates Disable Spotlight indexing Disable Sudden Motion Sensor (Mac Laptops Only) Turn off FileVault encryption When to consider a clean reinstall of your Windows or Mac OS Know what latency is and why it matters When is low latency important? When is low latency not important? Tips for All Systems Before we get into tips that are specific to Windows or Mac, there are some basic steps that every producer, engineer, and DJ should take to optimize their system. These often-overlooked steps form an important basis for a reliable performance setup.   1) Don’t let your computer’s boot drive get too full Make sure to leave about 20% of your computer’s main hard disk free for system tasks and virtual memory operations. This is crucial to maintaining system speed. If your new computer has an internal SSD, it may be smaller than you're used to. You may find yourself short on storage space sooner than you anticipated. If your main hard disk gets more than 80% full, your computer's performance will suffer. It may be time to go out and buy a second hard disk or get rid of some files. External USB drives are higher performing and more affordable than ever. Internal drives are even less expensive! While you’re at it, buy an extra drive just for backing up. We've put this tip at the top of the list because of how seriously it affects performance, and how easy it is to recognize and fix the issue.   2) Even a top-tier computer can get bogged down - eliminate the bloat, and run it lean and mean Out-of-the-box computer configurations are not your friend. Both Windows and Mac computers come home from the store loaded with performance-sapping applications and settings enabled. From the moment you turn on your new computer, a thousand little online-enabled apps and widgets will be fighting for supremacy over your computer's resources. As you take the stage for your gig, any one of these little invisible monsters can wake up and decide on its own that now is the very best time to download that huge update, index every file on your hard drive, or optimize your system (ironically) for performance... If an application or setting is not critical to your performance, uninstall or disable it. This can be a tall order on both Windows and Mac because so much of this activity occurs in the background or is otherwise hidden from you unless you know where to look. We'll include specific suggestions for Windows and Mac users below.   3) Disable WiFi and Bluetooth to keep hard-to-find gremlins at bay during important performances Performance issues can be difficult and frustrating to troubleshoot, especially if they seem to be intermittent or one-off occurrences. Unexpected background operations are often a hidden cause of audio drop-outs, crashes, and other glitches. Disabling WiFi and Bluetooth can be an effective broad-brush solution that prevents many of these operations from triggering. Whether it is Dropbox, Messenger, Skype, or your OS itself, you can prevent auto-scheduled updates, downloads, and synchronizations from occurring by disabling WiFi. If your computer is discoverable via Bluetooth, you can keep nearby devices (including your own phone) from talking to your computer during critical performances by turning off Bluetooth altogether on your computer. If you DJ using YouTube, Spotify, or some other online service, and can't disable WiFi, you'll need to be much more vigilant and aware of other apps, services, and processes on your computer that may try to jump online while you're working. Uninstall or disable these if you absolutely must be online while you perform. Culprits include (but aren't limited to) Dropbox, Skype, Messenger, Windows/Mac Automatic Update, any running applications, and any open web browser tabs. We love and need these applications, but they can cause problems if allowed to run during a live performance.   4) Close software that is not in use If you're not using an application for your performance, make sure you fully quit the program. This means web browsers, iTunes, other media players, games, Dropbox, etc. Even when open in the background, the software uses system resources that could be needed for your performance. Even worse, applications running quietly in the background may wake up to perform a scheduled update or sync& right in the middle of your performance.   5) Store your music library on a second hard disk While the 5,400 RPM drives in most laptops can handle reading and writing 8 or even 16 simultaneous tracks, you can really improve system performance by dedicating a separate drive for your music library. Certain files on your computer change all the time, such as your email, internet search history, cache, and hidden temp directories. Other files stay more or less the same. These include music and photo libraries, and large audio files. Your system will perform better and won’t have to work as hard if you use a dedicated separate drive to house your library, leaving more of your main drive free for system operations and applications. This will result in more optimized drive space and faster loading and writing of large files. This also makes things easier when it comes to backing up your precious files. When choosing a new drive, take note of the advantages of SSD vs HDD drives. While HDD drives typically provide more storage space for less money, SSD drives are often both noticeably faster and more reliable due to their lack of moving parts and minimal power requirements. Your dedicated music drive can be an internal drive or an external USB drive. If you use an external drive, make sure it is at least USB 2.0, and preferably USB 3.0.   6) Choose the right USB port Use USB 3.0 devices with 3.0 ports and cables, and USB 2.0 devices with 2.0 ports and cables if possible. USB 3.0 ports can handle 2.0 devices, but they'll have to slow down to do so. The same goes for 2.0 ports and 3.0 devices. It's very likely that the device and port will work, but with limitations and extra steps to adapt. It's best to avoid this if possible. Not all USB ports are created equal. Most computers feature multiple USB ports. Although they may all look the same on the outside, it is very common to find a mix of different types of USB ports on a single computer: USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and built-in USB hubs disguised as full-fledged ports that will often only function as USB 1.1 ports. Find the highest performing ports on your computer, and use those for the highest demand devices: Audio Input Output Devices > MIDI Controllers > Hard Drives > Keyboards & Mice. In our experience, ports closest to the computer's power supply are often the highest performing, and those further away should be reserved for lower priority devices. Avoid using USB ports/hubs found on external keyboards or video displays except for very low-priority devices like iLok's and LED lights.   7) Avoid USB hubs when possible With the popularity of USB DJ controllers and audio interfaces, this suggestion may sound a bit dramatic, but it can help immensely. Not every USB device will experience problems when used with a hub, and most USB-hub users may never experience any issues. But if you are having trouble with latency, distortion, noise, or any sort of communication trouble with your device, a good first step is to take the hub out of the equation and dedicate a full performance USB port to your high-priority device(s).   8) Install more RAM Your operating system can use up to 2 GB or more of RAM all by itself. On a DJ computer, you’ll want to have more than that so your power-hungry applications have all the resources they need. 4-8 GB is a great place to start, but if you’ll be using lots of virtual instruments, samplers, and other sound generators, you’ll want to get even more. Most systems on the market today will be able to accept at least 8GB of RAM, making this an easy and inexpensive way to upgrade your performance.   9) Beware of overheating If you've ever noticed that an issue only occurs after several hours, you may be a victim of overheating. Noise and distortion occurring only hours into a set is a potential symptom of the processor overheating and scaling back or "throttling" its speed in an attempt to cool itself down. This could make an overheating i7 run like a cool i5, drastically changing the performance. This isn't to imply that all high spec systems will eventually overheat, but there are certain factors that will contribute more than others. Here are a few suggestions: Buffer Size - Lowering your buffer size or latency setting will help speed up audio processing, but this also means a higher tax on your processor. If you experience noise or distortion over time (anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours), turn this up. It may be set lower than your system can comfortably handle. Keep the laptop on a hard, flat surface - Any laptop will need to be able to accept air from the bottom or sides in order to cool itself down. Placing the laptop on a soft or uneven surface such as a mat or blanket, or in a tight space like a DJ coffin could prevent it from taking in cool air. Laptop stands are a popular way to ensure that your computer has a dedicated and appropriate place to sit within reach while staying away from other gear or awkward surfaces. Performance enhancements - If the processor is overheating due to overperformance, cutting back on things like background services, WIFI, Bluetooth, and unnecessary software can help your system stay on track. The following sections for Windows and Mac machines contain all types of tips and tricks to keep your system focused on the task at hand.   Windows 10 Performance Enhancements Make sure to try our tips for all systems in addition to the Windows-specific suggestions below.   1) Quit programs running in the background The icons at the bottom-right of the screen, next to the clock represent most of the programs that are running in the background. This will include services and programs like virus protection, spyware protection, Dropbox and other file-sharing services, email, display management, and more. While performing, it is advisable to exit from these. Right-clicking any of these icons will usually give you an option to close or exit the service. You can double-check which applications and processes are running by looking at the Applications tab of the Task Manager. To access the Task Manager, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, and then select Task Manager.   2) Turn off hard disk sleep Make sure your hard drive is not set to sleep or turn off after a short amount of time. If your hard drive goes to sleep (stops spinning to save power) while you are performing, your performance will be interrupted. Click on the Start Menu at the bottom left of your screen and select Settings, then Control Panel. Open the Power Options control panel. Set the Turn Off Hard Disks option to Never.   3) Set your Power Options to High Performance Changing your power settings will help ensure that your system favors performance over energy efficiency. While we do support being energy efficient wherever possible, you may want to turn this on before a big performance so your system isn't slowing down when you need it to be speeding up. From the Start menu, navigate to the Windows Control Panel or Settings. Select System > Power & Sleep >  Additional Power Settings Choose High Performance as the preferred Power Plan. Then click Change plan settings, and set Put the computer to sleep to Never. Then click Save Changes. While it is not necessary to change the sleep settings to get the full effect of the power plan, this will ensure that your computer doesn't fall asleep if you need to step away for a few minutes.   4) Turn off automatic updates It can be a good idea to turn off any scheduled tasks. The last thing you want is for a 150MB update to start downloading in the middle of a performance. Open the Automatic Updates control panel, and select Turn off Automatic Updates. This means that it's up to you to manually check for updates yourself. All you have to do is either revisit this Control Panel or go to windowsupdate.microsoft.com.   5) Disable graphical effects When troubleshooting or optimizing system performance issues in Windows, it is often a good idea to disable some or all of Windows' graphical effects. While they look nice, these effects can actually be just as demanding or more demanding on your computer's system than many professional-level applications. Performance on even the highest-end systems can suffer if too much demand is placed on the processor(s) at once. Disabling these graphical effects is one step toward getting the highest level of performance out of your existing computer. To disable the visual effects: From the Start menu, navigate to the Windows Control Panel or Settings. Select System > Advanced System Settings (or System and Security > System > Advanced System Settings). In the System Properties window, click the Advanced tab. Under Performance, select Settings. Under the Visual Effects tab, choose Adjust for Best Performance. Click Apply and OK to exit. This will ensure that all effects are disabled and give you more space for performance, albeit with a very classic Windows look and feel. If this change is too dramatic, you can choose Custom and pick and choose which settings to keep or disable. As another alternative, you can navigate to Control Panel > Personalization (or Appearance and Personalization > Personalization) and choose either the Windows Basic or Classic themes for a simpler look and limited visual effects.   6) Increase Processor Scheduling Also found in the System Properties window is Processor Scheduling. This helps ensure that the computer knows how to properly allocate resources according to your needs and will prioritize your software's performance over the needs of background services, some of which you may not even know are there. From the Start menu, navigate to the Windows Control Panel or Settings. Select System > Advanced System Settings (or System and Security > System > Advanced System Settings) In the System Properties window, click the Advanced tab. Under Performance, select Settings. In the window that appears, choose the Advanced tab. Under Adjust for best performance of, select Programs. Click Apply and OK to exit.   7) Disable User Account Control User Account Control can create a maze of different file permissions and access. Disabling this can prevent possible read/write conflicts and ensure your software can run efficiently. Navigate to Control Panel > User Accounts. Click Change User Account Control Settings. Set Never Notify. Click OK. Restart your computer.   Mac OS Performance Enhancements Make sure to try our tips for all systems in addition to the Mac-specific suggestions below. For more Mac-specific suggestions be sure to visit our macOS Optimization Guide. 1) Turn off System and Hard Disk Sleep Making sure that your hard disk and system don't go to sleep while you're performing or after you've stepped away for a minute is crucial to ensure a smooth performance. Navigate to System Preferences > Energy Saver and set the Computer and Display Sleep settings to Never. In the same window, uncheck the option titled Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible.   2) Quit programs running in the background First, quit any actively running applications except for your performance software. Press Cmd+Tab on your keyboard to cycle through any open applications. Quit everything that is open so that the only application icons that appear when you press Cmd+Tab are your DJ performance software, and the Finder (smiley blue rectangle) Next, quit background programs and services. The icons at the top-right of the screen, next to the clock represent most of the programs that are running in the background. This will include services and programs like virus and spyware protection, Dropbox and other file-sharing services, email, display management, and more. While performing, it is advisable to exit from these in case they kick into action right when you need an extra performance boost. Clicking any of these icons will usually give you an option to close or quit the service.   3) Turn off Time Machine If you use Time Machine to back up your computer (which is a great idea), turn it off when you’re performing. Your Mac may pick some inconvenient times to start a backup. Navigate to System Preferences > Time Machine and set Time Machine to OFF. It's easy to turn back on when you’re not performing.   4) Turn off unnecessary startup items While this is not immediately necessary for performance, choosing only the absolutely necessary startup items can ensure that you can start up again quickly in the event of a crash. Navigate to System Preferences > Account Settings. Under Login Items, uncheck any items you don’t need open every time your system boots. You can set this to open your DJ software or anything else that you use regularly, though keep in mind that these will open every time you restart, even when you don't need them. This is also a good opportunity to check for any unknown background services that may startup on their own.   5) Turn off automatic updates Like any other automated task, it's a good idea to turn this off. Not only will this interrupt your performance, but updates can mean major changes to your OS, which means possible compatibility conflicts with your software and hardware. It's much easier, and safer, to check for updates when you're ready. To turn this off: Navigate to System Preferences > App Store. Uncheck the box for Automatically check for updates.   6) Disable Spotlight indexing Spotlight keeps track of every file on your computer and can be very helpful when you need to recall a file or open a program quickly. But, how does it search so efficiently? When you least expect it, Spotlight will kick into gear in the background to create and update its index of files on your internal and external drives to use as a reference when searching. While this sounds harmless, it can easily cause your system to appear as if it is slowing down at random. The good news is that it's easy to pick and choose what Spotlight indexes, to tell it to avoid certain drives or files. Navigate to System Preferences and select Spotlight Under the Search Results tab, uncheck any items that you don't typically search for. This may be contacts, Movies, Music, Applications, etc. If you already use software to manage and search your music library, it's probably not necessary for Spotlight to do this, too. Under the Privacy tab, add or remove drives that you do not want to be indexed. If your library drive of 20,000 songs is connected, you may not want Spotlight to try and search it in the middle of a performance. Again, if you are already using music management software to organize your music, you likely won't be using Spotlight. Please note that some software, such as Pro Tools 12, does use Spotlight indexing for some purposes. 7) Disable Sudden Motion Sensor (Mac Laptops Only) The Sudden Motion Sensor is designed to temporarily stop the hard drive from spinning when the laptop is suddenly moved, in an effort to prevent any possible damage to the drive. While this is a great feature, it can be easily triggered in a loud environment (i.e. club or bar) by a loud bass or shaky stage. To disable and re-enable this, you will need to use command prompts through the Mac Terminal. To disable the sensor Navigate to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.. Type sudo pmset -a sms 1 and press Return. Enter your administrator when prompted. Type sudo pmset -g to verify that this has been applied. To re-enable the sensor Navigate to Applications > Utilities > Terminal. Type sudo pmset -a sms 0 and press Return. Enter your administrator when prompted. Type sudo pmset -g to verify that this has been applied.   8) Turn off FileVault encryption FileVault encryption helps protect your startup disk from unauthorized access, but it can also make it more difficult for your software to access files and perform efficiently. While it is intended to protect your data, it's unlikely that this would be necessary during a DJ performance or on a computer used primarily for DJ performance. To disable the encryption, first ensure that the mac is connected to a power supply and follow the steps below: Navigate to System Preferences > Security & Privacy Click the FileVault tab. Click the Lock button and enter the administrator password. Click Turn Off FileVault. Restart the Mac. Keep in mind that the decryption will take some time and the mac will need to remain connected to a power supply during the process, so avoid doing this immediately before a performance.   When to consider a clean reinstall of your Windows or Mac OS Whether you use Windows or Mac, a clean reinstall of the OS is the most surefire to ensure you have a truly clean machine. It is also, of course, one of the highest-effort measures you can undertake. Computers are often loaded with extravagant software and features from the retailer that most musicians or DJs will never use or even notice (except when they negatively affect performance). There are really two scenarios when it makes good sense to consider a clean reinstall of your computer's OS: You've just purchased a new Windows machine and want it to be free from bloatware. You've had your Windows or Mac computer for some time, and the performance isn't what it used to be, and other troubleshooting measures aren't helping to resolve the issue. As a life-long Mac fan, I can proudly proclaim that there are few things on this earth more beautiful than a laptop with a clean install of Windows. If you've wrestled with performance or reliability, starting with a fresh OS install can be a good first step to having a rock-solid system again. It is a big undertaking, but if you're starting with a new machine that you haven't really moved into yet', or one that seems hopelessly bogged down already, it can be a worthwhile undertaking. Mac users don't get a pass on this one either. The days of exclaiming, "I don't have that problem...I have a Mac," are over. Macs have their own special ways of getting bogged down. One of the most common is Migration Assistant. Migration assistant makes it magically easy to take all your applications, files, and preferences from your old Mac to a new Mac. Unfortunately, it also brings over existing problems from your old Mac. Also, new problems sometimes arise from the imperfect porting of the old Mac's soul into a new Mac's body. If you're familiar with Frankenstein or Pet Cemetary, you know that resurrecting an old friend doesn't always work out the way you'd hoped. If you've been using and updating the computer successfully for years, that means years of possible redundancies. Both Mac and Windows can benefit from a fresh install. Because this process can change as operating systems evolve, see the articles below or check with the computer manufacturer to obtain the latest reinstallation instructions: Windows - Start with a Fresh Clean Installation of Windows 10 Mac - How to Reinstall macOS Please be sure to back up often. Reinstalling the OS will mean reinstalling all of your software and uploading all of your songs (if storing on the internal drive), so be sure that all of this is backed up on a separate drive and ready to reinstall before you begin the process of wiping your OS. Know what latency is and why it matters Every audio program has options, settings, or preferences page in which the user can adjust the buffer size or latency settings. Buffer size governs the amount of time the computer is given to respond to requests (for audio processing in this case). The larger the buffer size, the more time the computer has to respond. Large buffer sizes allow the computer to handle more work, but at the cost of higher latency. Smaller buffer sizes reduce the overall amount of work the computer can handle, but it can do so with lower latency. Buffer sizes should be adjusted in increments of 64 (64, 192, 128, 256, 512, 768, 1024, etc). Latency refers to the time it takes the computer to respond to input. If latency is high, signals routed into the computer and back out to speakers or headphones may be audibly delayed.   When is low latency important? The lower the latency, the faster the response of the program and the audio to your commands and requests. Examples of the benefits of lower latency are intense scratching with a controller or real-time manipulation of effects applied to decks in your DJ program. The response will be immediate and musical and will make your audio software feel more like audio hardware. Another good example of latency is the time it takes for the computer to output a sound when a trigger is struck on a MIDI keyboard or controller connected to it. In this situation, it is important to have low latency so that there is no audible delay between the time the key is struck, and when the note is heard. Depending on the computer, a buffer size of 192, or 128 should result in very low latency suitable for the above situations. On the other hand, it is often beneficial, particularly for older and less powerful computers, to choose a large buffer size when the quality and reliability of sound playback are critical. If you plan to perform lots of real-time manipulations, such as scratching or affecting on a slower computer, a good way to combat audio dropouts and performance degradation is to choose a higher buffer setting. The trade-off may be a more sluggish response from your system. Find the lowest possible latency setting that still offers 100% reliable, high-quality playback even under the most demanding applications.   When is low latency not important? When you are mainly using your DJ software to provide a continuous playback of music and you want absolutely rock-solid playback, choose a large buffer. When it comes to choosing buffer settings, always remember that every computer is different and you should always road test your software and hardware extensively at various settings to find which setting offers the most desirable results for your performance style.
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Denon DJ MCX8000 | Optimizing Performance and Improving Latency

APRIL 6, 2022
Contents USB Drive, File, and Database Management MCX8000 Settings and Utility Serato Optimization and Audio Buffer Size Computer Optimization Tips Additional Optimization Tips And Articles     USB Drive, File, and Database Management If you're experiencing trouble with loading files from a USB drive, loading a connected USB drive, latency with waveforms, or other similar problems with Engine and a standalone MCX8000, it may be a good idea to take a look at your USB drive, files, and database structure: Formatting USB Drive: Make sure you're not using unsuitable media like an old USB 1.0 drive. If data has been deleted from a hard drive, this does not always mean the space on the drive is clear. Oftentimes, the drive will simply mark the space as open, and the content will not be removed until it is overwritten with new data, even though the content no longer appears on the drive.  Over time, this can lead to the file system developing performance issues and reacting slowly. To keep drive performance at a maximum, a good USB 2.0 drive should be reformatted periodically to FAT32 to ensure that all cleared and deleted data has been wiped from the drive entirely. For tips and instructions on reformatting your hard drive or thumb drive, see our guide below: Formatting a Hard Drive for DJ Performance   File Formats:Please make sure the tracks you are loading into the USB drive meet the requirements and are analyzed correctly in the Engine software.   WAV: 44.1kHz, 16bit/24bit Stereo AIFF: 44.1kHz, 16bit/24bit Stereo MP3: CBR/VBR 44.1kHz, Stereo 32kbps – 320 kbps AAC: CBR/VBR 44.1kHz, Stereo 64kbps – 320 kbps   Engine Database:Make sure you have prepared your library using the latest version of Engine from www.denondj.com/engine, and that you've indexed all of your files. Our team created a great video and article that will walk you through preparing and accessing your music in Engine, import your Serato crates and analyze them in the Engine software and import your Serato crate onto a thumb drive for Engine use.   Denon DJ MCX8000 - Prepare and Access Your Music Denon DJ MCX8000 - How to Import and Analyze a Serato Crate for Engine   MCX8000 Settings and Utility The MCX8000 has various settings to help enhance the performance of the unit and help customize the response to the user, but it's easy to get carried away or assign settings incorrectly. Refreshing these or adjusting the settings appropriately can help improve the response: MIDI Trans Interval: In the rare instance that your connected computer cannot correctly receive real-time MIDI messages from MCX8000 (while using Serato DJ), this setting determines a specific interval at which MCX8000 will send its MIDI messages. The available range is 3–10msec. We recommend leaving this at the default setting of 4ms, but adjusting it up or down may help with response time when using Serato: Press and hold the VIEW button until you're in the UTILITY menu. Scroll down until you see MIDI Trans Interval. Push in the SELECT/LOAD knob and change the value. Turning the setting down can help improve the responsiveness of Serato if the system is capable of handling the extra speed, but this would require faster processing. Turning this setting up could help relieve system performance and make for a more stable user experience.  Touch Sensitivity Left/Right: If the platters are not responding at all or are responding before you even touch them, you may want to adjust the sensitivity settings in the utility menu.  Press and hold the VIEW button until you're in the UTILITY menu. Scroll down until you see Touch Sensitivity Left/Right. Push in the SELECT/LOAD knob and change the value. Turning this setting up will make the platters more responsive, and turning them down will make the platters less responsive Screen Brightness: Turning the screen brightness down can help the MCX8000 perform more efficiently, similar to how adjusting the screen brightness on a laptop or phone can help reserve battery power. Even turning down screen brightness by 10% can have a meaningful impact on performance.  Press and hold the VIEW button until you're in the UTILITY menu. Use the Select/Load knob to select Screen Brightness. Press down on the knob to select. Use the Select/Load knob to adjust the screen brightness.  We recommend setting this somewhere below 100% if you plan on pushing the MCX8000 to its full extent. Factory Reset: A factory reset may help if you are experiencing trouble with distortion, latency, waveforms, latency, or platter sensitivity, especially if some of the global and utility settings have been adjusted. A factory reset will reset all settings to default and can clarify if an issue is being caused by a setting on the MCX8000. To reset the unit: Press and hold the VIEW button until you're in the UTILITY menu. Scroll down until you see MAINTENANCE SETTINGS. Under FACTORY DEFAULT, push in the SELECT/LOAD knob. Turn the SELECT/LOAD knob until you see OK displayed. Push in the SELECT/LOAD knob to revert your settings back to Factory Default. Push in the VIEW button one time to exit these settings.   Firmware Update: If the device firmware is below MCU 2064, please update the firmware to the latest version.  To check the firmware version: Press and hold the VIEW button until you're in the UTILITY menu. Scroll down until you see MCU Version. In the MCU column, you will see the firmware version. For the latest firmware version, please refer to the link provided below.www.denondj.com/mcx8000     Serato Optimization and Audio Buffer Size Serato has a lot of extra effects, features, and settings that could result in audio latency and other common symptoms if not set properly. Here are a few that are worth noting: Smart Sync: Time and pitch stretching audio in real-time can be processor intensive. If you have Smart Sync enabled, it may be utilizing more system resources than your computer can handle. Turning this off or switching to Simple Sync may help. To turn this feature off, hold down SHIFT and press SYNC twice, this will stop the SYNC. For more information regarding this feature, please refer to their Sync in Serato DJ article and  Serato DJ Smart Sync Tutorial Video for more info on using Sync.   USB Buffer Size (Latency): Try lowering the USB Buffer Size (Latency) in Serato on your computer. This will result in a tighter hardware-software response. We always recommend having the USB buffer size set to 5ms, to begin with. To perform this. Click SETUP when Serato is opened Go to the AUDIO tab Select your preferred buffer size and click APPLY. Please be aware that turning your buffer size down will require faster processing and more system resources. If set too low, over time (such as 5 minutes to an hour) this may result in audio distortion and other odd behavior from the software. If you are experiencing audio latency at 5ms, you may want to see our Computer Optimization Tips below before turning this setting any lower. Make sure to fully test your setup and settings for a few hours at a time to ensure this will be appropriate for a performance.      Computer Optimization Tips To prepare your computer for performance it's always best to start by turning off additional graphical effects, screen savers, Bluetooth, WIFI, etc. but here are a few more tips that may help: Windows System Sleep: It is recommended to adjust the power options so that your computer does not enter sleep mode, put the hard disks to sleep, or suspend USB devices. These features can cause playback and record issues as well as issues with your MCX8000. Change Screen and Sleep settings in Current Power Plan in your Windows Settings: Open Settings, and click on the System icon.  Click on Power & Sleep on the left side, and set the Screen and Sleep settings to Never on battery and while plugged in. When finished, you can close Settings if you like. Disk Cleanup: Running Disk Cleanup every so often will help find and remove unnecessary files on your hard disk to free up disk space and help your computer run faster. To delete temporary files: Search for Disk Cleanup from the Taskbar and select it from the list of results. Under Files To Delete, select the file types to get rid of. To get a description of the file type, select it. Select OK. Cleanup System Files: If you need to free up more space, you can also delete system files. In Disk Cleanup, select Clean Up System Files. Select the file types to get rid of. To get a description of the file type, select it. Select OK.   Mac Energy Saver Options: This optimization will free up system resources as well as prevent the computer from going to sleep or standby mode which can cause audio dropouts with DAW software and hardware. Open System Preferences. Click Energy Saver. Do one of the following (available option depends on your computer model) If present, set the Computer sleep slider to Never. Otherwise, check the box that says "prevent computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off". Un-check the box for put hard disks to sleep when possible.   Create a New MIDI Configuration: Creating a new Midi Configuration on your Mac can help if you're getting limited or no MIDI response from your MCX8000 and can help improve response time. Check out the guide below for a complete walkthrough: Mac OS X - How To Re-Configure Your MIDI Studio     Additional Optimization Tips And Articles The list of options to clean up and maximize system performance can be extensive, and while we've gathered a lot of the important steps here in this article, there are a lot more resources out there that can help. Below you will find more articles and videos from Denon DJ and Serato focused on improving your experience with Serato DJ, Engine, and the MCX8000: MCX8000 Denon DJ MCX8000 - Getting Rid of Freezing, Distortion, Dropouts, and Other Performance Issues Denon DJ MCX8000 - Knowledge Base Articles and Videos Denon DJ MCX8000 - Frequently Asked Question Denon DJ MCX8000 Tutorial Video Serato/Computer Optimizing Your System, Improving Performance, and Managing Latency Serato Mac Optimization Guide for OS X  Serato PC Optimization Guide for Windows Lowering Memory Usage & Keeping a Tidy Serato Library    
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Denon DJ MCX8000 | Getting Rid of Freezing, Distortion, Dropouts and other Performance Issues

APRIL 6, 2022
The Denon DJ MCX8000 is a performance beast, but that doesn't mean it can compensate for problems in your computer, USB drives or other gear. If you haven't taken every step to prepare your system for DJ performance, chances are you'll run into issues like freezing, distortion, drop-outs and latency. These are symptoms specific to each user's setup and could indicate anything from out-of-date software, missing updates or even just a bad cable. More often than not it's a case of poor computer performance, drive formatting, other faulty equipment, and of course, user error. There's a good chance there are a few simple steps you can take to optimize your system and squash all of these problems. Every professional DJ and audio engineer will keep an eye on these steps every day to ensure every piece of their system is running at top notch. Before we begin, the purpose of this article is not to completely diagnose every issue, but to assist each user in recognizing and evaluating the source of their problem. There are two things we want to avoid: Convincing users with a minor issue that they have a major issue Dismissing users with a major issue that their problem is minor To help you better diagnose and potentially resolve the issue, this article contains a series of buckets, each containing symptoms, problem descriptions, and of course, solutions and other advice.      Factors that can contribute to decreased display performance or cause screen freezing, and steps you can take that can help Does your computer meet the required specifications? Faulty cables, speakers, headphones, or other equipment Computer and USB drive optimization Out of date Engine software, drivers or firmware Faulty, worn-down or mismanaged USB hard drives     Does your computer meet the required specifications? Helps with: Freezing, Drop-outs, Serato crashing Before using any computer-based piece of equipment (i.e. the MCX800 with Serato), it's paramount to make sure that your system can handle its portion of the job. Sometimes it may not be immediately clear if the problem is based on hardware issues or computer performance, which is why it's important to review this first. While it's easy to assume that most MCX8000 owners have done their due diligence and researched this before purchasing the product, it doesn't hurt to double-check.  Check MCX8000 compatibility with your system - MCX8000 Product Page Check that Serato is fully up-to-date and compatible with your system - Serato Download Page  and Serato Compatibility Chart Take note that Serato is a little pickier about the processor type than the MCX8000. If these specs have not been met or exceeded, Serato will not run properly and the MCX8000 will not perform properly. For instance, AMD processors found in some Windows computers can cause performance issues with Serato: Problems with PCs using AMD processors If you're having trouble, especially with freezing or Serato crashing, please make sure that you have completed these steps and verified your system is compatible before moving on.        Faulty cables, speakers, headphones, or other equipment Helps with: Distortion, Noise, Drop-outs, Poor audio quality The main goal in troubleshooting is to find the source of the problem by ruling out other factors. Just like any experiment from high school science class, this means changing one independent variable at a time until a change in behavior is observed, i.e. the problem stops. This could not be truer when it comes to troubleshooting an audio signal. Bad cables, speakers and headphones can have a very unique sound, causing interference, drop-outs, distortion, noise, and everything in between. The good news is that with the exception of failing cables, these factors are usually very consistent and don't take a lot of time to re-create. For instance, a noisy speaker will likely always be noisy or buzz when receiving certain frequencies. It's unlikely this will come and go, which means it will be easy to notice when it disappears. So in order to rule them out as the problem, you'll need to try swapping them out. This includes trying different: USB cables and different USB ports on your computer - Note that the MCX8000 and even Serato will work best with USB 2.0 ports. Check out the guide here for more info.  Headphones, speakers or amplifiers - This could include different inputs on your speaker or amplifier as well. Speaker cables - Use balanced XLR cables for Monitor and Booth outputs for the best protection against external noise and interference. Computer - You can also test if you have the same problems in standalone while using Engine. If you DJ at different clubs or parties regularly and find yourself working with different systems, you may have already done all of this. You likely will have noticed that the issue will exist in one location and not another, indicating that the problem is somewhere in the particular system and not your MCX8000.      Computer, MCX8000, and USB drive optimization Helps with: Freezing, Distortion and Noise, Latency This is the most obvious, but the least understood. It's easy to get wrapped up in the high-performance specs of a brand new laptop with top of the line processing and RAM. But, don't forget that a brand new MacBook is also filled with extra software and features that are built to make the average user feel like a computer whiz. But you're not an average user and all of this extra "stuff" will just get in your way if not addressed. Just like you wouldn't take a brand new Jeep off-road without a few modifications, you don't want to gig with a brand new laptop or hard drive without preparation. If you have not taken every step to optimize your computer and hard drives solely for DJ performance (up to and including a clean install of the OS and reformatting hard drives), then you'll need to do this before your system will be truly ready to perform with the MCX8000. We've picked out a few choice guides and articles that will cover virtually every step:  Windows: PC Optimization Guide for Windows Updating your BIOS on Windows Lowering Memory Usage and Keeping a Tidy Serato Library Denon DJ MCX8000 - Optimizing Performance and Latency  - includes steps to optimize settings on MCX8000 Mac OS X: Mac Optimization Guide for OS X Verify and Repair Startup Disk on OS X Reset your OS X Computer's PRAM Lowering Memory Usage and Keeping a Tidy Serato Library Denon DJ MCX8000 - Optimizing Performance and Latency  - includes steps to optimize settings on MCX8000 There are also a few caveats worth mentioning: If you've ever updated your computer with a backup software like Apple's Migration Assistant , your content may not be as stable as you think. It's certainly faster and easier, but not more reliable than the slower alternatives.  If you truly want to optimize your system, you'll want to backup your important content manually and do a clean install of your operating system.   If your computer was built outside of a standard manufacturer like Apple, Dell, HP, etc. it may be filled with tons of great components and features but this will inevitably mean it will require more hands-on attention to updates and compatibility. Every component in your computer will require certain updates to continue working properly. Especially with any Windows PC, those manufacturers know exactly what's in every model and can pre-package installations to make it easier for you to stay up-to-date. If your computer was hand-built by your friend, you'll need to stay on-top of the latest updates for things like your BIOS and USB-chipset to make sure that your MCX8000 will be able to continue communicating properly with Serato. The same idea holds true for "Hackintosh" computers, i.e. a PC running a Mac OS, or vice versa. These Frankenstein systems may be cheaper, but they require far more attention and will not run like the real thing. If you fall into any of these categories, test your MCX8000 with a different computer or in standalone before moving forward.       Out of date Engine software, drivers, or firmware Helps with: Freezing, Drop-outs Make sure that you have installed and re-installed the latest versions of Engine and the MCX800 drivers (Windows only). If you're not working with the latest software or drivers, you may be experiencing problems that have already been resolved. Download the latest Engine software and drivers from the product page: MCX8000 - Product Page Keep in mind, the MCX8000 is class-compliant for Mac operating systems, meaning that it's using drivers provided by the operating system. If you're questioning MCX drivers and using a Mac, you'll need to revisit the system performance and optimization guides above. Finally, check your current firmware version. You do not want to reinstall the same firmware, but you will want to update to the latest version if you have not already.  To check the firmware: Press and hold the VIEW button until you're in the UTILITY menu Scroll down until you see MCU version. This is your current firmware version. Download the latest firmware version from the product page and follow the included instructions very carefully to update the firmware on your MCX800. Only attempt to install the firmware if you are not already on the latest firmware version!       Faulty, worn-down, or mismanaged USB hard drives Helps with: Freezing, Distortion, Latency This was mentioned earlier in the article, but it's so important that it's worth mentioning again! Misunderstanding file management with certain file systems is a common reason why users may experience delays, slow-response or freezing on the MCX8000, especially when switching over to Engine or with Engine in standalone. Just like working with your computer, every step needs to be taken to ensure that the USB drive is operating at the top of its game, otherwise, performance will suffer. This means doing more than just deleting and re-installing the database every now and then. FAT32 is the most popular drive format to use with the MCX8000 and when used properly, you will never experience issues with freezing or delays. The most important fact to remember about FAT32 is that over time it will not handle simply loading and re-loading files very well. The format retains its file structures on the back-end, even if you have deleted every file off of the drive. This means that data from the file is retained on the drive, even if you don't see it, causing the information to pile up and bog down the system. If you're seeing slow performance from a drive, even if there are only a few files, this is likely the problem.  Luckily, this usually just means that it's time to reformat the drive and reload the database. Our guide below will go through everything from reformatting the drives, choosing the right file types for use with Engine and the MCX8000, and creating a database in Engine: Denon DJ MCX8000 - Optimizing Performance and Improving Latency Denon DJ MCX8000 - Prepare and Access your Music Denon DJ MCX8000 - Import and Analyze a Serato Crate for Engine If you continue to have trouble with freezing, try a different USB drive. Most DJs will have multiple backup drives available just in case one of them fails (and they will fail!). As long as your songs are in the required format, your database is fresh, and your drive is stable and formatted correctly, you won't experience issues with freezing.        This guide is not intended to undermine users that are having serious issues related to hardware failure from the MCX8000 or something unique to their system. Although such cases are rare, they can happen, and we want to help.  If you've been through every step in this guide and have not found anything to explain the behavior or resolve the problem, it's a good time to talk with someone one-on-one for personalized help. Please contact our support team if you need further assistance: Contact support Remember, the first thing our support team will do is check that you've completed each one of these steps. Please make sure to go through these beforehand so the process can run smoothly and come to a faster resolution.   
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