One of the perks of running the blogs is that we get to hear about things and even better to try them out before they become public.
So when we heard that PreSonus were working on a new audio engine that would offer a similar kind of performance as DSP solutions, we were intrigued if not a little sceptical, wondering if that message was wishful thinking from the marketing department and not from the code team.
DSP Performance Without Using DSP Hardware?
In the latest version of PreSonus Studio 3.5, along with the 50 plus new features is the star of the show the new low latency audio engine.
Here is a video of some tests run using Studio One 3.5. In these tests, we ran an audio cable out of an Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt and back into the unit. We played the original audio out of the hardware output and then monitored and recorded it coming back from the hardware input, alongside the original audio.
We asked Mike to do the exact same test using Pro Tools HD with an HDX card and an Avid 8x8x8 audio interface.
|System||Sample Rate||Buffer Size||Latency in Samples||Latency in Milliseconds|
|Presonus Studio One 3.5||48 kHz||16 samples||80||1.67 ms|
|Pro Tools HDX 12.6||48 kHz||N/A||77||1.60 ms|
|Presonus Studio One 3.5||96 kHz||32 samples||127||1.32 ms|
|Pro Tools HDX 12.6||96 kHz||N/A||40||0.42 ms|
As you can see from the table above, the numbers reported by Studio One 3.5 are impressive, in fact almost the same as HDX at 48kHz sample rate, but we also think that the best test of latency is using your ears.
In this second video, Studio One Expert Editor Marcus Huyskens explains how the Studio One 3.5 system is set up and shows a real world test.
Even more interesting is that PreSonus offer low latency monitoring of virtual instruments, this is something not possible on any DSP-powered systems.
How Do They Do It?
That's a good question and having spent some time testing it with both real audio and virtual instruments the almost imperceivable latency is amazing. Don't take our word for it, download the demo of Studio One 3.5 and try it for yourself on your own audio interface.
In short, we don't know how PreSonus have done it, we have asked and they've not really told us other than to say 'it's not rocket science!' Of course, they are going to want to keep this kind of technology secret for as long as possible, so we asked them if they were using parts of the CPU in the computer to act like DSP chips? They didn't confirm or deny it, but it really is the most likely explanation.
If this is the technique they are using then it's what many of us have been hoping for, using bog standard chips in the computer to act as a proprietary chip would.
What Does This Mean?
Firstly, this is not an 'HDX is dead' article, for those with even a basic understanding of HD/HDX systems know the reason they remain central to many large music studios and post production facilities is that you can guarantee low latency on every track in the system, irrespective of session size, as long as you have the cards to supply the voices required. Nothing else offers this kind of performance at this scale to date - it's kind of Avid's QOS (Quality of Service) guarantee for those that need it.
However, there are many people, especially those working in music production or composition who need low latency but do not need to spend money on HDX hardware. Also, HD/HDX hardware does not offer low latency when using virtual instruments, so this new technology from PreSonus really changes things.
The big question is why don't Avid do something like this in Pro Tools? The first answer that comes to mind is that if one can get DSP type performance for certain types of work without the need to invest in DSP hardware then it reduces sales of Avid HDX cards and interfaces, so as we've said before when it comes to some of these technologies being implemented by Avid it's like Turkeys voting for Christmas.
Reading some of the forums it is only fair to mention that there are still some teething problems for certain users with this latest upgrade of Studio One.
However, the headline story is there may be a new way to get DSP type performance from a DAW, without using DSP!