X-Dante Setup, Part 2

Before I get into the rest of the X-Dante setup details, I must stress the importance of killing all unnecessary computer processes before attempting to use the Dante network. This is pretty much standard procedure for DAW recording, but when setting up the network and not actually recording, you might be making setting decisions based on your computer doing things like syncing Google photos or software updates over wi-fi, etc.. One of the annoying processes that I had to kill was Adobe Updater. There is so much stuff that runs in the background even if you quit the application. Use the Task Manager detail view to get rid of stuff you don’t need running.

I Use Dante Virtual Soundcard

Because I do not have a Dante-specific PCI card installed in my Dante networking host computer, I needed to install DVS. The software has a 14-day trial license so I gave it a good test it before purchasing a licence.  I’ve heard some bad things about DVS on some recording forums, and the focus is mainly on the inherit 4 ms latency of the software (mentioned below). Dante networking takes considerable processing power to convert audio into an Ethernet protocol format, and back to audio at the other end. The purpose-designed PCI cards have on-board processors that handle the conversion in order to take the load off the computer CPU. Incredibly low latency can be achieved by using one of these PCI cards. I don’t have one of those cards (yet) and as I said in Part 1, I did not want to build a special machine until I could get the network functioning well with my general-purpose PC. I installed DVS and proceeded to set it up. I’m going to tell you at the outset, that I was able to achieve latency on the network and I/O to Reaper that was more than acceptable for recording 2 tracks while simultaneously playing back 30 tracks. Mixing down 32 tracks is a pleasure with Dante.

My Computer

As you can see, this is a general purpose PC running Windows 10 Home version. It’s important to know what you’re working with when setting things up.

 

Setting Up Dante Virtual Soundcard

Please note that the DVS UI looks different in this older video:

 

This is the DVS setup interface (at the time of this article) and this is how I have it setup.  The minimum latency of the software itself is 4 ms as you can see. This is the main complaint that I hear about DVS but the software needs time to process the audio and 4 ms is fast, considering. If you do set that number higher, it does not affect Reaper ASIO latency and reporting, but it makes an audible difference. The software handles up to 64 x 64 channels, but my console is 32 x 32.

Here is how I set up the section under the Options button:

The Buffer Size and ASIO latency did not have any effect on Reaper’s ASIO latency reporting. I chose the buffer size and 1 ms latency based on my own PC’s ability to process the audio.  Its my understanding that this buffer size is for the DVS software to work with, as opposed to Reaper’s buffer size. I found that setting this higher did not adversely affect Reaper latency or ASIO latency reporting, but did increase the reliability of my Dante network to process audio. With the buffer set at 1024 samples, I experienced no late packets. I started out low to see how it would impact the network. I stopped at 1024, but it wouldn’t hurt for me to set it at 2048.

Dante Controller

I also installed and setup Dante Controller, per the Audinate videos on YouTube.  I made the necessary connections between the transmitters and receivers (called “subscriptions”) and everything went exactly as expected. In just a few minutes, I had audio talking back and forth between Reaper and the X32.

I do not need Dante Via, as the channel count of 16 x 16 is lower than DVS and is not usable for my purposes of 32 track recording and mixing. Dante Via and DVS cannot run at the same time. The purpose of Via is to put other audio sources such as USB, on the Dante network. I have several USB devices that could be used if Via and DVS could be run together.  The Soundcraft Ghost is an 8-bus console, so a simple 8 channel USB audio interface would have put the console on the network. It’s my opinion that Audinate should make a version of Via that is 64 x 64 and includes a Virtual Sound Card. I would pay considerably more for that capability.

Reaper

This is how I configured Reaper for Dante. Notice that I am only taking 4 channels of audio from the X32 to Reaper.  The Dante network itself is 32 x 32 channels, but you may select how many channels you wish to use. For reasons explained in this article, I only need 2 stereo pairs. In reality, I could only use a single stereo pair if I wanted, but that would mean I would have to reconfigure the console outs each time I wanted to change between recording off a Mixbus and the Main 2-mix (“2-mix” is the old-school name for what would be called the “Master Bus” or “Main L/R Bus” in present-day terms).

Dante Devices in Dante Controller

 

These are the device settings that I used for the X-Dante card and the msi Computer. The msi settings are fixed by the DVS software, but the latency of the XS-Dante card can be configured independently. On the right, you see that I have the X-Dante card sent for 5.0ms. This setting gave me the most reliable packet transfer rate on the network.  Since the DVS software is set at 4ms, lowering the latency setting on the X-Dante card only affected reliability. So I set it at 5.0ms.

With the settings I have presented in this article, this is the ASIO latency that Reaper is reporting.  This level of latency, while of course being audible when monitoring Source + Track Record Monitor together, in practice, is quite low. I could do a loopback test at some point and add compensation in Reaper, but for the time being I couldn’t be bothered. With Reaper’s PCD delayed monitoring, and the ability to nudge tracks with sub-millisecond accuracy, this amount of latency is more than acceptable for my purposes. I just need to be able to track while listening to the playback and not be thrown off by the delay caused by latency.  Besides, I can always monitor off the input if I choose. If a track really sounds off, I’ll just nudge it. Truth be told, tracks are often nudged just to change the feel of the groove anyway.

 

The Results

This is my latency report from Dante Controller. I had the following operations going while this report was being generated:

  1. X32ReaperAutoMate automation software on the same network. The automation was engaged and automating the mix.
  2. Reaper, in Playback mode, no tracks recording.
  3. MIDITrix MIDI software patchbay.
  4. loopMIDI virtual MIDI I/O software.
  5. MIDI out from Reaper, controlling a Roland DR-880 drum machine playing in sync with Reaper.
  6. Stream Deck controller software.

Conclusion

For me, Dante is the only way to go!

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