Tuning your laptop for live audio

My current rig is a Novation X-Station + Toshiba Satellite. It’s taken a fair bit of work to get it to the point where it’s relatively stable. I wanted to document what I’ve done to solve each problem in the hopes that it may help others.

Software crashes
I’m running FL Studio as my host. From time to time it would hard-crash when loading a new project. I found that updating Windows and disabling all unnecessary services and start-up apps actually helped with this. I still have the odd issue (FL Studio reports the “file is corrupt”) but this may be due to a bug in FL or my hard drive flaking out.

Stuck notes
This one was easy: I updated the drivers for the X-Station et voila.

Noise (hum)
After doing a bit of reading I found that it apparently has something do with DC offset. I guess the DC being delivered through the adapter is not as “clean” as that of the battery. Anyways, I purchased a DI with a ground lift and the noise all but gone.

Pops & clicks in the audio
I started with the obvious things – disabling any fancy Windows UI stuff, adjusting my latency – to no avail. I’ve read that switching from ACPI to standard may fix it, though this seemed like overkill.

What ultimately worked for me was disabling all power-saving features whenever doing anything with audio. Even if the power saving features never kick in, they somehow seem to interfere with the USB bus.

Hardware issues
These can be the worst types of problems. If you’re running an older laptop like I am then the warranty won’t cover it, and I expect hardware repairs on older laptops just aren’t worth. Performance-wise I have no reason to upgrade and I really don’t want to have to go through hassle of re-installing all of my audio software.

My current issue is with the screen flickering/distorting from time to time. I’ve read this may be just due to a loose connection between the display and the board. Hopefully that’s all it is. If it were the GPU that would probably mean the end of the line for my laptop. I’ll update when I’ve had a chance to investigate some more.

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