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Connection problems and audio dropouts on a PC laptop running Windows Vista

Resources on a laptop are tight. This problem can be magnified when using Windows Vista which is more resource-hungry than its predecessor Windows XP due to the enhanced graphical features and added services. Whilst the laptop may be able to handle processes and services running within the Vista environment, the addition of an external high speed audio device may put a strain on the CPU and computer resources to the point where certain services need to be streamlined or disabled. In this article we will cover these issues and also other potential causes of dropouts when using your Saffire interface on a Vista laptop.

The first step to try raising your firewire buffer size. To change your firewire buffer size you will need to access the ASIO Control Panel. This can be found here:


C:\Program Files\Focusrite Saffire\Driver\ASIOControlPanel.exe



If the firewire buffer size is set too low for your laptop to handle then this may be the cause of the dropouts you are experiencing. Try setting the firewire buffer to 10ms and see if this makes any difference. If you find that the dropouts have ceased but you are experiencing too much latency, try nudging the buffer size down until you find a happy medium between good stability and low latency.


- The next step to take is to run through the Vista Optimisation Article to make sure your operating system is streamlined appropriately for high speed, low latency audio.

NOTE : There is no overall optimum setting for the firewire buffer, you will need to experiment a little to find the best setting for your laptop. Also, note that it is not necessary to change the ASIO buffer size as this will change automatically relative to the Firewire buffer.

LAPTOP FIREWIRE CONNECTIVITY



Some of the built-in 4-pin firewire ports on a PC laptop, especially the budget range, can be unreliable so make sure the firewire cable is connected properly and the audio dropouts are not linked to physically knocking or moving the cable or laptop.

Other things to try when troubleshooting connection problems:

Try using the supplied power cable.

Try using the other FireWire port found on the back of your Saffire product, and also try different ports (if you have more than one) on your computer.

If you have any other FireWire devices connected, try disconnecting them, as they may be restricting the FireWire bandwidth too much if connected on the same bus.

Try turning off any additional services you may have running such as Wireless, Anti-Virus, Google Toolbar, etc, as they may be causing data interruptions or drawing too much on the laptop resources.


Try disabling your graphics card from the Windows Device Manager. The graphics may turn rather blocky during your test but this is a necessary step in ruling out the graphics card as being a cause of the dropouts.


FIREWIRE CARDS



If you have been through all the above steps and are still experiencing dropouts/connection problems with your Saffire regardless of buffer size or what software you have running then the problem may be down to the Firewire controller or port on your laptop.

At this stage, it is worth considering the purchase of a Firewire Express card (or PCMCIA). We recommend Firewire 400 only cards from a known brand dealer such as Belkin, LaCie or SIIG. Avoid Firewire 400/800 and Firewire/USB combo cards and try to ensure that your card has a VIA or Texas Instruments chipset.



For more information on card compatibility and cards that are known to work see our FireWire compatibility article.

If you are still having problems, or if you have any further questions, please contact Technical Support who will be happy to advise.