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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Korg M1 Bonus Sound Library for the KROME Music Workstation

Q What's the best way to upgrade my audio computer's system drive?

Sound Advice : Maintenance

Martin Walker

I want to replace my Windows 7 PC's system drive with a solid‑state drive, but I have a lot of software on there that I'd rather not reinstall! Last time I did something like this (changing the system drive) half my software decided I had a new computer and wanted me to relicense/re‑register it! Is this likely to be the case now — and if so, is there an easy way to clone my system without having to reinstall or re‑license all my software?Jake Bunting, via email.

SOS contributor Martin Walker replies: I'd always advise someone changing their Windows operating system to start with a clean slate, both to minimise the chances of future problems and to achieve maximise performance. However, if you simply want to move your existing Windows installation onto another partition/drive, cloning it makes a lot more sense.Cloning an existing Windows system hard drive onto an SSD (using a utility like EaseUS TodoBackup shown here) not only speeds up boot time and application launches, but will also save you several days of reinstalling Windows and all your applications.

A 'clone' is generally regarded as a snapshot of the entire structure of an existing drive (including arcana such as its master boot record and file allocation table) saved to another internal/external drive, so that in the event of a calamity you can simply power down, unplug the damaged drive, plug in your 'spare', reboot and carry on. An 'image' of a drive/partition on the other hand copies all the same data in a compressed (and hence smaller) format to an internal or external destination of your choice. This makes it easier to save multiple backup images for security.

You could clone your existing Windows 7 system drive straight across to a new solid‑state drive, or save an image of it elsewhere, unplug the existing system drive, install your new SSD and then restore that image. I'd be inclined to do the latter, if only so you always have that image to return your Windows system drive to its previously saved state (just in case anything goes wrong in the future).

Popular third‑party disk imaging software includes the low‑cost Acronis True Image (www.acronis.com) and Macrium Reflect (www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx), available in a free version for home use, as well as in more sophisticated Standard, Pro and Server versions for commercial and business use. My personal choice is EaseUS Todo Backup (www.todo‑backup.com), again available in a free version for home use as a successor Symantec's much‑missed Norton Ghost utility. All run on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8. Whichever you choose, just select the relevant Partition or Disk Clone option, point it at your Windows system disk/partition and destination location, and let it get on with the job. The only thing to watch out for is any 'Optimize for SSD' options that ensure proper sector alignment when saving the data: some utilities do this for you automatically, while others may need a box ticking.

The only other aspect to consider when cloning an existing Windows 7/8 hard drive to an SSD is (as I reported in SOS January 2014) to make sure that support for the Windows TRIM command is enabled. It will be after a fresh install on an SSD, but not if you've cloned an existing Windows install from a non-solid‑state drive. To check, run the free DriveControllerInfo utility (download it from http://download.orbmu2k.de/files/DriveControllerInfo.zip) and look for the telltale TRIM enabled on its top display line. If it's not there, you'll need to right‑click the CMD utility from the Windows Start menu and choose its 'Run as administrator' option, then type in the somewhat arcane 'fsutil behavior set disabledeletenotify 0'. This will counter any SSD performance drop over time.

When it comes to the world of software, there are sadly no hard-and-fast rules, so whether or not a particular product will throw a wobbly after its files have been surreptitiously shunted onto another drive can often only be determined by doing it. Having said that, it's highly likely that you'll experience business as usual with most software that's protected by hardware dongles (eLicenser, iLok and so on), which, despite the slight inconvenience, is one reason I don't mind using them. Many products protected by simpler serial number protection may also survive the transition, as this information will still be stored somewhere either in the cloned Windows Registry files or tucked away in encrypted form inside a cloned folder.

Casualties are more likely to be those that use challenge/response security, where the original challenge is generated by polling some unique combination of hardware in your PC. If you have installed software that asks you to click a button to generate a challenge, then click another button to go online and retrieve the corresponding response, you are entering a twilight zone. Moving your entire Windows partition from one drive to another may leave this software entirely functional, or it may upset the challenge and demand you generate another and get a further response. However, the chances still are that you won't have to reinstall that software, and if your PC is online, re‑registering will probably only take a matter of seconds for each product that requires it.

If you're unlucky, and find any software that refuses to run after its migration, just use the standard Windows uninstall option in Control Panel, avail yourself of any Repair options it offers (this may get your application up and running without your having to reinstall from scratch) and if all else fails, just uninstall and then reinstall to the same location. Whatever happens, cloning your system drive is likely to save you several days of extra effort compared with starting from scratch.    

Korg PA900 Professional Arranger Keyboard -- Introduction and Overview

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Korg PitchHawk Clip-On Tuner: Highlighting some main features of the Korg PitchHawk clip-on tuner!

Q Should I use high sample rates?

Sound Advice : Recording


Is it worth using 96kHz or 192kHz sampling rates? Or do they just mean that my interfaces have exciting-looking numbers emblazoned on them, while I consume more disk space?

SOS Forum post. SOS Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: There are advocates of 192kHz (and higher) sample rates, but I don't hear any benefit, and there are good engineering arguments why such rates are actually detrimental, rather than beneficial. Higher sample rates only provide a greater recorded bandwidth — there is no intrinsic quality improvement across the 20Hz‑20kHz region from faster sampling rates — and, in fact, jitter becomes a much more significant problem. So I would suggest that you forget 192kHz altogether unless you need to do specialist sound‑design work where you want to slow recorded high‑frequency sounds down dramatically.The question of whether to use a 96kHz sample rate is less clear-cut, because it can prove useful in some specific situations. Yes, it creates larger files and higher Even high-performance converter chips aren't perfect. Take the Cirrus Logic CS5381 as a fairly typical example: figure 1 describes the stop band rejection or, in other words, the attenuation above the Nyquist frequency; while figure 2, a detail of the same plot, demonstrates what happens at the turnover frequency. processing loads, but it also removes the possibility of filtering artifacts in the audio band and reduces the system latency compared with lower rates. Many plug‑in effects automatically up‑sample internally to 96kHz when performing complex non‑linear processes such as the manipulation of dynamics.The filtering issue is that the digital anti‑alias filter in most A‑D converter chips doesn't actually comply with the Nyquist requirement of removing everything at or above half the sample rate. Simplifications in the filter design typically prioritise a maximally flat response to a little over 20kHz, rather than ensuring complete Nyquist compliance. The result is a filter slope which, although very steep, is often only 3dB down at the Nyquist frequency (see the two diagrams).Anything above half the sample rate that gets through the anti‑alias filter will alias back into the audio band at a lower frequency, producing anharmonic distortion which our sense of hearing can detect quite readily, even in very small amounts. However, the A‑D chip designers work on the presumption that, in general, there isn't much energy at extreme high frequencies in most recorded music, and so the aliasing artifacts will be minimal and (hopefully) inaudible to most people most of the time. And broadly, that is the case, especially with mastered material.Where the presumption falls down is in situations involving the close‑miking of sources with strong HF harmonics and noise: things like cymbals, brass and orchestral string instruments, for example. If you're working at a 44.1kHz sample rate and using capacitor microphones with a strong HF response, it's not uncommon to perceive aliasing problems which create a harsh and gritty top end, especially if the signal is peaking close to 0dBFS. This is entirely because the anti‑alias filter isn't doing quite what it should, and allowing some material to alias. Source instrument harmonics at 23kHz will appear at 21.1kHz, for example, slightly attenuated, but definitely present and very unmusical! In those kinds of conditions, shifting up to 96kHz sample rate will move the anti‑alias filter turnover far above the wanted audio band, and completely resolve the problem. (The natural roll‑off above 20kHz in most microphone designs will ensure that they do not capture significant energy anywhere near 48kHz.)So, for these reasons, a 96kHz sample rates can be a useful engineering option. It's also very handy if you're involved in audio restoration work, since record clicks and the like areThe results of two different applications' sample-rate conversion (96kHz to 44.1kHz) compared. The x axis is time and the y axis frequency. The white line is the swept test signal, which continues up and out of sight to the right, all the way to 48kHz. A perfect sample-rate converter should display a black background, and all else is anharmonic aliasing distortion. In other words, the tartan chart displays some major problems! easier to detect and process. But for normal applications that don't involve close‑miking trumpets with wide‑bandwidth capacitor mics, the 44.1kHz sample rate is entirely fit for purpose — as is 48kHz, for working with video. SOS Reviews Editor Matt Houghton adds: Even if you do feel the need to record at 96kHz for the reasons Hugh describes, you don't need to stick with that sample rate for mixing: it should, after all, be a lot easier to perform sample‑rate conversion offline in your DAW software. Note, though, that not all software is particularly good at sample‑rate conversion, with even some expensive and well regarded DAW software resulting in noticeable aliasing. You do, of course, need to judge results subjectively, but if you're curious how well your software performs in this respect — or whether any free software performs this function any better — then check out Infinite Wave's database at (http://src.infinitewave.ca) which compares results from a huge number of applications, and includes test files so you can perform your own tests too.