Somebody Hand Me a Machete

Yamaha’s tech support person told me I needed a new $75 Firewire board for my computer in order to get rid of the audio dropouts in their mLAN audio system. I ordered it and installed it. It didn’t fix the problem.

I sent an email to the Yamaha person yesterday asking what I should try next. He hasn’t yet replied. I cc’ed the Cubase product manager, and he did reply with a few suggestions, but none of them helped.

So this morning I figured, maybe there’s a driver conflict. I think I’ll uninstall the other third-party audio drivers in my system. Maybe the Yamaha driver will be happy when it has the playing field all to itself.

In order to end-run this issue when it first appeared, I hooked up a PreSonus FireStudio Mobile interface. So the PreSonus Universal Control is one of the drivers that I need to uninstall.

It won’t uninstall. The uninstaller program won’t run. I tried phoning PreSonus tech support and waited on hold for five minutes with no indication that there was even anybody in the office. Then I tried emailing them. I got a chirpy automated response that says, “Your email has been received and you should receive a reply from one of our Technical Support Representatives as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours. If you need immediate assistance, you can contact Tech Support by phone at 225-216-7887, between 9-5 CST, Monday-Friday.”

Note the usage of the word “immediate” in that sentence. It’s a lie. I phoned them again, just to check. This time I waited eight minutes with no answer and no automated system telling me how many people are in the queue ahead of me. And of course it’s not an 800 number, so I’m paying for the privilege. I also tried pressing 0 for an operator, and got the voice mail of Debby in Accounts Payable.

The temptation to abuse Debby by leaving her a rude message was nearly overwhelming, but I was able to resist. It’s not her fault they have her doing her own job and also a second person’s job as the phone operator.

(On the plus side, I did get a response from Brandon at PreSonus within three hours. His instructions on how to uninstall manually were very thorough. There’s still a problem, because RegEdit won’t let me delete one of the PreSonus keys. But Brandon is on the case.)

Remember when companies had people who answered the phone? That’s soooo 20th century. We don’t do that anymore — everybody is trying to stay competitive by cutting costs. “We replaced another salaried employee with a computer, Bob!” High fives all around. Of course, you’re staying competitive by getting rid of customer service, which is likely to be rather counterproductive.

Why aren’t our products selling better? Maybe it’s because we never answer the phone. Do you suppose?

I still haven’t received a response to the tech support message I left with Spectrasonics on Friday. (It is now the following Wednesday.) The people at Ableton are still looking into my problem with Live 8.1.1, which causes Live to run fully authorized 3rd-party plug-ins in demo mode. At least they answer my email by saying, “We’re still looking into it.” I guess that counts for something. Unless it doesn’t.

The Sonar support staff sent me a message saying I could load REX files into Sonar if I used the 32-bit version of their program instead of the highly touted 64-bit version. The message said nothing about the fact that Stylus RMX MIDI data can’t be dragged and dropped into the 64-bit version, so I don’t know whether installing the 32-bit version would fix that. The support person claimed that the problem was that REX files are not 64-bit compatible. In my response to him, I pointed out that the file consists entirely of 1’s and 0’s. There is no technical reason why they couldn’t write a little routine that would convert and load the file — they just haven’t had time to do it yet. What I didn’t say was, “Why are you trying to point the finger at the other guy? Why don’t you stand up like a man and take responsibility for the shortcomings of your company’s software?”

I did ask him, “If I downgrade to the 32-bit version of Sonar, what features will I be sacrificing? Is there a tradeoff?” This is a significant question, because if the answer is, “None,” then I would have to follow up by asking, “Then why release a 64-bit version of Sonar at all, if it doesn’t confer any advantages?” He didn’t answer that message at all. I guess he was probably too busy answering the phone.

I’m about thiiis close to folding up my tent as a music product reviewer, hopping on my camel, and gliding away into the desert night. There are always problems, and they’re usually serious. After glaring at my computer screen for half an hour, the very last thing I’m fit to do is get in a creative mood and make some actual music. If I can just get the goddamn Yamaha mLAN interface squared away, maybe my mood will improve. Or maybe I’ll bare my teeth in a fiendish grin and say, “Okay, I now have a system that works. Goodbye.”

Are my experiences atypical, or is everybody who tries to use music technology dealing with this shit? I really don’t know, and it would take a well-designed survey to find out. You’ll never find out by asking the tech support staff what sorts of calls they’re getting. They’d lie to make their company look good — but also, they don’t know what sort of calls they’re getting, because they’re not answering the phone.

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4 Responses to Somebody Hand Me a Machete

  1. rimaclifetv says:

    Man… I see you went through it. I bought the Mlan when i got the Motif es 8 in 05 and returned in the 3 days. I got frustrated. I thought by now they would have fixed it. I decided to just midi up my setup and record one track at a time. The other good thing the Motif changed was you can now upload the entire midi file almost making the Mlan not needed. Thats of course if youre using a Motif. Hey, If I can help at all take a look at my blog as I will have some tips or just email me.


  2. midiguru says:

    Just to be clear — I love the Motif, and I love the integration between it and Cubase that the mLAN connection makes possible. I wouldn’t be so freaked out if I wasn’t looking forward to making some great music with this gear!

  3. Ben Cressey says:

    In XP, audio drivers were loaded into the kernel space. In Vista and beyond, Microsoft decided that because Creative Labs drivers had caused so many issues (BSODs), audio drivers would henceforth reside in user space instead. This means that they are liable to be preempted by any kernel level activity, including disk I/O or graphics updates.

    The practical significance of this is that your audio drivers and hardware are probably fine as-is, but you need to find a way to eliminate any activity that might preempt the audio handling.

    Some things to try:

    – Set the processor to maximum performance, if you are on a laptop. This prevents Intel SpeedStep (or whatever they call it these days) from kicking in and periodically down-clocking your processor.

    – Disable AV (temporarily) or add exclusions for all active processes. AV won’t interfere directly with the audio stream, but if it scans files it generates file level activity which is handled by the kernel.

    – Disable Aero and themes. All the pretty translucent effects and fancy window scrolling cause the graphics card to work, which again is a low level activity.

    – Does your firewire device show up as an audio / sound interface in Volume Control? If so you can try toggling exclusive mode on and off.

  4. Eduardo says:

    Hey just run Sonar as administrator to drag your MIDI files into a track!

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