Windows: A Virtualized Sound Mess

I prefer the Mac for almost every task, but my main audio editing tools are Sony Sound Forge and Vegas, which are Windows-only. I’ve tried some Mac-based tools, but haven’t been happy with them, and a heavy monetary investment in the Forge/Vegas solution makes switching to the Mac products which do look promising.

I use both Boot Camp and VMWare Fusion to run Windows on my Macs. On my laptop, however, I decided to go with a full virtual solution. I have Vista Ultimate 64 bit installed as a VMWare virtual machine.

VMWare presents a virtualized sound driver to Windows, and audio is then passed to the native Mac hardware. This causes a slight delay, and tha start of audio playback can be a bit rough. It also limits sampling rate to 44,100 kHz, which is a problem when trying to work with a high-resolution workflow.

To make matters worse, the headphone jack on my laptop is not outputting the left channel for some reason I can’t figure out.

I’ve been weighing ideas for my RPM 2010 project, but will probably have to do most of the work on my laptop while at a conference in Palm Springs the week after next. So I had to work out a solution. I began to look for a USB sound card that I could install on the Windows virtual machine and bypass the virtualized sound card.

After a bit of research, I realized that the M-Audio Transit, which I got to use as an optical digital input device, should actually work.

Then the difficulties began.

I downloaded the drivers from Avid (who bought M-Audio) and installed them. But every time I inserted the device, Windows would complain that the device had “malfunctioned”. The Device Manager would indicate that no driver was installed, but when attempting to “update” the driver, it would say that the “best” driver was already installed. (This drivers mess is one of the most significant reasons that I prefer the Mac over Windows.)

Searches on Google failed to turn up any hints or solutions. The VMware help files indicated that only one virtual sound driver could be installed at a time. It appears that VMware was somehow recognizing the Transit as a sound device and was blocking it.

The solution I found was to to uninstall the Transit drivers on the Windows virtual machine, install them on the Mac, and switch the default sound device to the Transit on the mac. The Windows virtual machine then uses the Transit device, and appears to work quite well. In Sound Forge, I had to increase the sound buffering/latency to avoid choppy beginnings, but Vegas does very well with default settings.

VMware allows you to disable the virtual sound device altogether. I suspect that the Transit would then install properly in the Windows virtual machine. But I have not tested this approach.

***

What of the RPM project? I have many new audio toys, and I expect to make use of them.

I have been having lots of fun playing with the Thingamagoop 2. It has so many sounds in it. The brighter the light that falls on its photocell, the more intense the sounds it create, so I wondered how it would respond to a laser. I was concerned about damaging it, but Dr. Bleep assured me it would be fine, and told me about this video:

brainwaves from ZF FILMS on Vimeo.

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