Windows 10 Promises Better Audio & MIDI Performance, Easier App Development

windows-10-any-device

At the 2015 Summer NAMM Show‘s Advanced Audio & Application Exchange (A3E) session, Pete Brown of Microsoft gave a keynote that offers a preview of their new Windows 10 OS.

In the video, embedded below, Brown discusses:

  • Audio and MIDI in Windows 10;
  • The new AKAI MPC, which runs a version of Windows 10 Embedded;
  • Xi-Machines custom Windows workstations for audio;
  • Obedia high-performance audio workstations;
  • DAWs that are working on Windows 10;
  • Windows 10 audio performance statistics;
  • Propellerhead Reason on Windows 10;
  • The Windows Mobile port of Propellerhead Figure;
  • Image-Line FL Studio and Windows 10;
  • Bitwig Studio working on Windows 10; and
  • A preview of Microsoft Hololens augmented reality system and virtual reality music software.

Brown says that, with Windows 10, Microsoft is ‘back in the game for pro audio and music’. Check out the video below and let us know what you think!

Key Features of Windows 10 for Musicians and Music Apps:

  • Greater emphasis on traditional laptop/desktop users
  • Universal app development – features & API’s available across all devices, promising more music app development for more devices
  • New MIDI API – available across all devices (desktop, tablet, phone, etc), multi-client support, reduce jitter
  • Improved audio stack performance – promises to shave approx 15ms off of audio latency, ‘opt-in’ to lower buffers for even lower latency
  • ‘Opt-in’ dedicated audio core – option to move audio processing to dedicated processor core for improved performance
  • WASAPI enhancements
  • AudioGraph – new API, built on WASAPI, offers ‘higher-level constructs’ for working with audio
  • New Codecs – FLAC, ALAC
  • Web Audio – included in Microsoft Edge, lets you use browser-based music apps

Microsoft is also looking at adding support for some other features, some of which will be familiar to OS X users, in future versions of the OS:

  • USB-C
  • Thunderbolt 3
  • Bluetooth MIDI
  • Lower audio latency
  • Audio aggregation and routing
  • USB Audio 2 Class
  • USB 3/3.1
  • MIDI routing

Windows 10 is a free update for users of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Details on upgrading are available at the Microsoft site. Make sure your music apps and hardware are compatible before you update.

If you’ve used Windows 10, leave a comment and let us know what you’re using and how it’s working for you.

59 thoughts on “Windows 10 Promises Better Audio & MIDI Performance, Easier App Development

  1. I couldnt use it because it would not let my wireless adapter work with windows 10. If someone will tell me a usb one that will work with my laptop I would love to go back.

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    1. I have LINE6 Studio UX2 external audio interface. After installing windows 10, I went and installed Line6 monkey for Windows 10. All drivers installed. No audio at all. Failed to test tone.
      Default is selected UX2 in sound device control panel.
      This sucksss…

      Thumb up 19
      1. I also use Toneport UX 2. It was already installed on my Windows 7 when I upgraded to W10 and it works just fine for me using Gearbox. However, the Asio time usage spikes on Cubase (5) are even worse on W10. Don´t need that!

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    2. I like windows 10 however there are some issues:

      NVIDEA Drivers – causes windows to flicker contantly, I had to use Safe Mode, uninstall nvideia drivers then it worked again.

      Software LIcences, VST and VSTi plug ins – be prepared to RE-REGISTER lots of your software licences for new OS instance.

      Other than that I hae noticed boot time is faster, but I have not oserved performances improvements or lag on audio (such as 24-40 trackcount tracks)

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  2. I just wanna know if this update will mess up my current Cubase DAW & the plugins I have in any way. The hardware I’m not that worried about at the moment. If some MS employee would say NO this will NOT f up your current DAW-system, I’d install it right now. Otherwise it’s gonna be a waiting game, again, I guess ?

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    1. To answer myself, if you are using Cubase DO NOT update to Windows 10 as it will introduce audio dropouts and midi timing issues. I’m guessing this is NOT isolated to just Cubase. Here’s their ongoing compat. list: https://www.steinberg.net/nc/en/support/knowledgebase_new/show_details/kb_show/product-compatibility-info-regarding-microsoft-windows-10.htm

      Here’s Roland’s ongoing compat. list as well :http://www.roland.com/support/support_news/250024

      Didn’t any of these guys TEST THE BETA during all these months? It’s like every audio hardware/DAW developers waited to release day and hope just hoping for the best. Really great way to support your products. Windows having a great backwards compatibility record isn’t any excuse to be lazy with the testing and development on all this.

      Thumb up 21
      1. Hey man, I bet they have been looking at it for months. However until you get an RTM OS to work on I would never publish a compatibility list that said yes it is fine. I bet within the coming few months things will become a lot clearer. In the mean time upgrade your non critical PC’s and just wait for a yay or a nay for your DAW rig.
        If we are 6 or 8 months in and they still have not given word about compatibility then you have a right to be upset. Not now though.

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  3. You’ll want to wait. Steinberg hasn’t said Cubase 8 is officially supported on Windows 10. My install of Cubase 8 is working fine on Windows 7. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.

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    1. There are many rumours suggesting that Windows 9 was skipped to avoid some compatibility probllems with programs that were looking for Windows 9* (to catch win95 and win98 specific fonctionalities)

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 4
    2. Did you have to reinstall your programs with windows upgrade or it was transparent in background?

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  4. It’s interesting that Propellerhead is bringing Figure to Windows. Makes me think that WIndows is catching up to OS X as a platform for mobile apps.

    Seems like a case of too little, too late, but at least they are trying. Audio and MIDI on Android are still stuck in 2008.

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  5. Looks like WIndows may be leap-frogging Apple with Windows 10. The dedicated core for audio option sounds like it could be very useful. I’ve got a quad-core and it seems like it’s rare for apps and the OS to make full use of it.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
    1. Maybe that’s useful if you rely solely on your motherboard’s included “sound card.” But I don’t know of too many people that aren’t using at least an external interface.

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      1. Most audio synthesis is not done on the soundcard. You’re mixing up synthesis with d/a conversion.

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        1. “‘Opt-in’ dedicated audio core – option to move audio processing to dedicated processor core for improved performance”

          That doesn’t imply “synthesis.” That implies the functionality that soft-sound cards offload onto the CPU. That is, the functionality a dedicated audio interface handles.

          Most motherboards use some basic codec chip or Intel HD Audio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_High_Definition_Audio) for a “sound card”. These tend to rely on the main system CPU to do at least some portion of the work:

          “Technically speaking there are two ways of integrating audio on the motherboard. The most common one is using the system CPU to process audio, under a technique called HSP (Host Signal Processing), with the south bridge chip from the chipset providing the necessary interfacing circuit with the external world. The second way – which nowadays is only seen on few very high-end motherboards – is using a dedicated controller to control and process the audio and thus not using the system CPU for these tasks.” — http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/how-on-board-audio-works/2/

          Thus, the feature in Win10 dedicates a CPU core to handle the data to/from the motherboard’s codec chip. This is the work that is handled by external interfaces.

          As for “synthesis,” my bet is that people aren’t using audio fonts and the like much any longer. All of these plugins and stand along soft synths use the CPU directly; they are usually not accelerated by any dedicated device (unless you get into stuff like UAudio plugins).

          Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
    2. That’s … odd. Multicore utilization is usually down to how well your DAW is programmed and configured. This has been largely ok for a while, I’ve run machines up to 16 cores with pretty evenly spread load.

      @James, Edward this isn’t necessarily untrue, some chipsets with integrated audio can share memory, so in some instances there may be some (small) performance improvements adding an external interface. 10 years ago it might have made a difference, these days it’s pretty negligible.

      The picture gets a lot more complicated if you’re aggregating multiple audio devices, the processor has to do a lot of work to buffer the streams and make sure everything is synced, which usually results in a big latency hit. This is all down to OS optimization and If Windows 10 gets this right, it will be a big win for MS.

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  6. I’m using Windows 10 since the first insider preview with Reason 8-8.3 and i’ve never encountered a problem. Ableton seems works fine too, but most of the time i’m on Reason.

    In one old release i’ve had issue with with some midi inputs, but just for a week.

    The performance are identical to Windows 8 but the windows management and multi monitor support are fantastic. I can’t go back.

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  7. So Windows 10 is here. Great.
    All I want is a stable, low latency environment for recording audio.
    I’d love to put together a DIY PC computer for 1/3 the cost of a Mac to run my DAW, but it’s all about drivers and support.
    MS might just be realizing how big the pro-audio/video computer market is, but how long will it take them to get hardware manufacturers and their drivers behind them?

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 4
    1. There are a number of pretty stable hackintosh builds out there. I ran one with a FW interface for a while. There was no sleep/hibernation mode but other than that, as solid as they come for a production PC. Still a reliable server and occasional gaming PC 6 years later. The time investment to get it up and running is significant though. Upgraded to Mavericks a few months back and it was an ordeal, but it’s great again now.

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  8. i have windows 10 installed, NO issues my computer is faster and everything still works
    you do not need new drivers ,, if it works under win7 or win 8.1 it will still work
    you do not have to do a clean install if you update your machine it will retain all programs and settings.

    check this video :
    https://youtu.be/Q6bohS4sxwI

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    1. Wrong. DO NOT UPDATE before checking that your daw/software and hardware is compatible. MANY are not. And Windows 10 WILL introduce audio dropouts on certain systems, and also midi timing issues

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      1. Wrong !
        I’ve windows 10, and everything works fine. I tested it with cubase, no problems, live 9, no problems and pro tools, no problems. No audio dropouts or midi timing issues.
        I installed the win 8.1 drivers of my hardware and it works.
        Have you really tested windows 10 ??

        Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
        1. Wrong!
          This one time, at band camp, I upgraded to Windows 10 and got food poisoning. Thanks a lot, microsoft!

          Sorry 🙂 I think the general rule of proceeding with caution for ANY OS upgrade should still apply here. If things happen to ‘just work’ that’s great, but the safest bet is to clone your drive in case something you need to work just doesn’t.

          Like this comment?: Thumb up 2
    1. Also of note is that some of the “phone home” features can only be disabled in the “premium” version.

      I have high hopes for Windows 10’s audio/MIDI support, but would only ever use it on a strictly non-networked computer.

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      1. How do you think they were able to get all that debug and runtime info to assist in designing the new audio and midi engine? MS is terrible at monetizing personal info. They don’t really have an interest in it and I dare say Apple as well. MS had a marketing department not too long ago and it got gutted because they basically failed at it.

        What they really want in the so called “phone home” scenario is event trace session data where eeeeeeverybodys machine reports back on how it’s performing and since Win 7 it can do it sometimes on or after a blue screen. They’ve spent literally years analyzing event trace data from users machines in everything, including the audio tech stack, and it’s been a godsend because before they had to rely on user feedback via phone and 3rd party hardware vendor apathy.

        It would be nice to have a security gate for everything but we really haven’t had a choice since this ball got really rolling about 1994.

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  9. Windows 10 (the latest version of Windows 7) is just a nice round number they chose since from here on out all future iterations are just going to be successive windows updates. You might not see a Windows 11 for a long long long time if ever.

    The Windows 9/9*/95 backwards compatibility upgrade tripwire rumor is not really even possible.

    Anyway, I’ve been running it. Runs clean. Really dig the way they did the start button and the multi desktop manager. Need to run some audio and MIDI test with this gold release however.

    P.S. If you’re still on Vista and haven’t murdered your neighbors yet you might want to get ready to jump on this. WTF are you doing running Vista anyway?

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  10. The forced automatic updates may cause some issues for people as it forces down core hardware drivers as well. Also be wary if you are on metered connections with limited data. If you are not using wifi you cannot set your connection as metered and updates will just download automatically.

    Already have some colleagues that have run into problems because their upgrades decided to pull down some big updates a day or two ago slowing down their already slow Internet connection and making it useless until it was finished.

    Apart from the auto updates I am pretty happy with it. Been running it since Monday. Sonar/Renoise working just fine.

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  11. This is the statement from Steinberg support forums:

    “Hello all,

    We will release an official announcement later today but our tests have shown performance and timing issues with Cubase, Nuendo and Sequel on Windows 10 (build 10240) systems.
    Also, the latest Quicktime 7.7.7 cannot be installed on a Windows 10 system which basically removes the video support in Cubase and Nuendo.
    While these issues did not occur on all systems we tested with, we can only recommend to wait.

    In addition, the Yamaha Steinberg USB and Firewire drivers also show issues with sample rate switches and thus are not fully compatible either.

    More information will follow as soon as we know more.
    Ed Doll, Support Manager
    Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH
    Hamburg, Germany”

    So there you are…

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  12. To answer myself, if you are using Cubase DO NOT update to Windows 10 as it will introduce audio dropouts and midi timing issues. I’m guessing this is NOT isolated to just Cubase. Here’s their ongoing compat. list: https://www.steinberg.net/nc/en/support/knowledgebase_new/show_details/kb_show/product-compatibility-info-regarding-microsoft-windows-10.htm

    Here’s Roland’s ongoing compat. list as well :http://www.roland.com/support/support_news/250024

    Didn’t any of these guys TEST THE BETA during all these months? It’s like every audio hardware/DAW developers waited to release day and hope just hoping for the best. Really great way to support your products. Windows having a great backwards compatibility record isn’t any excuse to be lazy with the testing and development on all this.

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    1. Now Steinberg and Roland load up their debug environment, or start making one :/, see a bunch of crap they don’t understand, call MS developer support and hopefully get some real event trace data from broken machines that have enabled the feedback mechanism. MS responds with “Oh, yeah we see it. We can send you the trace data from these reports but to get you a head start you’re going to have to do this that and the other.” Maybe we’ll get a 3rd party software/driver update a month from now. Shoulda been ahead of the game.

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  13. I upgraded to Windows 10 yesterday on my Surface tablet and had no problems. Everything seems snappy and functional. I did some testing on the following:

    Ableton Live 9
    Max 7
    Maschine 2
    Midi/Audio I/O via Komplete Audio 6
    Ozone 6 Stand-alone
    Iris 2 Stand-alone

    I encountered no problems.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 3
  14. My computer (an old latitude E fell and I lost the hard drive about a month ago, I got a sdd and installed the windows 10 preview on it two weeks ago i forgot the firewire cable for my interface (by the way the old firepod works perfectly on windows 10) so I had to use the built in sound card for my gig that night and I was really amazed at how well it worked, I hardly noticed the latency (used Cantabile 2 with Asio4all driver) so the audio improvements actually helped me…

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  15. I won’t trash Windows as many do, in part because a friend who is heavily into video upgraded his PC with heftier cards that noticeably improved his overall game. It was the right tool for the right job and not one a Mac could offer in his particular world. For me, it took some Microsoft madness and lousy treatment from a DAW-maker I won’t name to lead me to Macs. Instead of fighting driver mismatches, “patches” and “upgrades” that toast too many things and a lot of time wasted in trying to get back to a simple workable state, Logic just GOES. I don’t need for my typical ‘instability’ as a composer be matched by technical instabilities from my rig. 😛 My friend was a Windows NT admin, so we have platform debates, just as we debate e-music gear. He recently bought a MacBook and was quizzing me for quick-start tips. He’s been pleased and when I said “Well, Microsoft designs from the engineer’s view outwards. Apple designs from the user INwards,” he said “That’s not an unfair point.” When I step up to a newer Mac, a couple of much-liked apps will be toasted, but playing e-music is done on shifting sands anyway, so I look at it as the enjoyable challenge of a fresh palette of colors. I’d much rather focus on that than chase a set of new drivers.

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  16. I know that audio performance like this might not necessarily be top priority for these big companies, but I think it is going to be embarrassing for Google if Microsoft manages to leapfrog them in terms of pro audio.

    I have some older Win7 machines that I think I’m going to try and update just to see how 10 works. Excited to see if it breathes some new life into them.

    Also, just curious: “?MIDI routing” as a feature. Does this mean that loopBe’s (and similar utilities) days are numbered?

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  17. Upgraded this morning from Windows 8.1 without any problems (took a whopping 20 minutes) . Everything seems to be running exceptionally fast. All apps running fine… Cubase seems to be the only exception… it creates and runs existing projects without any issues but getting a few drops after 30 minutes or so. Not a big deal, I’m pretty confident it will be resolved soon enough but overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the upgrade and glad I made the switch.

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  18. I’m a Mac guy, so I could care less about Windows. But I’m actually glad Microsoft did work on what appears to be the good direction (unified system, unified apps, flexible from smartphone to tablet to desktop, ready for both touchscreen, mouse, stylus, etc…). Of course, it won’t be good enough for me to wish to switch back to PC (I’m perfectly happy with my Macs), but I guess it’s still a good news for PC users. And good competition is always healthy. So kudos to Microsoft!

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 2
  19. As a Mac/Logic user, I have no plans on switching. However, I do have to use Windows for work sometimes (and more regularly as time goes on) and I have to say Windows 10 is the least horrible version of Windows I’ve had to use in many years. I’m not giving up my Macs, but when I have to use Windows, I’d rather use 10. I’ve been using it since the Technical Preview was released and had no problems with compatibility or stability. Which, surprised the hell out of me, to be honest.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  20. No issues at all using Renoise, fl studio, ableton jive. had to restart to get my trackpad to scroll thats the biggest issue I ever had.aside from the usual needing to customize things like you’d expect from any windows install (piss off, edge. you’re still I.E. in my eyes)

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  21. I did a clean installation on brand new hardware(6 core 5820x/MSI x99S/32G) and tested out Reason, Maschine and Traktor performance (Studio One v3 is coming soon..) I had some issues with the Maschine expansion packs giving me a “Could not load driver” error, which, I figured out on my own, was due to the Kontakt Player needing to be upgraded. This was not at all obvious from the error messages, event viewer, googles searches, etc. I figured it out when I tried playing the same packs in the standalone app for testing and it then told me I had an outdated version.(I was in a tailspin, even hunting down procmon to try and see what drivers it was calling and so forth, drove me nuts) After upgrading the Kontakt client smooth sailing. Here is another quick observation (which is why I am reading this thread in the first place) I did some midi clock sync testing (Maschine sync’d to Traktor) and like it has always been on Windows for me – still sucks. I have to believe I can improve it somehow, but I am still educating myself about how it all works. Of note, I did the same testing on Mac and the sync was TIGHT.. I didn’t run lengthy tests though just like 5 or so minutes.

    Now on the topic of how Windows 10 is doing – it’s lightning fast and feels really modern and solid. There will always be Windows ignorance and hate.. just got for it.. but image your drive first for fallback reasons.

    Stephen Riddle, a.k.a. Veer

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 2
  22. I just upgraded to Windows 10, not sure if I like it…My PCR-500 does not work anymore because the driver is unavailable. My UA-25EX does not work unless the advanced switch is turned off – evidently Roland has no plans on writing a Windows 10 driver for this. My Synth-XT does not work on USB as again, no diver available – I will probably have to go back to regular MIDI rather than USB. I think I might even go back to Windows 7 if I can’t get all my gear to work. Also,
    Sonar now does not recognize my UA-25EX (probably because of no driver available). i would recommend holding off upgrading or buying until you are sure all drivers are available for you gear!

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  23. I concur with the above post. Edirol UA-25 does not work with Windows 10 – nor is there anything on the Roland site about compatibility. Can anyone recommend a decent soundcard? Or is windows 10 native sound okay?

    In other words, is my sound card useless now and do I need a new one?

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  24. I have an old Midiman Keystation 49, which have served me brilliantly through W98, XP & W7. Now I’ve upgraded to W10 it doesn’t work & comes up as “Unknown Device”. So much for better Midi & Audio!!

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  25. i have a windows 8.1 phone. midi playback is not supported. but it is supported in android. i find it strange why microsoft decided not to support midi playback.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  26. I’m using Windows 10 64bit with Cubase 8 pro version 8.030, Tascam Fw 1884, 2 FE 8 on an Asus P5K premium motherboard. Everything is running smoothly.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  27. Rony – I have been trying to install the FW-1884 software on a brand new Windows 10 machine I just finished building. No matter what I do, I get an error message saying “can’t install on this version of Windows.” I am also a Cubase user. Have been working with 5.5.3 on an XP machine and was going to upgrade to 8.5 pro now that I have a new and improved system. Any input would be appreciated!

    John F.

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  28. Anyone has any idea on when following proposed features coming to Windows 10,
    USB-C
    Thunderbolt 3
    Bluetooth MIDI
    Lower audio latency
    Audio aggregation and routing
    USB Audio 2 Class
    USB 3/3.1
    MIDI routing

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  29. I bought a new lenovo laptop with windows 7. I updated to 10 and started tweaking. I ran scans with DPC latency checker. The latency where way to high. Only yellows and no greens. I reinstalled 7 tweaked and checked again. Now there where only greens and no yellows.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0

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