The short-story of an almost broken USB soundcard

This is no news to the ones that know me, but I’m a dance music addicted. And while I’ve been dj’ing for some years now, only recently have I decided to explore the world of music production and live performance. Some of my tools include the Akai APC40 MIDI controller, an M-Audio Axiom 49 keyboard and an M-Audio FastTrack Pro USB soundcard. The latter features four unbalanced outputs (RCA) and two balanced ones (TRS).

Front

Back

On my previous setup, I used to have Ableton Live 8 configured to use only the first two unbalanced outputs as I didn’t need the other two for what I was doing. But now, I want to have the ability to cue some clips before sending them to the wild, as I’ll be working with multiple external audio sources (i.e., turntable).

First things first! You need to install the official driver and activate the third and fourth unbalanced outputs. On MacOs X you’ll have a specific preference pane for that available at System Preferences. Then, you’ll have to configure the soundcard in Ableton Live! Don’t forget to activate the third and fourth outputs.

Ableton Live 8 soundcard configuration

I’m not going to explain how to enable cueing in Ableton Live. Instead, I’ll describe what was bothering me with my current setup: the third and fourth outputs were only sending noise.. very noisy noise!! After several try-outs (changing cables, reinstalling the driver, reconfiguring Ableton Live, testing in a different Macbook, etc.) I started to believe that my soundcard was faulty. Happily, I was wrong..

After much reading on the web about issues with this particular model, I found out that some guys had trouble with IRQ sharing. And then it stroke me! I’m using one of those cheap USB hubs for all my USB gear (five pieces at the moment) as my Macbook provides only two USB ports. The soundcard was connected to it. So, I simply connected the soundcard directly into the Macbook and “it just works! ™”😀

Even that the solution is not much of rocket science, perhaps this post will help some noob like me in a similar situation.

Cheers🙂

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