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Understanding VM limitations for Audio

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So the question is whether anyone's got any experience, good or bad, with using VMs to run DAW type applications:


Does the audio interface connection type make a difference? For example, I have decent quality USB based AD/DA, but significantly better Firewire based interfaces. These work extremely well on bare metal on Linux, Windows and Hackintosh via a decent PCIe card (SYBA) and I'm thinking about the practicality of duplicating my current multiboot set up with VMs on unRAID, with the added bonus of being able to fairly easily access various versions of DAW apps on older versions of OSX and Windows. I should add that this is for restoration, editing and mixing and not for recording/tracking, so latency induced by a VM is not a big concern.


Also, I'm not talking about huge multitrack projects - for perspective most projects I work on would be less than 24 tracks and the vast majority much fewer still. i.e. this is not going to place a huge demand on something like a 3900X given most of these projects were recorded and originally mixed 5 to 10 years ago.


I know very little about VMs, but I'm extrapolating from having read about people playing quite demanding games through a Windows VM on reasonably modern hardware with GPU passthrough etc. But can't find any solid info on audio interface pass-through reliability, both audio and MIDI?


Edited by awediohead
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  • 1 year later...

Hi - as you can see there's been no informative responses to this thread so I kind of gathered the idea was an non-starter.


That said I also shelved it because I realised that with my current pretty old hardware asking it to be a media server and run a VM meant it would do neither very well, while it is a perfectly adequate media server.


I'm planning on upgrading my hardware to a more modern CPU and motherboard and may revisit the idea then, but to be honest I've had such good results running MacOS bare metal on hackintosh builds, which also easily multi boots other OS's, it would probably take a dedicated "Make your own DAW on MacOS VM" video walk through from Ed of the SpaceInvader YT channel to reassure me that my efforts wouldn't be a collossal waste of time.


I have heard good things about using Proxmox to this end for video editing with FCPX, which would seem more demanding that just audio pass through. If you have a desktop type PC and can add a dedicated PCIe USB card to pass through for both audio and the MIDI controller I'm pretty sure it's doable with whatever hypervisor you use.




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Thanks for your your opinion/feedback. 
I think the unraid (or any other hypervisor) DAW solution would have the benefit, that your performance hardware will still be usefull for other 24/7 things running AND especially if you are not using your DAW regularly. This would save you at least one other bare metal computer lying around unused (okay if it is a laptop you could use it for other OS and use cases, but that would also limit the performance due to a mobile CPU).


Another question arises from your feedback saying "add a dedicated PCIe USB card to pass through for both audio and the MIDI controller". Is it not reliable or even not possible to use the onboard USB ports to communicate via passthrough with the DAW VM?



Edited by pH-Wert
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  • 4 weeks later...

Using a dedicated PCIe USB card for a MOTI UltraLite-mk3 got me close, but not perfect. I rant about it here a bit - 


The MOTU work perfectly when using the ASIO drivers on bare metal, but no amount of tweaking allowed me to eliminate clicks and pops occurring intermittently, despite no issues being detected by LatencyMon.


Would love to hear about someone pulling this off and what kind of hardware was used.  I wanted to get a Thunderbolt Apollo Twin X but if it can’t even handle a USB 2.0 device, I’m not sure I want to spend that much to find out that’s not going to work either.


Seems like the Thunderbolt pass through has some challenges itself, at least without a hub, and even then no hot-plug.


Oh and FWIW, trying to do USB pass through of the device did not work at all - needed to pass through a discrete USB controller and let the VM own the MOTU entirely.

Edited by rootd00d
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