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10 Reasons Your Audio Interface Keeps Dropping Out

Audio interface dropping out is among the most common irritants with both Mac and Windows operating systems. Unfortunately, there’s no turnkey solution because of over a dozen probable causal issues. You must inspect your entire setup to find the actual problem to resolve it.

Here are the 10 reasons why your audio interface keeps dropping out:

  1. Faulty USB cable
  2. USB port issue
  3. Improper OS settings
  4. Low buffer size
  5. OS updates
  6. Driver problems
  7. Stressed CPU
  8. Overloaded hard disk
  9. GPU conundrum
  10. Workstation defect

Audio interface dropping out is generally an infrequent or recurring issue, rarely a happenstance. Also, you may have more than one problem in your setup. This article will go over and discuss each of the common issues and the appropriate solutions available at your discretion.

Audio interface dropping out

1. Faulty USB Cable

An incompatible or completely malfunctioning USB cable won’t allow you to work with your audio interface. Hence, it’s easier to know if you have a faulty or failed USB cable.

However, a trickier situation is when you have a compatible USB cable that works fine most of the time, but you have infrequent or frequent issues. These instances could be due to a failing USB cable or intermittent glitches, such as power interruption.

How To Fix a Faulty USB Cable

  1. Use another USB cable if you have one handy. If your audio interface stops dropping out, you can be sure that the problem was a faulty cable.
  2. Check if your audio interface is compatible with the type of USB cable you’re using. Some interfaces may not work with third-party cables.

Note: If you use a hub, powered or not, try connecting the USB cable directly to your workstation.

2. USB Port Issue

An unclean USB port could be the problem.

You may be using an incompatible port, either archaic or the latest. Audio interfaces don’t work with all available USBs, so check the user manual to be sure.

A powered or unpowered USB hub can cause or facilitate your audio interface’s abrupt dropping out.

How To Fix a USB Port Issue

  1. Clean the current port and test it again.
  2. Use another compatible USB port on the system to check if you continue to experience the dropping out problem.
  3. Check the drivers and the OS settings if all the compatible USB ports are problematic.
  4. Ensure that the USB cable is functioning alright. Check if the USB cables are plugged snugly into all respective input and output ports.
  5. Confirm if all the USB ports are powered. Verify if there’s no incompatible hardware plugged into the setup, either at the audio interface end or in your workstation.

3. Improper OS Settings

USB ports and cables can cause problems for no fault of theirs. You may have improper OS settings for the audio interface.

A common inadvertent error is the power setting. Most power saver modes, including timer, sleep, or wake, interrupt and effectively stop the energy supply to the bus ports.

If power management settings aren’t a problem, check the audio settings or preferences in your system.

Any workstation, be it Windows or Mac, must have the audio settings recommended by the interface or required by its hardware and software. You can customize many of these settings. However, if a change is causing the drop out problem, that has to be undone.

Similarly, some power management settings don’t just turn off the USB ports but also hard disks and other essential hardware. Hence, you have to undo these selections.

How To Fix Improper OS Settings

If you’re using a Windows OS, you can use this guide to disable energy saver settings in Windows 10. You may also refer to this power settings overview.

For MacOS, change energy saver settings on Mac using these preferences. Use this manual to choose sleep and wake preferences on Mac.

If the USB cable and port are working fine, and the power settings aren’t an issue, reconfirm whether or not all the sound settings on your workstation are in adherence to the recommendations of the audio interface brand.

4. Low Buffer Size

Some users may reduce the buffer size for low latency, as the two are proportionally linked. A low latency may be desirable in many instances. However, a small buffer size can cause your audio interface to drop out without any error message.

All audio interfaces allow you to toggle the buffer size using their control panel. Operating systems also have a similar feature, data buffer. An audio interface needs both these buffers to work in tandem for uninterrupted functioning.  

The operating system determines the buffer intake through the USB based on its setting, and the audio interface facilitates the same through its software. A severe mismatch can cause your audio interface to keep dropping out.

Related article: Guide: How an Audio Interface Can Help With Latency

How To Fix Low Buffer Size

  1. Regulate the buffer size manually until you resolve the dropping out issue completely. 
  2. Keep the sample rate at 44.1 kHz, increase the buffer size to fix the drop out problem, and eliminate different popping and clicking sounds.
  3. Follow this procedure to change the audio interface buffer size. 

Here are a few steps to adjust the buffer size in your Windows or Mac operating system.

Some audio interface software or control panels have the buffer size in the latency setting.

5. OS Updates

An operating system update is often the solution for an audio interface dropping out. However, an unsuitable update may also cause the problem.

The audio interface hardware or software may not be compatible with the latest version of your operating system, or vice versa.

Operating system updates don’t always upgrade all the drivers correctly. Check for any outdated or incompletely updated driver for the USBs, including the chipset, which may cause the drop out.

Some glitches are possible if your operating system was updated while the audio interface was plugged in and synced.

How To Update OS

  1. Update all the drivers. 
  2. Check for firmware upgrades for your audio interface software. 
  3. Verify if the hardware drivers and plugins are compatible with the latest operating system.
  4. Roll back the upgrade if your audio interface isn’t compatible with the updated operating systems or drivers.
  5. Recheck the audio settings or the audio interface optimization features to ensure they’re per the recommendations to avert intermittent dropping out.

Uninstalling and reinstalling the audio interface, in some cases, can solve the pertinent problems.

6. Driver Problems

If you have updated any driver recently, following which you encounter the audio interface dropping out, the upgrade is probably the culprit.

Some updates are necessary for better performance. Hence, consider rebooting the system and reinstalling the audio interface software.

How To Fix Driver Problems

Compatibility issues due to updated drivers or an upgraded operating system can often be solved by reinstalling both hardware and software. Here are the steps to fix driver problems:

  1. Remove all the connections between your workstation and the audio interface hardware. 
  2. Unplug them from the hub and power sources.
  3. Restart the operating system. Plug in all the hardware components.
  4. Check if the dropping out problem exists. 
  5. Uninstall and reinstall the audio interface software, and test again.
  6. Ensure all audio and optimization settings are as required, including the buffer size.

7. Overworked CPU

An overworked CPU can cause frequent audio interface drop outs. CPUs are stressed when too many programs are running in the background.

A significant system process may redirect processing power with priority, disrupting the USB-fed data transfer. The buffer gets affected, too.

The onboard RAM in your CPU has a limited buffer memory. If a priority task uses a lot of data buffers, your audio interface feed will suffer, and you may have a drop out.

CPUs that are already overclocked or in turbo boost mode may be more vulnerable due to the high & dynamic performance mode and overheating.

How To Fix an Overworked CPU

Consider closing all unnecessary programs and applications running in the background.

For Windows OS, here are the steps to fix an overworked CPU:

  1. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del simultaneously
  2. Go to Task Manager
  3. Click on More Details, and find the Processes option. 
  4. Check the Background Processes or Apps and select End Task.

Here’s a stepwise guide to quit apps on Mac.

8. Overloaded Hard Disk

The CPU, RAM, and USB port are responsible for the data transfer. The audio files are written on the hard disk.

An overloaded hard disk cannot read and write the audio data as fast as it should. Hence, your audio interface will keep dropping out unless you remedy the problem.

You shouldn’t have any storage issues if you have sufficient space in the hard disk and no other large application running in the background.

Yet, some large audio files can cause a temporary problem.

How To Fix an Overloaded Hard Disk

  1. Ensure enough space in the folder or partitioned drive where your audio files are written and saved in real-time. Avoid stressing the CPU as it can interfere with the hard disk’s functioning.
  2. Check if you have enough RAM and appropriate buffer size, as both can influence the hard disk’s efficiency.

Some audio interface software or control panels display an error when a hard disk is overloaded or stressed, like Ableton’s. Here’s a valuable guide to help you reduce the chances of disk overload.

9. GPU Conundrum

Audio interfaces aren’t particularly dependent on onboard sound cards. Most audio interfaces are practically external sound cards with much better specifications.

Also, the dependence on GPU is limited to the software interface and other graphics-intensive features. Yet, the GPU poses a conundrum. Innumerable users have experienced USB connectivity issues with new or upgraded GPUs and their drivers.

The Nvidia forum routinely hosts this kind of pandemonium due to consumer grievances from various parts of the world, with many complaining about the audio interface drop out problem.

How To Fix the GPU Conundrum 

Unfortunately, many of these online calls for help remain unaddressed by the company. 

If you’ve upgraded the GPU or updated its driver and are experiencing audio drop out, roll back the upgrade to see if your audio interface keeps dropping out.

There’s little one can do to solve a common and persistent problem in the absence of clarity from the brand regarding specific GPUs and audio interface models.  

As you can check on the Nvidia forum, numerous users have tried various combinations, such as changing ports, unplugging some hardware, and even testing different PCIe settings, but to no avail.

10. Workstation Defect

While Nvidia isn’t promptly responsive to teething issues reported by many, AMD acknowledges its defects at times, like when it announced an update about its USB connectivity defect on Reddit.

Manufacturing defects, workstation and audio interface incompatibility issues, persistently intermittent problems in various hardware components, and software glitches are a reality.

Users can ask for a quick fix, but most companies take a while to come around.

How To Fix Workstation Defect

The solution depends on the causal problem.

You may have a faulty or incompatible motherboard. The problem could be the CPU or GPU, the onboard RAM, or the hard disk. The issue could even be limited explicitly to the PCIe slots.

Unfortunately, the only practical way to fix such issues is to replace the defective hardware.

User-Specific Problems and Solutions

An audio interface may keep dropping out for reasons beyond the 10 discussed in this guide. Some causes are user-specific problems, inadvertent or otherwise. A few issues are beyond a user’s control, such as defective audio interface hardware or buggy software.

USB 2.0 vs. 3.0/+

Many users switch from USB 2.0 to 3.0 and vice versa to test if the audio drop out problem persists. No thumb rule exists, but people have encountered success in both scenarios.

You can try such switching to see if it fixes the drop out. Ensure snug fitting at all times while testing and operating an audio interface.

USB Adaptors and Hubs

USB adaptors and hubs are often a problem, particularly if you have a ground loop.

Spike busters/guards, surge protectors, and extension cords can facilitate a ground loop, too. You may or may not have a persistent drop out. However, you’ll encounter strange noises.

On the flip side, USB hubs may resolve the dropping out problem in some cases.

If a hub is connected to a wall outlet, the plugged USBs are no longer dependent on the workstation as its power source.

Power interruption leads to intermittent USB connectivity issues, so preventing that may avert a drop out. 

Dynamic Buffer Size

Standard buffer size isn’t ideal for all types of audio recordings. Also, specific buffer sizes and sample rates don’t suit everyone or all audio interfaces, ports, and workstations. You have to experiment with different buffer sizes.

Just as you would change the buffer size while switching from recording to mixing, opt for a dynamic approach when recording solo vocals and multiple instruments.

Dynamic buffer sizes for different requirements may prevent recording-specific dropping out.

Settings and Enhancements

Restoring all settings and enhancements to defaults is a standard practice to fix audio interface drop outs. However, you may have to consider some unique settings or enhancements at times to resolve the problem.

Take the example of BIOS settings. Steinberg recommends updating the UEFI BIOS while optimizing Windows 10 for its audio interface.

The optimization manual also suggests disabling BIOS C-states, hyper-threading and multi-threading, power saving, dynamic performance, and the onboard sound card.

Most audio interface manufacturers have their recommendations for optimization. The specific suggestions don’t always work because users have different systems with varying specifications.

The consequential test is whether or not the entire setup works flawlessly.

It’s inevitable for users to consider some trial and error to configure the best optimization settings and enhancements for a setup, depending entirely on the specifications and what works.

Audio Interface Defect

Last but not least, audio interfaces aren’t perfect.

Nvidia GPUs can have faults. AMD CPUs, graphics, cards, and motherboards can have defects, too.

Likewise, an audio interface can have hardware flaws or bugs in the software. Switch to flawless hardware or look for firmware patches to fix the software, respectively.