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Topic: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Orcas Island

    Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    I'm in Seattle at the Microsoft Audio Summit. The Microsoft Digital Media division has organized a summit for the audio community to provide an in-depth review of the audio architecture in the next version of the Windows Operating System. This is very first audio summit Microsoft organized to focus on development in the audio world. Vista will have completely overhauled audio, from the low-level kernel guts to the user interface

    Several days of workshops, demos, labs, networking and opportunity to talk directly with Microsoft Audio professionals. Lots of Q & A too throughout the sessions. There are about 80 audio professionals at the event from many of the major companies who were invited including Cakewalk, MakeMusic, Sibelius, Steinberg, Waves, SONY, Creative Labs, Line6, MOTU, Mackie, Propellerheads, Yamaha, Universal Audio and many other leading audio companies. Tom Hopkins and Jeff Hurchalla are here representing the Garritan team.

    Last night there was a reception where we had a chance to grab a drink, meet and chat with some of the attendees. This morning Jim Allchin, Co-President of Microsoft Platform Products and Services, opened the Summit and with a Keynote session providing an overview of Vista. This was followed by a presentation of Vista audio by Pat Azzarello and Eric Schmidt. They talked about how Vista simplifies and improves audio over XP. Elliot Omiya then talked about User Mode Audiothe new audio system in Vista.

    We enjoyed lunch with Steve Ball, Group Program Manager of Windows Audio. We discussed DRM, sampling and various other topics. After lunch there was a session on hardware initiatives followed by a session on Vista Development Tools and then a talk by Eric Schmidt about Partner Development.

    It was nice to get a glimpse of the new Vista interface throughout the sessions. Since many work in the Window environment for long periods of time, it is nice to have a new spiffy user interface. Vista will offer some nice visual effects into the OS such as transparent windows, 3D rendering and animation that makes the work environment not only look cool but enhance functionality.

    From the various sessions there are salient features I gleaned regarding audio in Vista:
    • Glitch-Resilient Audio - Vista provides better audio stability and manages audio in much more efficient ways. Audio app crashes and blue screens may be a thing of the past. The kernel of the Vista OS has been rewritten in order to prevent a software problem with drivers from bringing down the whole system.
      Arif from Microsoft gave a demo comparing XP to Vista, stressing the CPU with maximum loads and trying to bring both to their knees. XP crashed early on but Vista kept going and going and going...and no glitching during the stress test. Very impressive.
    • Prioritization of Audio - The entire OS has a priority structure so that you can specify what apps get priority. You can prioritize audio to make sure any other program (like a virus program or AIM) doesn't get in the way and cause a glitch.
    • Per Application Volume Control - Vista has a new audio control panel that allows separate volume control per application. Did you ever get that sudden instant-messaging soundblast that's ten times louder than your other sounds? This won't happen in Vista and this feature is a welcome addition.
    • Improved Audio Performance -There are various other audio enhancements in Vista such as:
      • Better memory management & CPU performance
      • Support for up to 144 dB signal to noise ratio
      • Reduced latency
      • 16bit integer to 32 floating point to improve audio fidelity.
      • And 64-bit version of Vista that will make 64-bit computing a reality under windows.
    This is only a very brief overview. There's lots more to get excited about with the next operating system from Microsoft. There were many technical aspects and under-the-hood features discussed. I'm glad Jeff came along to understand many of the finer technical infrastrstructure aspects of Vista audio.

    Later tonight there is a swanky evening event at the Triple Door club. We'll be eating, gabbing, drinking and grooving to the music of a Seattle band called "Lushy". I'll try to avoid getting too 'lushy' tonight.

    Tomorrow is another full day at the Summit. Also tomorrow evening will be the Northern Sounds/GPO Forum get-together at the Pike Place Brewery followed by our presentation at the Seattle Composer Alliance/Hummie Mann Film Scoring Program. Friday I'll be at the Microsoft campus at Redmond all day for some meetings.

    Many thanks to Pat Azzarella, Eric Schnmidt, Steve Ball, Jim Allchin, Arik, Elliot and the rest of the Microsoft audio team for making this successful summit possible.

    More later...

    Gary Garritan

  2. #2
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    West Seneca, NY

    Thumbs up Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    Thank you Mr. Garritan! Vista sounds welcoming for us PC users. The features you outlined sound oh so promising. I was impressed with the stress test involving Visa and XP.
    Looking forward to hearing more and have a great time.

  3. #3

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    This is really exciting news Thanks Gary

  4. #4

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    Hi Gary,

    Can you do a little digging and (hopefully) put a really nasty rumor to rest?

    It has been reported that Vista will not allow users to install unsigned drivers. AND, getting drivers signed will have a price tag associated with it (the typical quoted cost is $500 per driver per year).

    Now $500 is less than noise to a large video card manufacturer, and it is probably still noise to a large audio card manufacturer, but to a small operation that sells high-end audio cards this could be a real good reason to exit the market.

    All of this on top of having to re-write one's drivers, which is annoyance enough.

    So, can you see if there is any truth to this, and if MS is aware of the pain and suffering that they may be causing in a niche of a niche marketplace?


  5. #5

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report


    I don't know if he's going to be at this conference or not, but poke around with the MS guys and see if you can find Tom Archer. These days he's the MSDN Program Manager for Windows Vista (as well as Visual C++ & the Windows SDK) - http://msdn.microsoft.com/WindowsVista , so he might be there.

    He owes me so many pizzas that we've lost count. Tell him I said to buy you one with extra pepperoni and I'll take it off his tab.

    Pizza aside, he's a great guy and a geek's geek - you'll have a good time talking to him, particularly if it involves programming.
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  6. #6

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report


    Thanks for sharing this. Each of the bullet points is really significant. I'll be an early adopter for sure!


  7. #7

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    Sounds exciting. Gary I don't know if you'll get this in time, but I am very curiuos to know whether they are moving midi handling deeper into the kernal as well. Windows has been notoriously mediocre for years in terms of midi timing. What it has needed for a long time is the ability to timestamp midi events and have the kernal send them exactly on schedule. Just wondering if they are fixing this in Vista also or if they are just focusing on Audio because of the $$$$ in games and other media playback situations...

    Sure hope also that audio deeper in the kernal will not actually make midi playback worse than it is in XP. Its reasonably acceptable in XP.
    "Music is a manifestation of the human spirit similar to a language. If we do not want such things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest number of people understand their secrets" -- Zoltan Kodaly

  8. #8

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    There is no such thing as poor MIDI in Windows - only poorly written MIDI drivers.

    The ability to prioritize processes will have an impact, as well as resolving the previous potential to have an application timing events by two different system clocks. Then again, a properly written app can already deal with that in XP, and has been that way for some time.

    The question is: will the Windows Vista API prevent sloppy MIDI programming...

    I'm really interested to hear more about the new protocols, and what they will do. Is there a site that we can go to for more information Gary?
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  9. #9

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    I completely disagree with you Hous.. sorry. I've played around with programming to all the various windows midi API's including DirectMusic, etc.. and researched this issue heavily; and the midi timing is BARELY acceptable. This is a long understood issue amongst windows midi programmers and MS has not ever really fixed it except to make XP more solid and faster CPU's have hidden the issue. As a matter of fact, in the win95 days they were able to make more solid midi timing than now because they could thunk into a 16bit DLL and force the kernal to prioritize midi events. But that was lost in in Win2k and XP. Win2k flat out sucked, they made XP better..but there is a huge potential for them to get it wrong in Vista if they have dismissed midi as insignificant, particularly if they prioritize audio so high that midi falls back into unimportant land.

    I would definitely like to know if this is being at least considered in Vista and not forgotten. I suspect they are focused on game audio, not audio production. As such, they will probably get the midi qeueing wrong, but that is just a guess.
    "Music is a manifestation of the human spirit similar to a language. If we do not want such things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest number of people understand their secrets" -- Zoltan Kodaly

  10. #10

    Re: Microsoft Vista Audio Summit Report

    Furthermore, I will add, that some audio apps, such as Cubase, actually tied the timing of midi to audio as way of trying to get the midi more accurate. This is one reason why Cubase has a long reputation of crappy midi timing and if you go into their forums and do a search you will find many people even still today experiencing midi timing problems...UNLESS they are making sure to have at least one audio track going on..at which point Cubase is able to force the midi to be more accurate and stable. Much of this is because of ASIO.

    In any case, all I'm saying..is there is a huge potential for MS to completely miss the ball on MIDI. They did on win2k. Midi is not too important to them.
    "Music is a manifestation of the human spirit similar to a language. If we do not want such things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest number of people understand their secrets" -- Zoltan Kodaly

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