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[Windows] ASIO, DirectSound and WASAPI with music notation software


In the previous article, I talked about how Finale and Dorico are more likely to have problems due to conflicts with the audio driver in the Windows environment than the Mac version.


More precisely, this means that there may be a conflict with ASIO when you select it as your audio driver.


In the case of Dorico, it was confirmed that there was a problem with the sound not being output when using a specific ASIO driver, but for Finale or its cheaper version PrintMusic, this case is suspected if the following symptoms are observed. (*Of course, there are other possible causes as well.)


  1. “Audio engine error” and “Error code: 7” are displayed when starting up.

  2. It takes about more than 30 to 40 seconds to launch.

  3. It does not launch.

  4. Playback does not start when you click the playback button. (Playback does not start with the caret stuck.)


The error message in “1.” the above is something like this, and I'm sure many of you have seen it many times.


Music notation software typically allows you to choose from several audio drivers.


Dorico seems to only be able to use ASIO drivers, but Finale can use WASAPI and Direct Sound (DS) in addition to ASIO, and Sibelius can also use Multimedia Extensions (MME) in addition to these.


First of all, what is the difference between these drivers? The Sibelius FAQ article "How to play back through a different device in Sibelius" in the Avid Knowledge Base (last updated July 21, 2022) states the following:


---Quoted below--


On Windows, some may appear more than once with letters in brackets afterwards and should be chosen in this priority:


  • (ASIO): Audio Stream Input Output: this will be the best option to choose, if you have it. This will generally give you the lowest latency too.

  • (WASAPI): Windows Audio Session API: This too will give low latency but will be using your computer resources to do so.

  • (DS): Direct Sound: This is the common driver using Windows’ Direct Sound and will do for most situations.

  • (MME): Multimedia Extensions: This is an emulated driver that Windows can use. This will give you the worst performance and is not recommended.


So, if you have a device listed with ASIO, choose that. If not, try WASAPI and then DS, then if you really don’t have anything else, choose MME.


---The above is the quote--


I think this article briefly summarizes the features of each driver, but I will also add information I obtained and summarize it in a little more detail.


(1) ASIO

ASIO (Audio Stream Input Output) is a standard provided by Steinberg that provides high quality audio functionality. It can also work with some external audio devices, and many external USB audio devices, especially high-end devices, have their own custom ASIO drivers.


However, as companies that handle audio products develop and provide various drivers that comply with the ASIO standard, it is important to be aware that compatibility issues with the software may sometimes occur.


(2) WASAPI

WASAPI (Windows Audio Session API) is a standard provided by Microsoft, but it is already considered a legacy standard in some cases.


Dorico, a new music notation software that appeared in 2016, does not support WASAPI, and it is not recommended to use with Finale by the developer as of January 2024, when this article was written.


(3) DirectSound

DirectSound is used in consumer computers that only use internal sound cards, such as RealTek.


DirectSound is inferior to ASIO and WASAPI in terms of performance, so it seems that it is not particularly recommended for music production software, but since it is more versatile and operates more stably than ASIO, Japanese Finale Technical Support recommends to use it if there is a problem with ASIO. 


By the way, the “Primary Sound Driver” that is initially set as the audio output device when DirectSound is selected as the audio driver in Finale is the sound driver specified by the Windows OS.



If this is selected, the system load may increase due to additional processing within the Windows OS. If you notice a delay in the playback sound or caret movement, check that the output device is not the “Primary Sound Driver” but the audio interface or sound card (in this case, “speakers (Realtek(R) Audio)”). The problem could be resolved by specifying it directly.


ーーーー


Especially when it comes to Finale and PrintMusic, I think the recommended way to avoid troubles is usually to use an ASIO driver, if there is a problem switch to another ASIO driver, if all of the ASIO drivers have problems switch to DirectSound. 


PrintMusic does not have the ability to switch audio drivers like Finale, but by opening and rewriting the files that make up the application, you can forcibly cancel the loading of the ASIO/WASAPI driver and set it to use DirectSound. 


▼Cannot start Finale/PrintMusic (Audio driver specification: Windows)


It's almost a trick, but it works even if Finale doesn't switch audio drivers in the UI, so it's actually used a lot by Finale technical support.


Alternatively, I think it's also a good idea to use DirectSound from the beginning to avoid launching and playback problems in advance. For music notation software, the final output is not the sound itself but the score. So in most cases it is sufficient to hear the playback, and the sound quality is often not an issue at least when you work on your composition and arranging.

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