Is the Surface Pro 4 any good for music production?

UPDATE: Check later posts for news on how the PS4 has improved greatly over time.

Sorry for the long gap since my last post but it’s been a bumpy ride. When I got the Surface Pro 4 back in January I absolutely assumed that this was going to be an awesome music making machine. The Surface Pro 3 had shown itself to be very capable and I’d had 18 months of music making and live performance out of it. So when the SP4 arrived I got stuck in and started making videos about how to set it up for music. I hit some problems with ASIO4ALL but these were overcome and I did some demos of making music with Stagelight – it was all looking good.

Then I started to test music software a bit more deeply…. and I started to hit some problems – clicks and pops in the audio in some DAWs. I spent the next month tweaking and testing, reinstalling and retrying but the problems have remained. I’ve been in contact with Microsoft about it, I’ve submitted audio trace tests and videos of the problem and they tell me they are working on a theory but have yet to come up with a solution.

In the meantime they’ve sent me a replacement SP4 to try and I’ve also managed to borrow another one of a slightly different spec from the good people at Surface UK. So I’m about to embark on a mega test to compare the performance of all three, to see if I can replicate the fault and confirm that it’s not a problem with my specific Surface. That should give me enough information to adequately answer the original question.

The problem isn’t the lack of CPU power or DPC latency on a specific driver as far as I can tell. I’ve tried every tweak and hack that I can find, I’ve used internal sound, USB interfaces, passive and powered hubs. I’ve heard from a few other people having trouble as well and yet I know of others who haven’t. It’s frustratingly inconsistent. Every test I’ve run I’ve also loaded onto the Surface Pro 3 and that works great every time.

So where is this coming from? I don’t know, but I plan to spend this next week trying everything I can think of to solve the problem or at the very least demonstrate the same issues on three different machines. Hopefully that will be enough to convince Microsoft that this really needs to be taken care of – and they have been awesome so far and so I remain hopeful.

If you are the owner of a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book and are running music software then please get in touch and let me know how that’s going – any troubles, any glitches or no problems at all please let me know. I’ll also post up some test projects at some point, but at the moment I’m using 16 tracks of audio with a compressor plugin on each so the CPU is running at 10-20% – run it for 5 minutes and see if you get any glitches. It’s that simple.

I do have a day job and so I can’t work on this 24/7 but hopefully by this time next week I should have a good load of data to share.