Surface Pro 2017 audio performance and reliability for music production

Testing the Surface Pro 2017

How many plugins and VST instruments can the Surface Pro 2017 handle? I’ve run exhaustive tests of many different DAWs with many different plug-ins and can now offer a demonstration of the Surface Pro’s potential for music production and reliability. IT’s GOOD! I’ll also show the thermal and CPU stability issues I encountered and how to solve them. Throughout the Surface Pro 2017 has been a reliable and capable platform – is it good enough for what you want? You’ll find out in the video.

It’s a long video because I had to deal with many aspects of performance testing and deal with thermal and stability issues which were important to spend time on. I’ve split it up into chapters and highlights below if you want to dive straight into the part that interests you. But I’d recommend watching the whole thing to get the whole picture. Comments are always welcome!

Introduction: 0:13
Setup under test: 2:59
LatencyMon: 6.32
Tweaking Windows: 7:37
Checkout out the DAWs: 12:20
Dawbench testing in Cubase: 16:18 (demonstrates CPU stability)
Thermal issue: 22:19 (found during Dawbench testing)
Stabilising the CPU: 28:52
Dawbench testing in Cubase take 2: 34:35
Dawbench comparisons with USB hub and Surface Dock: 35:32
Dawbench in Cubase with SGA1566 plugin: 38:09
Dawbench comparison on the Surface Pro 4: 40:04
Playing virtual instruments live: 44:58
Arturia V Collection Piano and Analog Lab: 45:44
Native Instruments Kontakt: 49:05
Polyphony test in Cubase with Halion and Kontakt: 52:52
Full musical project test: 57:12
Summing up… : 1:02:05

9 thoughts on “Surface Pro 2017 audio performance and reliability for music production

  1. Thanks!

    I have been having trouble getting low latencies with Pianoteq while avoiding snaps and crackles on my window surface Pro 4, especially when I am running a web browser or some other program in the background. Up until this morning, I have been stuck at running at 29 KHz for sampling, and keeping a fairly large buffer, such as 384. Anything below this would cause pauses, pops, and crackles. Even just setting the battery to “high” did not make that much improvement.

    This morning I watched sections your video, and made the changes that you suggest:

    After I did what you said, I found a significant improvement. I am now able to run Pianoteq at 48 kHz with a buffer of only 64. Even with the sustain pedal held down, and a five-microphone instrument preset, I rarely push past 40% of the processor as seen on the graph of the performance section of the Pianoteq options. For me, this is fantastic (and I am convinced that it even sounds better and more musical and realistic than what I was getting with the sampling frequency of only 29 kHz – whether it makes any difference to do 44 kHz or 48 kHz is debatable, as CD-quality audio sounds pretty darn good to me, but I was in fact able to push Pianoteq up to 48 kHz without any problems). So far, I have heard no snaps, no pops, and no crackles.

    Furthermore, with this significant reduction in latency, I am now able to run an external velocity curve converter, and thus get a separate keyboard correction while leaving the velocity curve settings in Pianoteq open for those specific curves that are introduced by creators of presets who use the velocity curve for an artistic purpose.

    Thank you for your excellent work! You definitely improved my Surface Pro experience.


  2. First and foremost, I want to thank you and congratulate you for a excellent body of work. At the risk of profiling/’making you mad’, you must have some engineer/scientist in your DNA to go about such a logical, exhaustive, pertinent (over as wide a set of conditions as possible) study. Anyway, not to be overly effusive, but I think it’s a great piece of work.

    Personally, I was encouraged that my SP4 (all tricked out w/i7, 16GB ram, 1TB SSD) should have been able to hang in there to wait for the ‘really new’ Surface Pro they keep rumoring about … but, alas, after doing everything in the ‘optimization videos’, I have still been unable to cure my ‘dropouts’. I bought a dedicated external box w/high ratings (Focusrite Solo … ditching the ASIO4ALL and cramping my portability), I’ve chased deep into ‘services’, further killing potential offending programs. I’ve just not cracked the code. I would commit heresy and go buy a MacBook Pro but I hear they struggle w/C9 Pro (something about the way Steinberg does graphics).

    Anyway, my individual circumstances aside, your body of work is the sort of stuff Microsoft should be paying you a healthy consulting fee for. I simply don’t understand why they don’t really want to get into the audio stuff and rip that away from Apple … and your work is at the core of what they should be supporting.

    So, keep on churning out the results knowing there are those of us that appreciate the effort … some of your future ‘projects’ sound really interesting. Take care …

    1. Thanks – nice comments, much appreciated. At the risk of driving you mad the one thing that gives me a tiny pause of concern is the Focusrite. Good interfaces they are, however, I’ve heard of a couple of people having less than stellar performance with them on the Surface. You might find something from Steinberg, M-Audio, Zoom or RME does a much better job. No promises – it’s just something that’s come up before. All the best!

  3. Thanks for your deep and precise work on the surface pro4 , akaï mpc soft has a lot of killer plugin AIR now audible and full polyphonicly playable
    Best regards

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