For the next gen virus: Hybrid USB3.0/FW/THUNDERBOLT/PCIe Connection

  • Not sure how far along in development a next-gen Virus is, or if development has even started, but I have a few suggestions on connectivity.

    We know USB 1.1 is an atrocious medium to send audio to and from the Virus, especially in 2012 when most chipsets are designed to take advantage of newer high speed connection protocols.

    USB3.0 has now been out for a while and looks to be the standard for some time to come. However, with the problems people have been having with their particular USB environments and current-gen Virus integration, I thought taking a more generalized "cover all your bases" approach to connectivity would be a huge step forward for Access in building a new synth.

    Take MOTU for example, who a couple years ago pioneered the first ever hybrid Firewire/USB devices. Not much of a technological breakthrough, but tremendously useful for someone trying to maximize performance in a highly variable (from one studio to another) environment. If USB is a no-go, simply switch to FW. If you don't have FW ports, use USB until you can add a card. If FW gets reduced performance in Windows, use USB. If your mac book only has 2 USB ports, use FW, and so on.

    Thunderbolt is promising as well, and will be coming to PCs in the near future. It has insanely high data transfer speeds that leave USB and FW in the dust. Maybe this is overkill for a digital synth, but it might be worth looking into.

    But my revolutionary suggestion, which I'm not sure has been suggested yet, is to add a PCI(e) card to the mix. Having an Access-developed dedicated card in the motherboard could do wonders for latency, hiccups and other glitches so many have been experiencing. Instead of messing about with hubs and ports (which you are unsure if they are on hubs or dedicated ports at all), why not simply connect the next-gen Virus to a dedicated Virus PCI(e) card via whatever connection protocol would work best?

    Why not make such a card an optional add-on for those that want to take Total Integration in their studio to a new level? Maybe Access could even design something specifically for the current Virus TI and begin testing it. So many people have resorted to third-party chips to add USB ports with little to no success in bringing about a fix to their issues.

    I guess my main point would be relying on any one type of connection has, in the case of the current-gen Virus, proven a massive headache as technology progresses and the Virus is stuck at USB 1.1.

    In my opinion limiting connectivity for a next-gen synth to save time in software/firmware development would be a huge mistake. Limiting connectivity to make the synth more economical would be as big of a mistake; people are shelling out money for a working product for their studio and are happily doing so. If it is proven to work in all circumstances, then they will feel it is money well spend and well worth it.

    Yes, adding FW, TB and direct PCIe connection over some other protocol would increase time spent developing the firmware to levels I'm not sure they are comfortable with yet. But I feel this is a necessary step if Access wants to sell a product that anyone can use, out of the box, in any system, with no hiccups or headaches, and isn't that what TI is all about?

    What we have now is a synth that claims total integration but isn't totally integrated unless it is in the perfect environment that isn't quite possible to reproduce, and isn't fair to consumers/musicians who have environments that vary drastically. What we have is a fish, which is totally integrated for an aquatic environment, but will die on land. We need an amphibian. We need a mutation.

  • I understand why you've thought of this idea, but I feel I have to bring some logic into the topic:

    "...a product that anyone can use, out of the box, in any system, with no hiccups or headaches". Nothing is perfect; that product does not exist, and your idea won't make it exist. Your peripheral has to interface with "environments that vary drastically".
    So now there are more complications since we have an additional interface between the Virus and your peripheral, and we still have to interface with said environments. I don't think that will work out very well.

    Looking at this from another angle, people seem to have as many or more issues with the DAW aspects of Total Integration, even when using the officially supported DAWs. Nobody is proposing that Access introduce their own DAW though. There is a reason for that, and it applies here as well: people rightfully expect that the Virus should just integrate into a normal setup with minimal effort involved. Also, there would be the likelihood of the Access DAW having issues of its own.

    If you want a system that works out of the box for almost everyone, you actually want Access to implement as little as possible and spend more time on testing and bug fixing. Developing new hardware and software will take away from the time they can devote to that.

    I'd rather see Access focus their efforts on making standard PC interfaces work as perfectly as possible.
    The new technologies you mentioned should really be more than enough to allow for all the needs a new Virus should have.

    The problems stemming from the use of USB 1.1 likely don't have much bearing on the capabilities of the newer technologies to perform sufficiently for a new Virus; it is, after all, the nature of new technologies to differ from old technologies, usually in ways that address the shortcomings of their predecessors.
    Given that USB 1.1 more or less did the job while causing a few issues that didn't affect everyone, one can probably surmise that upgraded USB technology should be enough to eliminate many of those issues.
    Even if the new USB isn't good enough, one of the other technologies should be.

    You mention the MOTU USB/Firewire hybrid - that's an idea I could get behind. There's no reason Access couldn't provide multiple ways to connect a Virus to a PC - but built into the Virus and based on PC standards.

    Adding in "optional" peripherals, though, is just going to cause more problems for people, and probably for Access as well, since it's more hardware and software they have to create and maintain.
    Then there are other issues, for instance, how many people are going to want it? What if Access makes too many and can't get rid of them? What if Access stops making them and you want one?
    What if you use a laptop, is there a version for that? How about tablets (I'm sure somebody will want to use some new DAW that runs on a tablet, crazy as that seems).
    In my opinion, it shouldn't be necessary, and it could be an inconvenience. For myself, installing hardware in a PC is no big deal, but there are those out there that would not want to poke around in one.
    And what if you have multiple systems you might use your Virus on, do you buy a peripheral for each?

  • Very good response noct, and dspears.

    I agree that USB 2.0 or 3.0, whichever they go with, should solve the major issues this generation of Virus TI's have.

    Hopefully they will still consider hybrid connectivity.

    I guess a host card or dongle card would be a little too impractical and bring about its own issues. But should they do widespread testing with the next-gen Virus and they still can't come up with a way to get a stable next-gen Virus Control plugin working on next-gen machines, they should investigate other ways to create a stable connection environment.

    I can see Access as being very comfortable working with USB but I encourage them to test other protocols to see if it makes sense in implementing so that the product is more adaptable. Software development, maintenance and support would be a challenge, I admit, and FW seems to be on its way out. There is no point in adding TB until its a proven commodity too. No sense in having a TB out on the next-gen Virus if in 2 years no computers have TB ports, but luckily the next Virus, if there ever is one, should be out in a long enough period of time that Access will know if TB is here to stay.

    Well, here's to hoping USB 2.0 or 3.0 is stable as a brick sh*t-house, as that is likely to be the basic connection method.

    Oh, one more thing. I agree now that a Virus PCIe card would be pretty redundant for a next-gen Virus given the increase in connection speeds, but it should still be considered for the current gen. A one port PCIe card with all the bits and pieces (not sure what they'd be precisely, convertors of some sort) to make the Virus work flawlessly on any system that has a PCIe slot, or an expresscard for the laptoppers, seems like a good idea. I bet they could work with RME to come up with something great. Although in a way it would be finally admitting that there are widespread issues with the Virus, which I'm not sure they're ready to do anytime soon...

  • "...but it should still be considered for the current gen"

    I do agree that it would be nice to see some such solution.
    However, I'm not sure it is really an option - wouldn't it also be necessary to modify the Virus hardware to interface with such a peripheral?

    While I have been fortunate not to experience any issues with my setup, I share your hope that the new Virus, should we see one, is so stable as to leave such concerns behind.
    It's unfortunate so many have had trouble with the TI series thus far - while I suspect the percentage of users having problems is lower than it might seem from forum posts, I know I had some concerns about this when I bought my TI2 after reading so many such posts.

    The integration is very nice, and seems to be the future for hardware synths. Access was smart enough to see it, and they've made a lot of effort to make it work, but there is always room for improvement.
    I hope they will take advantage of the new technologies if they release a new Virus. I agree, we don't know right now how Thunderbolt will pan out, but that's always the way of things with technology - that's part of the reason I like the hybrid idea, it is more forgiving if one of the technologies falls out of favor. Flexibility is also always nice in general.
    If picking only one technology to support, USB 3.0 is probably the way to go today, as every computer will have that soon enough.
    If USB is what they choose, I seriously hope they go with the new USB - why pick something that will be left behind before the Virus after the next is released?

  • This reminds me of the Philips Digital Compact Cassette Versus Compact Disc argument, Technologies move on, and Virus is no different, it depends on consumer demand at the end of the day... 8)

    Betamax V VHS?... SPDIF V lightpipe, ... i have been through so much technology change, i always think "this is it!" all i need!... even USB 1 was a god send... just accept it and adapt... move on as and when,... manufactureres are just one step ahead of consumers (you and me) so enjoy the ride, as you cannot force a manufacturer to please all the people all the time... and i should know!... :wacko:

  • Hi everyone,

    I would rather suggest going the "Audio over Ethernet" path...

    This technology is getting lots of attention lately by all
    kinds of players. Though there are a bucket load of
    proprietary protocols, the new AVB which is defined
    by the IEEE, is an open standard.

    This way a huge amount of channels can be routed to/from
    the virus, even to multiple computers at the same time,
    and with much longer cable-ranges than possible with
    either usb, firewire or thunderbolt...