USB audio interfaces and virtual machines

Want to talk about music hardware or software that doesn't include Reason?
Posts: 3
Joined: 21 May 2020

Post 21 May 2020

I've been using virtual machines (VirtualBox) for many years now as I think they are quite useful and efficient in permitting to keep the main system as "light" and stable as possible, while using virtual environments, each with its own specific software, for dedicated tasks (a virtual machine for accessing the Internet, another one for graphic work...).
VMs are very easy to backup and restore and also very comfortable to use, thanks to their "snapshot" feature, for any potentially dangerous "testing" (you can roll back with a few clicks in case of failure).

As a music lover I'd always liked to have a virtual machine dedicated to a production environment (DAW, virtual instruments...). I know that obviously performance would be affected, but my needs are quite basic and so that would not be a problem.
The big problem always lay, however, in the inability to directly access the host system's PCI sound card from inside a VM, which leads to the inability to install the Asio drivers.

While that obstacle has remained substantially unchanged over the years, virtual USB interfaces have evolved a lot, so that today a USB device can easily be "attached" to a virtual machine, simply by connecting it to a physical USB port of the host system.
So I thought that maybe, using an USB audio interface, I could finally get there.
Sadly, as I found out, that is true only for some audio interfaces. Many of them don't get detected or, even when regularly detected and identified by the virtual machine, don't allow the following installation of the drivers, or they allow it but then they don't work well, maybe because they are not totally compliant to the USB standards or for other reasons.
Manufacturers, with rare exceptions, do not provide information in this regard, so the only reliable source lies in... users.

So here is, finally, my question to other forum members:
is there anyone who has actually succeeded in such a task with an USB audio interface?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Posts: 212
Joined: 03 May 2020

Post 21 May 2020

I had some success with Win7 in VirtualBox as a dedicated "music PC", with a Behringer interface and ASIO4All as the audio driver, but it became a pain to maintain and trying to create a Win10 version did me in. I got the Focusrite Scarlett interface running with it but MIDI was intermittent, which is not ideal. I seem to recall updating VBox and it breaking the audio drivers so I think it's a case of trying your interfaces.

I've recently switched to use Hyper-V, mostly so the Windows Sandbox is available, and Hyper-V cannot be used with Virtual Box unless you are willing to reboot each time. However, you can convert VBox disks to Hyper-V. I've successfully converted several of my Linux images and also a Windows XP one but I didn't bother with the Win7 one as it's out of date. The XP one is the most interesting because it's basically a snapshot of the music tools I had back then, including Reason 3 and Rebirth. Rebirth is pretty much the only reason to fire it up these days!

Posts: 3
Joined: 21 May 2020

Post 22 May 2020

Thanks for your answer.

Moving to Hyper-V would be a bit of a problem in my case, because I use several VBox VMs.
Also, I'm not very attracted (not at all, to be honest) to the idea of going back to those "multi-boot" configurations I abandoned many years ago just thanks to VMs.

From a practical point of view, anyway, my current biggest problem lies in the fact that "trying your interfaces" (which is very good advice, technically) necessarily requires that you already have interfaces to test with. On the contrary, I do not own any USB audio interface yet; I'd like to buy one and I'm looking for information that could allow me to make a... good choice. :]

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