Product icon Help book icon Sound Mill X3 : User's Guide

Performance and Limitations

Streaming Media

Streaming indicator

Sound Mill allows adding streaming media URIs (Web links) which can allow you to play Web radio, podcasts, music and other Internet content. Be aware that some Internet sites implement connection barriers to prevent their content from being streamed by non-approved media players.

Driver Support for HTTP/HTTPS Web Links

Connection Not Guaranteed

There is no guarantee that Web streams will operate exactly the same as hard-drive based media. Network bandwidth and connection stability can be a factor. Suffice to say that Internet communications and data transfer introduce some extra complexities beyond that of local hard-drive access. You may find some streams that take two or three attempts to connect or will not connect at all. More on that below.

Limited Sound Mill Features Function

Streaming media is limited in terms of program features that will work. If the stream is well behaved (see Streaming Media Consistency section below), these Play Control buttons should work: Play, Stop, Pause, Resume . There are additional features in the Play Modifiers that may work depending on the media format. And some features such as Pause / Resume may behave differently based on the stream format.

Pause/Resume Behavior Consistency

Stream behavior and functionality can be very much hit or miss. Not all stream formats are created equal. That means that Stop/Pause/Resume may not behave the same way for different formats. Some stream formats will pause the stream feed and resume at the point it was pause -- not dropping any content. Other formats may simply drop any content that streams by while the program is paused.

In fact we found one test stream that did not even respond to the Stop button -- that Stream was stopped by Actions > Halt All Sounds. Apple formats were more prone to ill-behavior in our testing -- not surprizing since our media drivers are Windows based.

Load Times

Load time will depend on multiple factors: Your computer's Internet bandwidth; The streaming media server's current user load (number of people hitting their server at a given time); media server's speed; and more. We also found some streams took two or three attempts to load -- by clicking Stop , then Play again.

Media Length

There is a subtle difference between media files (ie MP3) that reside on a server and streamed content such as live Web Radio broadcasts. The MP3 file has an inherent length (time duration), where as the Web Radio stream length is theoretically infinity (no beginning or end). So program features that depend on having a known time length for the media may not work (ex. position scrubber bar) for the Web Radio stream.

Automation Issues

You can make a playlist (Automation script) of Web based audio files and it should play fine. But avoid Script Steps that play Web Radio stream content (see Media Length section above). Those type of streams will not report end of media has been reached, so your script will continue to wait for an end of media signal indefinitely. Any subsequent steps in your script will not get executed.

Notable Feature Limitations
    Key feature limitations of streaming media.
  • Play Position Scrubber Track bar - The scrubber bar does not work for all streams (see Media Length section above).
  • Play Modifiers - Only some of the Sound Item Play Modifiers will work with streams. And the ones that do work depend on how well behaved the stream is. These Play Modifiers worked in our testing: Fade Markers, Pre-Delay, Start-At Marker, End-At Marker. You'll just have to test to see if a Play Modifier will work for a given stream.
  • Internet Radio Links - Some Internet streaming sites do not want you streaming thier content with your own player. They may hide their streaming Web links making them difficult to find. They may use redirects or dynamic Web links that change on some regular basis. And they may encode their stream with DRM encryption. Also read their terms of service and copyright notice.

Performance and Our Benchmarking

We recommend that you first install the program in trial mode on your target machine to see how it performs. Feel free to request a 30-day evaluation key. There are many things that will affect performance: CPU speed and number of cores, hard disk seek/read speed, system bus speed, RAM memory speed, amount of RAM, operating system in use, OS services running, other programs running such as antivirus, and more.

One customer uses the program to pipe sound tracks to eleven (11) different zones in a Haunted Mansion venue simultaneously. The production machine is an old Intel Pentium 4 desktop computer with USB soundcards connected to a USB Hub. Sound Mill will take advantage of multi-core CPUs via threading. We have tested the program on a low end tower machine with Intel Pentium 4 CPU 1.6 Ghz, 768MB DDR RAM (memory) with bus speed of 266Mhz. There was no discernable degradation to sound quality on this slower machine and audio play was instantaneous when clicking the Play button.

One note on Netbook machines. If the Netbook comes with Windows 7 Starter edition (which is not supported by our products), you would need to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium edition.

Disable Anti-Virus and/or Firewall

You may get a quicker audio start by disabling your anti-virus (AV) program during shows. AV may be scanning the Media File before it allow the program to open it. The same may be true of your firewall if you are playing Web streaming audio.

Limitations and Exceptions

The following are limits and exceptions to normal operating behavior as described in the Help document.

  • Sound List Size limit - We have stress tested with Sound Lists of about 21,000 Sound Items and 1,500 automation Scripts with no noticable performance degradation. A list this size took about 30 seconds to open -- so be patient with large lists. Importing large Sound Lists can also take a bit of time, again be patient. The theoretical limit for number of Sound Items is far higher than 20,000 but depending on your system you will eventually hit a practical limit. Each simple Sound Item (no long descriptions) will take up about 1K (K=1,000) to 1.5K bytes of space on the hard disk. For example, our test Sound List of 21,000 Sound Items takes up 29 MB (Megabytes) on harddisk. The 29 MB Sound List when loaded into system memory consumed 72 MB of RAM. Very few users will ever need lists this large.
  • MIDI cannot play concurrently - Midi audio files will not play concurrently (multiple Midi audio at one time). The MP driver Midi engine is apparently single threaded for Midi play. If you start two midi files playing at the same time on the same output device, you will only hear the first Midi file. The second Midi will advance its play position but is inaudible. When the first Midi finishes playing, the second Midi will become audible. Other audio formats will play concurrent with a Midi file.
  • Wav audio format - Not all WAV files are created equal. WAV format has evolved over the years. Some very old wav files may not play with the codecs used with the program. If you need the audio, you can try to convert it to a modern Wav format. There are many audio conversion programs available on the Web. Some are free.
  • Video formats will play audio only - You can play video formats such as WMV and MPEG, but only the audio portion of the file will play. The video is currently ignored.
  • Media File size limit - In our testing, we successfully loaded Wav files of about 100 Megabytes. File sizes will depend on your computer configuration, mostly a factor of total available RAM (system memory). If a file fails to load, try shutting down unused computer services that are occupying memory. Or convert the audio to a lossy, compressed format like MP3.

iTunes M4P Files and DRM Issues

Media Files that you download from iTunes (M4P file Extension ) are copy protected using a proprietary Apple Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. They cannot be played anywhere other than your iTunes player. If you upgrade to iTunes Plus (not free), iTunes allows you to download M4A files (non-DRM format, M4A file Extension ). We have tested and verified that M4A files can be played by Sound Mill -- verified on a test machine with the K-Lite codec package installed. There are other alternatives to "Convert from Apple iTunes Format" which you can find by Web search.