'Disk can't keep up with Ardour' errors

I’ve been fighting with the error that reports something like “Disk cannot keep up with Adour”. It is very frustrating because Ardour will be tracking fine and just seem to randomly quit and give me a dialog with this error.

All I’m doing with Ardour (so far) is tracking the band in rehearsal with a Yeti USB mic in stereo mode. I will record our originals in rehearsals, then, after rehearsal, clean up the tracks, eq, Jamin, reverb, and export for conversion to MP3 files to burn on a disk and listen to in the car. This has been a great tool for developing our original songs.

For now, I’ve adjusted my workflow and am using Audacity to track. I set this up with a fresh Ubuntu 12.4 install and tried it last rehearsal with no disk writing issues. It’s not convenient since I then have to export the tracks from Audacity and the import them into Ardour to do my tweaking.

I have to say that I am super impressed with Ardour and have learned a ton since starting to work with it about 6 months ago. Also, I really want to resolve the issue I have so I can do everything in Ardour. I also have thoughts about doing some more formal recordings of the band as I learn more. So, I am going to post a bunch of info on my set up and what I have tried to resolve it in case someone in the community thinks they know where I have screwed up or overlooked the solution. . . .

My hardware: Second hand Dell Latitude E6400, Core duo - 2.67, 2G ram, 180G (or so) HD. Yeti USB mic. And that’s about it. Pretty basic set-up.

OS: I have tried Ubuntu Studio (10.10), DreamStudio (11.4), and currently running the current AVLinux.

I have the drive partitioned with OSs on small partitions and one large partition used for project files.

Now, I know a laptop with a USB interface with a single HD for both the OS and the project files is not the ideal set-up, but, remember, all I’m doing to live recording of one stereo track.

I tried using a 8G flash drive for the project files because I read one claim that vibration from the music can cause the HD to get confused (specifically, parking due to sensing of vibration) and respond more slowly. Switching to the flash drive did not resolve the issue.

I’ve tried adjusting the CPU scaling control based on a suggestion from the IRC. No luck.

I’ve tried multiple Linux implementations (see above) with no luck.

I’ve adjusted Jack settings multiple times. For what I’m doing, I don’t care about latency so I have used fairly conservative settings. My latest settings were 512/3.

I’ve probably missed some things I have tried but I can’t think of them now.

Am I missing something fundamental? Is the error message misleading me to some extent?

I would be happy to provide additional troubleshooting details.



Thanks everyone for you input!

I would be more careful with placing a laptop on top of an amp, those things have electromagnetic transformers that can screw up your HD, especially if it’s a big amp like a stack marshall or alike.

Friends - Sorry I haven’t checked back in on this for a while. Due to some weird band stuff, we haven’t rehearsed since I started this thread so I haven’t had a chance to see if I can apply some of the wisdom gained here to solve this problem. We will be starting up again on July 11 and I will report back then.

Spearson - I really doubt that the USB drive is vibrating enough to cause intermittent connection issues but that’s an interesting thought.

If anyone is interested in listening to some of the single-mic, live recordings I have of the band using Ardour/Calf reverb/Calf compressor/Jamin, please search on Facebook or ReverbNation for “Castlewood”, listen, ‘like’ and leave some comments. I have grand plans to do some real tracking and mixing of our songs but for now, I’m using this as song development tool. A lot of our songs just come out of rehearsal jams that would be forgotten if we didn’t have the ‘tape rolling’.

Take care.

Good point, Joe. It’s a 4u rack with a pre, compressor, and power amp. Probably some electromag stuff going on there. Another reason to move the laptop!

Just a thought about the USB drive –

If the the vibrations from the bass can cause problems for the read/write arm/head of a hard disk drive, they are strong enough to vibrate the USB socket to create momentary disconnects if the thumb drive is a little loose in the USB socket.

@spearson: That’s highly unlikely. There’s no need to complicate the issue - its actually really simple - the hard disk won’t work reliably placed on top of a bass rig, and substituting it with a USB thumb drive will yield the same problems (irrespective of vibration) because the USB drive is too slow. The easiest solution is to move the computer to a place where it’s not being shaken to bits.

or, as we tech types prefer to put it, where its not having its bits shaken in two :slight_smile:

There’s a fascinating article somewhere describing how someone could slow a computer system down by shouting at the hard disk drive. The vibration causes read errors which mean re-reads and delay. I suppose if the disk is writing at the time the effect is even worse.

I know they are still a bit expensive, but SSDs could be a useful solution to the combined problems of drive speed and acoustic interference. SATA III SSDs will read and write at over 500MB/s and have no head seek or or rotational latency, and of course they have no moving parts to be affected by acoustic interference.

P.S. Here’s the shouting/vibration story on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDacjrSCeq4


the laptop generally sits on top of my bass rig. . .

Is almost certainly going to cause you problems. If you increase the buffer size, you might get around the problem, but I would be concerned about how long your disk drive will put up with the vibration, which seems to be the real issue, before it fails completely.

linuxdsp - Thanks for your comments. I had considered that maybe Paul put some kind of filter in Ardour that was making some judgment of the quality of our music ;-). But seriously, we are a rock band and rehearse at full volume in a small space and the laptop generally sits on top of my bass rig. . . .hmmmmm. Since it would seem plausible that there are 2 different root causes here, I will definitely take another look at the possibility that I’m having a physical issue with my HD.

I will try isolating the computer with some foam and/or moving it off my rig. Before I do that, what about the buffer adjustment? Do you think simply lengthening the buffer would be enough to resolve this? I guess I don’t really know what the drive does with it decides that there is too much vibration to operate properly.

Regarding the USB mic. . . I have to say, I am amazed at what I have learned from this community since first discovering Ardour. This includes the fact that USB sucks for audio and why that is. I get that. I realize that if/when I get much beyond what I’m doing now, I will need to consider a proper interface in a desktop rig. But, for now, I (and my band mates) are very happy with the results we are getting with the limited set-up I have now. With this set up, a little verb in Ardour and some eq/comp/limiting in Jamin, we get recordings that serve our need to document the development of our original songs, give us something to listen too between rehearsals, and, occasionally, post a track or two on our Facebook page.

@Aaron: From what you say, you are almost certainly getting the same error for two different reasons. If you can record to HD without errors, and the problems only arise when the band is playing then, either Ardour doesn’t like your music (unlikely) or some aspect of acoustic noise and vibration is affecting the disk (much more likely)

If you record to a USB flash drive, you may get the same errors because writing to a USB (flash) drive is almost always much much slower (irrespective of whether the USB bandwidth is an issue - the actual write operation the device performs is going to take longer, which can be a function of both the flash drive’s internal control interface / logic and the flash memory it uses)

Another thing to be aware of is that while it may not be the cause of these particular problems, you would improve the ‘health’ of your setup if you used something other than a USB mic (these often seem like a cost effective solution, but for many technical reasons, are often a complete abomination for any kind of serious recording)

Thanks seablade. I have done this and thought I had everything sorted out only to get the error once I actually start recording rehearsal. . . which lends credence to the theory that high-volume bass frequencies are physically impacting the drive but then I get the same error when recording to a USB stick. Now that I have more time, I may just try to do some more testing here. I don’t have the actual mic here but I do have a USB Wii mic I can use to simulate. Do you suppose that if I am recording to a USB stick, and there is heavy traffic interfering with the writing, that this might look the same to Ardour as a problem with a HD and therefore Ardour reports the same error? Could be that there are 2 separate root causes being reported the same by Ardour.

In any case, based on my limited understanding, it would seem, regardless of the root cause, that increasing the disk buffer size can only help.

OK. This helps. I will report back after tonight’s rehearsal. Thanks again for all the input.

Rehearsal cancelled tonight. It will be at least until next week until I can test.

You can test by recording silence on all tracks if you want. What this won’t test is if traffic on the USB bus is your cause, so I wouldn’t use a USB drive for it, but otherwise recording silence in a session will provide some testing for this as it will still be recording the same amount of data to disk.


Start using Ardour3 and try adjusting the amount of disk buffering that is used for each track (under the Audio tab of the Preferences window accessed via Edit -> Preferences). The issue has nothing to do with JACK and everything to do with disk I/O. Being able to dynamically adjust the amount of buffering is a new feature of Ardour 3 (compared to Ardour 2) and it exists precisely to deal with issues like this.

OK. Thanks Paul. I did notice the disk buffering adjustment feature in the A3 list and wondered if this would address my issue. I will try this and provide some feedback. Thanks!

Also, would a ‘general performance error’ be reported as ‘disk can’t keep up with Ardour’? It would help if I knew exactly what system conditions would be reported as ‘disk can’t keep up with Ardour’.

For what I’m doing right now, it is always a single stereo track using a stereo USB mic (Blue Yeti). I had considered that bus traffic could be causing this since the USB mic and the thumb drive are both on the USB bus. However, this wouldn’t explain why I get the error when writing to a HD (on the same disk but on another partition). I suppose it’s possible that the disk error has different root causes depending on whether I’m writing to a USB thumb drive or a HD but it seems unlikely. I recorded my last rehearsal, 12 songs in all, without a single error with Audacity so I have to believe the error is somewhere in the way Ardour handles the disk I/O with this particular hardware (Dell Latitude E6400). I think Audacity chops up the audio files into pieces, not single wav files - maybe this is a strategy to overcome disk I/O limitations?? Please know, however, that I am speculating in an area where I have only minimal knowledge, but it would seem that what I’m doing should not be pushing the capabilities of the hardware.

I have a rehearsal scheduled for tonight and I will try A3 with a longer record buffer and will post my results.