What is audio latency?

Basically, latency when dealing with audio is the time it takes from when you trigger an instrument e.g. press a key and hear the sound from the speaker.  Obviously the lower the better however zero latency is impossible.  A good latency value is said to be anything less than 10 nano seconds.

Latency can be an issue with recording if you have older hardware. Latency can be significantly reduced, not only by using a faster processor but with a decent audio interface. The sound cards that come equipped  or built into most PC’s are normally not good enough for low latency music production.

A decent audio interface can be purchased from around $100, but of course more for the higher end.

Latency on smart devices

I had issues using DAW on the Android powered tablet. I was using FL Studio which is a great DAW and I also use on the PC however it seems that Android devices do not handle latency very well, no matter what processor you have, I had latency of around 0.5 to 0.75 seconds which is rather unacceptable for live playing. I was advised that IOS is much better for handling audio software and has much lower latency. That’s fine because I am happy with sticking to my PC for music production.

ASIO – Audio Stream Input / Output is a necessary driver for providing low latency music so make your your hardware is compatible.


How to reduce Audio Latency

  • Close all other programs running on the computer, apart from those you have open for your audio work. You could even try restarting your computer.
  • Reduce the buffer size inside the sound card’s software and/or your DAW. If the buffer is too low it can cause glitches, and if it’s too high this can cause audible latency, so you’ll have to try different settings that work well with your computer system. The more powerful the system and the better the sound card, the less trouble you’ll potentially have with this buffer size issue.
  • Look at the CPU usage of your system. See if you can increase or decrease the amount of processing power that’s assigned to your DAW.
  • Use zero-latency monitoring. This is a feature of the sound card which bypasses the effects of computer-based latency. You can listen to the input that’s being recorded through the monitors or headphones, before the signal enters the analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog conversion process.
  • Check that your drivers are up-to-date for your sound card.
  • Delete or make inactive some tracks and plugins, or try to make your use of tracks and plugins more efficient. An example would be to try using one or two reverb plugins instead of four or five.




3 thoughts on “What is audio latency?”

  1. Latency sucks for a musician. Basically never use any built in sound cards specially for PCs. Always get an external audio interface.

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