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Tweak your Soundcard Latency

By groovewerx
Mar 25, 2002
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  1. In order to lower your soundcard latency, you must first understand what latency is and why it occurs...

    Latency is the product of several system variables which occur in this order:

    1. The A/D (Analogue to Digital) conversion necessary to get the audio into the soundcard takes time...it can't be done instantly...

    2. The audio must be 'buffered' to ensure consistant timing. This involves reading a short time ahead of the current audble position and storing this 'advanced' audio in memory. This is the main cause of latency.

    3. The audio must be routed inside the PC to the relevant application e.g. Cubase.

    4. The audio application must apply it's effects to the audio stream.

    5. The audio must then be routed back out to the soundcard.

    6. The D/A (Digital to Analogue) conversion necessary to output the audio from the soundcard takes time though not as much time as A/D conversion.



    As stated above, the buffer time is the prime component of soundcard latency...most soundcard drivers allow the user to configure the number and size of the buffers...the better the design of your soundcard, the lower your buffer number and size can be and thus the lower the latency you can achieve. In Cubase, the menu item 'Options' has a sub-menu called 'Audio Options' from which you can select 'System'. This will lead to the driver configuration dialogue which in turn has an 'ASIO Control Panel'. In this dialogue, you can set the number and size of the buffers which is basically control over the latency of your soundcard. Some soundcards may have configuration utilities which are installed along with their drivers (e.g. RME Hammerfall) or software.

    I must state at this point that latency has basically nothing to do with your CPU speed, amount of RAM or Hard-Disk speed. It is almost entirely a function of the number and size of buffers your soundcard uses. So, in order to lower your latency, you must experiment with the number and size of these buffers...some soundcards do not allow this with certain drivers.
     
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