FAQ - USB MIDI Latency


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Recording music on a computer works differently from analog recording. The notes played with a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) controller are usually sent to the computer with a USB interface. The computer has to process the information from the USB interface into the recording. The information is processed again to send as an audio signal through the speakers, so the recording musician can hear what he or she is playing. This is not an instantaneous process. The delay between the musician pressing a key on the MIDI controller and hearing the sound from the speaker is referred to as latency.

There are two main sources of latency:

1. Audio Interface Latency
All audio in Live is processed in defined parcels of time, called an Audio Buffer. This helps to minimize dropouts or glitches, as the buffer allows time for all events to be smoothed out. The bigger the buffer size, the bigger the latency. In addition, the type of audio driver and the interface you use affect latency.

2. Device / Plug-in Related Latency
Certain plug-ins and processes can add latency. Delay Compensation is used to ensure that all tracks in a set playback in sync with each-other. However this adds latency, especially if there is a device or process in the set with a very high latency amount. You can hover over the title bar of a device to see how much latency it has.

How to Reduce Audio Interface Latency

1. Reduce the buffer size
The smaller the buffer size, the lower the latency. There's a trade-off though, in that lower buffer sizes require more CPU power. Therefore you may notice audio dropouts at lower buffer sizes, depending on the overall CPU load of the set. Here's how to reduce the CPU load in Live.

2. Raise the sample rate
Sample rate refers to the amount of samples which are carried per second. The higher the sample rate, the lower the latency. Higher samples rates however also put additional stress on the CPU.

3. Disable the Audio Input Device
If you're not recording from an external source, then set the Audio Input Device to "No device". This will reduce the overall latency value. Note: It's only possible to select one device as input and output when using the ASIO Driver on Windows.

4. Use ASIO audio drivers on Windows
It's difficult to achieve low buffer sizes when using the default MME/Direct X driver on Windows. Install and use the ASIO driver for your interface. If no native ASIO driver is available for your device use ASIO4ALL instead.

5. Use a dedicated audio interface running native drivers
Dedicated audio interfaces usually have native drivers and offer better sound quality than built in soundcards.

6. Don't use Bluetooth devices or cast audio
Streaming audio wirelessly using Bluetooth or WIFI adds much higher latency. We highly recommended using a cabled (USB/Firewire/Thunderbolt) interface instead, or use cabled headphones.

How to Reduce Device / Plug-in Latency

1. Freeze and flatten plugins and devices which introduce latency
Tracks containing devices which introduce latency should be frozen and flattened to permanently remove the latency. Delay compensation must be active in the Options menu before you freeze and flatten the track.

2. Reset Track Delays
If you adjust a track delay, then every other track in the set is compensated so that everything plays in time. Freeze and flatten any tracks with active track delays.

3. Close the editor window in Max for Live devices
Max for Live devices introduce additional latency when their editor window is open. Close the editor to remove the additional latency.

MIDI App Latency Support
Cubase
FL Studio

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