What is latency and why does it occur?
When it comes to digital audio, some amount of latency is unavoidable. Latency will occur any time a computer has to wait for a signal to be processed. For example, think of playing a MIDI keyboard. There is a small amount of time that passes between you pressing a key, the computer registering that key as a MIDI note, and then the monitors playing that note back for you to hear. Likewise, in the case of DAW Sync, latency occurs because it takes some time for the DAW to send MIDI information, and also for the Soundbrenner app to receive this information and then transmit it to the connected Soundbrenner wearables. The amount of latency present is usually miniscule and therefore unnoticeable to our ears. However, certain hardware or software configurations can sometimes lead to significant amounts of latency, causing the Soundbrenner app and wearables to be noticeably out of sync with your DAW.
How can I fix my DAW's latency issues?
There are several factors that determine how much latency is experienced, including connection type, CPU/memory usage, antivirus sotware, and more. While the specific amount will differ between systems, there are several steps you can take to minimize your latency. This guide applies to all DAWs, regardless of manufacturer or operating system.
Use a Wired Connection
We always recommend using a USB cable to connect your mobile device to your computer. This is because a wired connection will introduce the least amount of latency to your signal flow compared to wireless connections via Bluetooth or WiFi. Because your device is directly connected to your computer with a physical cable, there will be less lag when your DAW communicates with the Soundbrenner app.
Close Unnecessary Background Apps
Having a bunch of programs running in the background will place unwanted stress on your CPU as it has to juggle a variety of different processor tasks simultaneously. For less-capable processors, this can be a large source of latency. You always want to have as little CPU utilization as possible outside of your DAW itself, so that your computer doesn't get bogged down by other apps. If you have large amounts of browser tabs, audio/videos, or even games open in the background, make sure that you shut them down when using your DAW.
Freeze or Disable Unused Plugins
If you have a large project with lots of effects or virtual instruments, you may experience higher amounts of latency due to the lag introduced by having to process so many FX plugins at once. Most DAWs allow you to freeze tracks that are not currently being used. This will temporarily render the selected tracks to audio, so that you can still hear them as they are meant to sound without having to run their respective plugins. When you unfreeze them, their FX chains and settings will be restored.
An example of track freezing in Reaper.
Make sure your antivirus isn't interfering with your DAW
In some cases, antivirus software can cause issues with DAWs and external sync. Make sure that your DAW software is whitelisted and not being blocked.
Update your audio and MIDI drivers
If you have not yet installed the appropriate drivers for your audio or MIDI interface, make sure you do so immediately by visiting the support page of your interface's manufacturer. Not having the proper drivers can cause unwanted latency issues and also prevent you from taking full advantage of your interface's features. For Windows users who do not have an audio interface, download and install ASIO4ALL. This driver emulates ASIO via software and will significantly reduce latency, which tends to be extremely high if you do not have the appropriate hardware. However, we highly recommend purchasing an audio interface for the most optimal experience possible. There are many high-quality, affordable interfaces available for as little as $50.
Adjust your DAW's Buffer Size and/or Sample Rate
Buffer Size and Sample Rate have a large effect on the amount of latency experienced during recording and playback. These settings can be confusing to beginners, so let's go through a brief explanation of what they mean and how they affect latency and sound quality.
A buffer is a storage area located in your computer's physical memory that stores temporary data for the CPU to use. For example, when you record a guitar part through an audio interface, the recorded signal is stored in a buffer until your computer is available to process it. Once the CPU accesses this data, it is again stored in a buffer until it can be transmitted to the next device in the chain, for example headphones or studio monitors. Buffer size is measured in samples.
A lower buffer size means that there is less information stored in the buffer, while a larger buffer size means more information is stored in the buffer. Common buffer sizes range from 32 to 2048 or even 4096 samples (all powers of 2). With smaller buffer sizes, the CPU does not have to wait as long for the buffer to fill up. This means latency is reduced, but also results in more work for the CPU. This is because having a smaller buffer size reduces the amount of information readily available to the CPU, so it may not always have the data it needs to complete its tasks quickly. On the other hand, a larger buffer size will result in better performance but more latency because the buffer takes longer to fill up. Setting the buffer size too low will result in lots of unwanted noise, which is arguably worse than latency. Try setting the buffer size to the smallest number possible without introducing audio artefacts such as crackling or popping.
Sample rate refers to the amount of times your signal is recorded ("sampled") per second. Although higher sample rates theoretically lead to higher audio quality. there is a limit to this rule because humans have a limited hearing range. Two of the most common sample rates are 44.1kHz (44,100 samples per second) and 48kHz (4,800 samples per second). The higher the sample rate, the lower the latency, but your CPU will have to work harder to process all those extra samples per second.
Adjusting buffer size and sample rate in Studio One.
TipTo estimate your total latency, you can simply divide the buffer size by the sample rate. For example, a buffer size of 128 and a sample rate of 48Khz results in an expected latency of 2.67 ms.
What if none of these solutions work?
If all else fails, our Android app has a built-in latency compensation feature. This is less ideal than actually eliminating the additional latency altogether, but it will effectively allow your Soundbrenner wearables to play in time with your DAW. To use this function, go into App Settings and tap "Audio Latency Offset". You can then drag the slider left or right until your device is in sync with the DAW.
Alternatively, if you are on iOS, many DAWs also come with similar tools that you can use to achieve the same effect. For example, if you are using Ableton Link, simply adjust the "Track Delay" parameter on the master track until Live and your Soundbrenner devices are in sync.
Similarly, Reaper allows you to set device-specific latency offsets:
These options are commonly available on the majority of popular DAWs, so you should be able to do so in your DAW of choice without any issues.
The steps outlined above should help you solve any latency issues you might have when syncing Soundbrenner wearables with your DAW.
If you are experiencing other non-latency related issues with your DAW and need help with troubleshooting, please first click the link below for a list of common issues and their solutions. If you have any more questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.