DAWS and Latency Issues
something going wrong with buffer size and latency one of the most common troubleshooting problems for home music production DAWs is crackly or mistimed sound. A range of latency problems occur if the wrong buffer size is set for your audio interface. Even if you keep your system clean and running well, you may get crackle and glitch on your recording or your MIDI notes may not input or play back on time. In extreme cases your DAW might crash completely.What is a buffer and why does it need to be a specific size? Why is latency such a big issue?
The route all recorded or internally generated audio in a computer setup needs to make a long journey along a signal path. It starts at the input device, travels through cables connected to the computer and into the DAWs rendering algorithms before coming out of the monitor speakers. The length of time between you inputting an audio or MIDI signal and the computer returning it in the form of an audio track or virtual instrument output is affected by the buffer size. Latency is therefore defined as being the larger the buffer size the longer the process takes. Setting a small buffer will result in short latency whereas a DAW/Audio interface set to a larger buffer size has a long latency. Latency is manifested as the time taken between you pressing a key on your MIDI keyboard and the speakers giving back the resultant sound. Anything over 10 milliseconds becomes more noticeable so you would prefer this to be as brief as possible. The buffer size is measures in samples.
These types of problems are unacceptable for professionalmusicians. Setting the buffer is a balancing act. If you set the buffer too large and you run into problems with playing in time as the computer takes its time stably processing everything. Too small and your DAW won’t be able to process the incoming signal fast enough resulting in a crackly recording or dropping them out completely.
Use large buffers when you are not actually inputting anything. The large buffer would therefore be used when mixing because latency is irrelevant and there is no reason not to go for maximum stability.
Your audio and DAW software dictates the settings for buffer size and latency. You must ensure you have the correct ASIO, (Audio Steam In/Out) driver for your sound card or audio interface. This links the card directly to your ASIO-compatible DAW so that no other audio setting gets in the way.
It can be irritating when buffers act up. Thankfully it is quite simple to get the balance right between stability and buffer latency.
Setting buffer size is easy on most DAWS as it is located in Preferences, Tools or Option screen. You will always find it close to the menu in which you select your input device or sound card.It could also be hidden in a separate sub-menu with some DAWs but should be easy to find.
Crackly audio coming back through your monitoring setup is the most common problem with buffer size. By raising the buffer size a few notches, say 128, 256 or 512 samples should give very low latency but even 1024 should be usable to fix this problem. A 5048 sample is also available on some audio interfaces but you should never need to go so high.
If the problem is high latency causing severely lagging audio, you need to reduce the buffer size gradually. You need to proceed with caution as most DAWS have their default size set fairly low to start with. Take the buffer size up a notch as soon as the signal starts to break up. That should be your minimum setting for your current circumstances.
DAW may need to be restarted to apply changes to buffer size with many audio interfaces. You can save yourself a step by using the control panel of the interface instead prior to launching your DAW. The size of the buffer should be displayed in a prominent place.
Next to the buffer size you might see your input and output latency listed in milliseconds, which is very useful. You should be aiming for between 4 and 9 milliseconds on each.
Most DAWS offer some helpful hints to keep your latency at an acceptable low level so check the options and checkboxes around your buffer size menu. These will vary depending on the program you use but LOGIC includes an I/O Safety Buffer option. This enables fine-tuning of buffer size which is good when you need more control. Cubase also has a unique option called Constrain Delay Compensation. This compensates for the delay caused by monitoring software instruments. This is shown as an icon, a little clock button at the top left of the toolbar.