Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency?

Posted by: Fscotte

Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 06:55 AM

I asked this in the wrong forum, but I did get that I need something other than just a laptop.

All I need is ultra low latency to monitor my playing on a laptop while using the big VST programs like Ivory II and Vintage D, others....

I'd really like to get like 4ms or lower.

I have a laptop with i7 processor, 7200 rpm drive, and 4 GB ram.

Is USB interface good?
Posted by: In A Silent Way

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 07:21 AM

Hello,

Last time I checked audio interfaces in a article, Motu Track16 USB seemed to offer the best for a budget around 700$, but you could find some other opinions. Competitors were : Avid Mbox Pro FW, Motu Track16 FW, Focusrite Forte USB, M-Audio ProFire 610, Roland Quad Capture, RMA Babyface USB, Metric Halo ULN8 FW, M-Audio Fast Track C600.

You should be able to get less than 4ms with any of these, but Motu's didn't have an internal buffer of some 32 samples, unlike some competitors.

I own none of these
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 09:46 AM

The most common interfaces I see used here (possibly because they are cheapest that have the requisite capability) are

-- M-Audio FastTrackPro USB
-- Presonus Audiobox USB
-- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Posted by: Bane

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 11:16 AM

How do you expect to get down to 4ms of latency with no clicks, pops, or glitches? Some interfaces have latency-free direct monitoring but otherwise I don't believe this is something even most of the cheaper USB 2.0 interfaces can accomplish successfully.
Posted by: EPW

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 11:28 AM

Here is a list ranking Audio Interfaces.

http://www.dawbench.com/audio-int-lowlatency2.htm

Good read to get a handle on lantency and that the Round Trip Latency RTL is what
really matters in a interface.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 12:35 PM

I agree with Bane. Total latency of 4 ms is beyond the capability of my Presonus box.

Here are the choices given by its ASIO interface:
Code:
                  INPUT   OUTPUT   TOTAL
CHOICE          LATENCY  LATENCY  LATENCY
--------------  -------  -------  -------
Highspeed          2 ms     6 ms    8 ms
Rapid              3 ms     8 ms   11 ms
Fast               3 ms    18 ms   21 ms
Normal             6 ms    30 ms   36 ms
Relaxed Normal    12 ms    49 ms   61 ms
Relaxed           24 ms    69 ms   93 ms

I use the "Fast" setting, with 21 ms total latency. This old, slow laptop can't handle the faster settings.

A modern, faster computer might be able to use the "Highspeed" setting. But the total latency would be 8 ms, more than the 4 ms the OP is looking for.

I don't know whether there are any faster interfaces. But I have to wonder why? My 21 ms latency is quite acceptable. Surely no one needs 4 ms. Or am I missing something?
Posted by: 36251

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 12:50 PM

I use my VST strictly as a sound module. I was considering many different interfaces. In the end a friend suggested the NI Traktor Audio 2. It's promoted for DJ's but from what I read the circuitry was comparable. It's worked out great. My latency is at 6.1ms and the interface is easy to store with my cables. At $99, I decided to try it. Obviously, people using DAWs will want something with more input/outputs.

Here's a link: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/TrakAudio2/
Posted by: EO3

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 01:52 PM

Well, I literally just yesterday "discovered" that Vintage D works just fine with Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 USB when latency is set at 5ms and I find it enough. I think I even could get it down to 4 or 3 if really wanted to.(using OK, but not "high end" laptop by todays standarts)
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 02:12 PM

The latency reported by a software piano does not typically include all the possible sources of latency, and therefore underreports the true latency.

I can easily get below 4ms (reported by galaxy) with my focusrite. I suspect that's true of the other interfaces mentioned here as well.

At the end of the day what matters is that the latency is imperceptible. With any of these interfaces, paired with a decent computer, you will get that.
Posted by: dmd

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 02:27 PM

I just brought up my Galaxy Vintage D software just to see what latency is being reported.

I find ...

Processing 2.0 ms

Output 5.4 ms

overall 7.4 ms

I don't notice any latency problems.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 03:07 PM

I'm guessing that the audio interface doesn't matter much. Instead, latency depends greatly on computer speed.

dmd: What kind/speed of computer are you using to get 5 ms output latency?
Posted by: dmd

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 03:14 PM

Originally Posted By: MacMacMac
dmd: What kind/speed of computer are you using to get 5 ms output latency?



Dell XPS 8300
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)i7-2600 cpu @ 3.40 GHz
RAM: 8 GB
64 bit Operating System

They tell me it is pretty fast.
Posted by: Gatsbee13

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 03:33 PM

Why do you need such a low latency? Can one tell the difference between 5 and say 6.4 ms?
Posted by: Fscotte

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 03:34 PM

Ok sorry but you all just confused me to no end...

Currently, I have an old desktop computer with Athlon 64 (old single core chip), 1 gb of ram, a slow 5400 rpm drive, and an Soundblaster Audigy Soundcard, which I use the asio drivers it came with.

I have the Pianoteq demo and I have my asio latency set to 5 ms. All I am doing is playing the piano through Pianoteq, and with 5ms latency I can still hear the delay, especially when I do slip notes or fast notes.

Now you guys are telling me a laptop even a couple years old, with a brand new audio interface can't even compete with my ancient computer?

Besides that, how to heck do you guys even play piano when you can hear delays?
Posted by: Gatsbee13

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 03:41 PM

Never mind.. I would probably be able to hear the difference after I checked my pianoteq audio options. I now recall having to tweak it after getting my presonus audiobox 22vsl.

I'm currently at 2.9 ms at 44100 Hz sample rate. Not sure if my computer has anything to do with latency, but I can definitely hear the difference between 2.9 ms and 5.

I have a new laptop btw. But I would check with the manufacturer of the audio interface that you decide to buy from if you need a minimum for computer specs.
Posted by: dmd

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 03:43 PM

Originally Posted By: Fscotte
how to heck do you guys even play piano when you can hear delays?



Well, if you are referring to my latency ... I do not hear any delays at all.
Posted by: Gatsbee13

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 03:53 PM

FYI: Minimum Windows PC requirements are Intel Pentium 4, 2.4 GHz processor or AMD Athlon X2, 1gb ram for the Presonus AudioBox 22VSL audio interface.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 04:38 PM

dmd: Your i7 at 3.4 GHz blows the doors off my Core Duo at 1.7 GHz. That explains why you get such low latency.

Gatsbee13: "Can one tell the difference between 5 and say 6.4 ms?"
You can't.

Fscotte: "I have an old ... Athlon 64 single core ... I have the Pianoteq demo and I have my ASIO latency set to 5 ms.
If you can hear the delay, then that 5 msec setting is not correct. I don't question your setting. Rather, I'm questioning the software. It may say 5 msec ... but if you can sense the delay, it must be a good deal more than 5 msec.

Gatsbee13: "I'm currently at 2.9 ms ... I can definitely hear the difference between 2.9 ms and 5."
You might be able to hear a difference when changing between those settings. But that only indicates that the settings are inaccurate. You can't differentiate 2.9 msec from 5 msec. Even when listening to a no latency sound mixed with one delayed 10 msec, you can barely hear the a 10 msec difference.

You can experience that by listening to the piano's native sound (at 0 msec latency), mixed with the computer's slightly-delayed sound. If you get a very mild chorus effect, your latency is VERY low. If it's a strong chorus effect, that's good enough for playing (once you shut off the piano's native sound). If there's a noticeable double-strike ... first the piano then the computer ... your latency is up in the tens of msec range.

As gvfarns pointed out above: "The latency reported by a software piano does not typically include all the possible sources of latency, and therefore underreports the true latency." Remember that the audio interface/sound card has an input latency and an output latency. They are additive. And there are other sources. The total is what counts.

For reference ... my Presonus ASIO control panel is set to 3 msec input latency and 18 msec output latency ... total 21 msec. I get a mild chorus effect when running the test, described above. But with the native sounds turned off the latency is not noticeable, from fingers to ears.

At the next higher ASIO setting (6 + 30 = 36 msec total), the delay is enough to disturb my playing a bit. And anything higher still is unusable.

But note ... these are just the figures claimed by the software. The true figures are probably different, likely higher.
Posted by: kurtie

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 04:55 PM

Originally Posted By: Fscotte
Ok sorry but you all just confused me to no end...

Currently, I have an old desktop computer with Athlon 64 (old single core chip), 1 gb of ram, a slow 5400 rpm drive, and an Soundblaster Audigy Soundcard, which I use the asio drivers it came with.

I have the Pianoteq demo and I have my asio latency set to 5 ms. All I am doing is playing the piano through Pianoteq, and with 5ms latency I can still hear the delay, especially when I do slip notes or fast notes.

Now you guys are telling me a laptop even a couple years old, with a brand new audio interface can't even compete with my ancient computer?

Besides that, how to heck do you guys even play piano when you can hear delays?


5ms is half a hundredth of a second. The majority of human beings are not able to perceive such low latency. Maybe you have a very sharp perception, but probably what happens here is that the total latency is greater than 5ms.

You are probably looking at the "audio buffer size". That is just a part of the story. This number is reported because is easy to calculate but there are other latencies hidden in the system and are not so easily calculable. If you want to get a more reliable measure of latency use a software like this one (it's free):

http://www.oblique-audio.com/free/rtlutility

Yo will have to make a loop between your input and output and it will give you the input + output latency, not only the output latency (that is what you really want), but I'd bet that you will see quite higher numbers than 5ms.

By the way, if you use headphones is not required, but when using speakers also take into account the distance the sound has to travel before reaching your ears. Roughly calculated, at the speed of sound each foot takes 1 milisecond.

Regards,
Kurt.-
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 05:20 PM

I noticed with certain setups that if I set the latency too low(~5ms) the response got 'lumpy' and relaxing the latency caused the response to tighten up.
This was when using massive gigabit libraries.
Posted by: dmd

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 05:25 PM

Originally Posted By: emenelton
I noticed with certain setups that if I set the latency too low(~5ms) the response got 'lumpy' and relaxing the latency caused the response to tighten up.
This was when using massive gigabit libraries.


From the little I know about it, I think you achieve low latency by reducing the size of the buffer, from which the software accesses tones very fast. If you make that buffer too small the software has to access the disc more often to get data and that results in skips or actually may add to the latency. .... Something like that.
Posted by: Fscotte

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 05:56 PM

Originally Posted By: kurtie
Originally Posted By: Fscotte
Ok sorry but you all just confused me to no end...

Currently, I have an old desktop computer with Athlon 64 (old single core chip), 1 gb of ram, a slow 5400 rpm drive, and an Soundblaster Audigy Soundcard, which I use the asio drivers it came with.

I have the Pianoteq demo and I have my asio latency set to 5 ms. All I am doing is playing the piano through Pianoteq, and with 5ms latency I can still hear the delay, especially when I do slip notes or fast notes.

Now you guys are telling me a laptop even a couple years old, with a brand new audio interface can't even compete with my ancient computer?

Besides that, how to heck do you guys even play piano when you can hear delays?


5ms is half a hundredth of a second. The majority of human beings are not able to perceive such low latency. Maybe you have a very sharp perception, but probably what happens here is that the total latency is greater than 5ms.

You are probably looking at the "audio buffer size". That is just a part of the story. This number is reported because is easy to calculate but there are other latencies hidden in the system and are not so easily calculable. If you want to get a more reliable measure of latency use a software like this one (it's free):

http://www.oblique-audio.com/free/rtlutility

Yo will have to make a loop between your input and output and it will give you the input + output latency, not only the output latency (that is what you really want), but I'd bet that you will see quite higher numbers than 5ms.

By the way, if you use headphones is not required, but when using speakers also take into account the distance the sound has to travel before reaching your ears. Roughly calculated, at the speed of sound each foot takes 1 milisecond.

Regards,
Kurt.-



Well this has to be it then. I've always just looked at the latency setting in the Creative Labs asio setting. There must be additional latency somewhere then. All I know is that if it's 5ms I can sense it in my playing, and even when I use to overdub guitar tracks. If it was at 4 or even less, it was perfect.
Posted by: Bane

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 09:14 PM

This is a good read about system latency causes, fixes, etc. by Presonus.

Just thought I would share: http://www.presonus.com/community/Learn/The-Truth-About-Digital-Audio-Latency
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/30/13 09:57 PM

That's a great article, thanks Bane!

James
x
Posted by: EO3

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/31/13 06:59 AM

But how this all corresponds to the end recording? If I play VST "live" and record it as MIDI, if I don't hear latency in my headphones, it's safe to say that the end recording also will not have latency that's audible by listener, right?
Posted by: dmd

Re: Audio interface to monitor playing with low latency? - 01/31/13 07:19 AM

Originally Posted By: EO3
But how this all corresponds to the end recording? If I play VST "live" and record it as MIDI, if I don't hear latency in my headphones, it's safe to say that the end recording also will not have latency that's audible by listener, right?


It would seem that latency is only detected when comparing the sound you are hearing to some other event that you associate with that sound (i.e. the press of the key). If the listener cannot see they keypress, he knows nothing of any latency.

On the other hand, if you were playing solo piano along with a background track, then the timing between the two might be noticeablly off as a result of latency.