What Is Latency In Music?

by Victoria RoblesFebruary 2, 2024

Audio latency is the amount of time it takes for your audio or MIDI signal to be sent into your interface or computer. Then, the signal is sent through an analog to digital converters into your DAW and back into your interface. Then have it be converted back into analog to your outputs. 

This can cause issues with timing in recordings and live performances. Musicians must understand this concept so they can avoid these problems when recording their music.

What Causes It?

Latency in live performance occurs naturally from the speed of sound. It takes sound about three milliseconds to travel 1 meter. Small amounts of latency occur between performers depending on how they are spaced and stage monitors if these are used. 

What Problems Can It Cause?

If a performer has to stand too close to a monitor, there will be an echo effect because the sound coming directly back from the monitor is delayed by more than 3 ms. This can cause problems for performers who have trouble hearing clearly when standing near a loud monitor or speakers.

How To Fix It?

You can fix latency in your music by lowering the buffer size to as low as possible. But if you have lots of active plugins and tracks, which you’ll usually have during the mixing stage, then a low buffer can cause system issues, so you’ll have to raise the buffer size again. A latency of 23ms or more is perfectly acceptable with most sounds.

What Is Good Latency?

The lower the latency, the better. You want that delay between when you hit a note on your guitar or keyboard and when it comes out of your speakers as short as possible. That way, there’s no lag in what you hear versus what you played, which can be very distracting if not downright frustrating.

These are the things that you should know about latency if you are into music. To learn more about music and history, visit us at www.sftradjazz.org.

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