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6. What is Latency?

It takes a certain amount of time for
AudioGenerally used to mean "sound"; technically it describes periodic fluctuations of air pressure or electrical energy at frequencies and amplitudes within the human range of hearing; sound, or electrical energy that represents sound; acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves.
audio
data to travel from the outside world, over a
BusIn audio mixers, a routing path combining a number of audio channels into a single channel or single event. In computers, the data stream to which a number of similar devices (PCI, USB etc.) are connected.
bus
, and into the computer. There’s the sampling and conversion to whole values, the communication with the
DriverComputer software that provides a specific communication link between the operating system and a hardware device such as a sound card or MIDI interface, Steinberg's ASIO driver and Windows' Multimedia drivers being common examples. The driver may need to be installed from a CD included with the device or downloaded from the manufacturer's website.
driver
, the negotiation with the operating system, and finally the processing by the software – all of this takes time. We call this time
DelayAn outboard unit used to create time dependent effects where a source signal is sampled/recorded and replayed later by a adjustable amount, either singly or in multiples. The amount of delay results in a range of effects from chorus and slap back to rhythmic echo. Also used for time correction in large PA systems.
delay
“latency”.

Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
Latency
is further complicated by the fact that the data flowing into the computer over the
BusIn audio mixers, a routing path combining a number of audio channels into a single channel or single event. In computers, the data stream to which a number of similar devices (PCI, USB etc.) are connected.
bus
must be regulated to prevent loss or disorder. It needs a built-in block of thinking time to ensure a constant stream of data – this is called a “buffer”. The
BufferA small piece of memory where data is stored temporarily on its way to and from processing. Buffers are used to smooth and regulate data flow into a steady stream to ensure synchronisation. Commonly found in hard drives and also in relation to soundcard drivers and the speed of audio data through a system.
buffer
fills with data, and gives the computer the breathing space to organise the stream properly and prevent any gaps or loss of data. A larger
BufferA small piece of memory where data is stored temporarily on its way to and from processing. Buffers are used to smooth and regulate data flow into a steady stream to ensure synchronisation. Commonly found in hard drives and also in relation to soundcard drivers and the speed of audio data through a system.
buffer
will increase the amount of data the computer can successfully cope with, but this in turn increases the
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
, so in order to reduce the
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
, the
BufferA small piece of memory where data is stored temporarily on its way to and from processing. Buffers are used to smooth and regulate data flow into a steady stream to ensure synchronisation. Commonly found in hard drives and also in relation to soundcard drivers and the speed of audio data through a system.
buffer
must be made smaller, which in turn makes the computer work harder to maintain the stream.

There’s a balance going on between the buffers and the processor, between the number of possible
AudioGenerally used to mean "sound"; technically it describes periodic fluctuations of air pressure or electrical energy at frequencies and amplitudes within the human range of hearing; sound, or electrical energy that represents sound; acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves.
audio
channels and speed of response. Make the buffers too small and the
AudioGenerally used to mean "sound"; technically it describes periodic fluctuations of air pressure or electrical energy at frequencies and amplitudes within the human range of hearing; sound, or electrical energy that represents sound; acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves.
audio
will pop and click, as the processor tries frantically to cope with the speed of the data flowing through. Make the buffers too large and the responsiveness of the software appears sluggish and unintuitive, and
DelayAn outboard unit used to create time dependent effects where a source signal is sampled/recorded and replayed later by a adjustable amount, either singly or in multiples. The amount of delay results in a range of effects from chorus and slap back to rhythmic echo. Also used for time correction in large PA systems.
delays
can be heard when monitoring.

When is
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
Latency
a Problem?

DelayAn outboard unit used to create time dependent effects where a source signal is sampled/recorded and replayed later by a adjustable amount, either singly or in multiples. The amount of delay results in a range of effects from chorus and slap back to rhythmic echo. Also used for time correction in large PA systems.
Delays
are not always a problem, and in fact most people don’t really experience the
EffectsGeneral term applied to audio processors for dynamics, time, ambience and equalisation whether in the form of 19" rack units, guitar floor pedals, or software plug-ins.
effects
of
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
with modern systems. Few people would notice a 3ms
DelayAn outboard unit used to create time dependent effects where a source signal is sampled/recorded and replayed later by a adjustable amount, either singly or in multiples. The amount of delay results in a range of effects from chorus and slap back to rhythmic echo. Also used for time correction in large PA systems.
delay
, which is a common high performance setting, and to put it in context it’s the sort of
DelayAn outboard unit used to create time dependent effects where a source signal is sampled/recorded and replayed later by a adjustable amount, either singly or in multiples. The amount of delay results in a range of effects from chorus and slap back to rhythmic echo. Also used for time correction in large PA systems.
delay
you’d experience by standing six feet from your guitar
AmpereUnit of current; the amount of electricity flowing through a conductor. One Ampere is equal to the flow of 6.25x10^18 electrons through a conductor in one second.
amp
. Once the
DelayAn outboard unit used to create time dependent effects where a source signal is sampled/recorded and replayed later by a adjustable amount, either singly or in multiples. The amount of delay results in a range of effects from chorus and slap back to rhythmic echo. Also used for time correction in large PA systems.
delay
gets up past 10ms then the brain starts to notice the lag.

There are a couple of situations where
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
can be a problem. The first is when monitoring
AudioGenerally used to mean "sound"; technically it describes periodic fluctuations of air pressure or electrical energy at frequencies and amplitudes within the human range of hearing; sound, or electrical energy that represents sound; acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves.
audio
through your software. For instance, you might be recording vocals with a singer who wants to
Monitor1) Recording studio loudspeaker. 2) Stage loudspeaker, usually wedge-shaped, facing the performers so that they may hear themselves. 3) Computer display screen.
monitor
their voice with
ReverbReverb is an effect that simulates the reflection of sound waves from the surfaces of an enclosed area such as a room or hall. After the initial direct sound arrives at the listener, reflections from the surrounding surfaces follow and gradually decrease in intensity as they are absorbed.
reverb
on, so you’ve not just got the
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
of your system, you’ve also got the added processing time of the
ReverbReverb is an effect that simulates the reflection of sound waves from the surfaces of an enclosed area such as a room or hall. After the initial direct sound arrives at the listener, reflections from the surrounding surfaces follow and gradually decrease in intensity as they are absorbed.
reverb
plug-in. If the
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
is too high, then their voice will be out of sync with what they hear in the headphones – highly off-putting!.
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
Latency
can also be a problem when using virtual instruments – software synthesisers – that can be played live from a keyboard. If the
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
is too high then there’ll be a
DelayAn outboard unit used to create time dependent effects where a source signal is sampled/recorded and replayed later by a adjustable amount, either singly or in multiples. The amount of delay results in a range of effects from chorus and slap back to rhythmic echo. Also used for time correction in large PA systems.
delay
between striking a
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
and hearing a sound, and that can make playing impossible.

Finding the balance between
Access TimeRefers to the time it takes for a computer or digital music device to respond to a command. When using digital musical equipment, access time can represent a delay between striking the note and the note actually sounding. The term can also refer to the speed at which a computer drive writes or presents the data stored on it, where access time is governed by the spindle speed, (e.g. 4,200 RPM averages 7.14ms latency).
latency
and the processing power of your computer is the
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
to a stable, usable studio.

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