Latency with every new laptop I've tried: How do I get back to home recording?

I play guitar and love to write little songs and record them, but for years I’ve been stymied because no modern laptops can handle real-time recording, and I’m baffled.

My previous laptop was an HP Spectre i7 that had bad latency issues.

After that was a Sager muscle-machine gaming laptop with another i7 and 12gb ram.

My newest laptop is a Gigabyte Aero 15 with a beastly i7 and 16gb ram (soon to be upgraded to more ram).

The Aero has no programs added yet, but Latency Mon says it cannot handle real-time recording if I open FireFox while the Latency Monitor is running. I don’t get it. Why can no laptops handle real time recording?

I particularly don’t get it because the bulk of recording I did on run of the mill desktops. Cheap ones, around $500. I’ve been told my old cheap desktops had far better sound cards and expensive new laptops have cards designed for other purposes. But I’ve also seen HP’s Spectres listed as a great musician’s set-up.

I’ve gone around and around with the folks at FocusRite to get my USB recording interface to work, and we’ve determined it simply won’t work–there’s a few milliseconds latency so I can’t record over anything due to the impossible delay.

I bought the Aero for the muscle and future-proof for multi-use—I do a lot of graphics work so that was my first preference, but I just don’t get how my old cheap desktops could handle real-time recording so easily but expensive laptops can’t.

What am I missing

Easy. Get a Mac.

I wouldn’t try to directly record with any pc or laptop. I spent a lot of time reading articles and reviews.

Bought the Zoom H4n based on reviews. They sell a more expensive model. The H4n does everything I could ever ask. It’s really good for recording band rehearsals. It mounts on a mike stand and the built-in mic captures the room.

At home I use Shure sm57 to record my acoustic guitar and mic my amp. Vocals sm58. That’s what a lot of musicians use. You also need to consider a small analog mixer. You can plug your electric guitar directly into it.

h4n lets you record 4 channels. Then you can transfer the file to your laptop. Use your favorite DAW to edit,add effects, and mix the channels.

I use my h4n a lot. Look up the reviews and decide for yourself.

This is the gear I bought. I didn’t link the Shure mics. I bought them from Sweetwater too.

Analog Mixer to interface with the recorder. I use it with my digital keyboard and electric guitar.

I had frustrating latency issues until someone randomly mentioned disabling HyperV solved their issue. That was also my problem. Something to check if you’re using Windows Pro or Enterprise. If you need to record and use HyperV, I dunno.

I am not an Audio guy.

I think that Win10 has deliberate built-in audio latency, so if you are going through the Windows audio system, you need to disable that.

If you aren’t using Windows Audio, you need low-latency sound drivers (a lot of m/b audio does not have low-latency drivers), but if you’re using USB, you also need low-latency USB, and I don’t know how to get that. USB inherently adds latency: it collects data until there is enough for a packet or it times out, then sends the packet. For my use case, there was no way to adjust the packet size, the timeout, or the data rate, so latency was what it was: maybe there is something that I don’t know.

I can’t say I do much recording. But what I’ve usually heard about in this situation is delay compensation, which essentially bumps forward everything to sync up with any constant input latency. Is that not viable in your use case?

Other than that, I agree with avoiding Windows’ sound system, and might even recommend trying a low latency Linux designed specifically for audio. And see if you can get a clean recording from the built-in audio, which won’t be running over USB.

What software and Audio drivers are you using for your recording?
Where and when are you hearing the latency?

If you are monitoring through the audio interface/audio software, you increase that latency (10ms for audio in to be recorded, 10ms to send it out to the interface to send to your ears).
If you are recording without using effects in the software, you may also be able to direct-monitor from the audio interface so there is no monitoring latency.

Finally, Presonus are claiming 1ms latency with Thunderbolt 2 audio interfaces (due to using DMA rather than a serial data transfer). I’m not so enamored of the price point (I’d want at least 1 additional ADAT to give enough in and outs), but it does look nice …

I am curious what latency reading you are getting and what is the threshold for the latency monitor saying it cannot handle real-time recording?

How many channels are you recording and how are the signals routed? I mean, as long as there is no distortion, what would it hypothetically matter if there were a 3-second buffering delay before the audio samples hit the disk?

It will matter if you are monitoring your audio through software, but, as people have answered, even with much less powerful hardware it should tell you the exact latency, you should be able to adjust certain settings to optimize it, and it is quite possible to get a latency of 3 milliseconds or so or even less for audio in -> USB soundcard -> CPU -> soundcard -> audio out. At least make sure you are running an appropriate real-time version of Linux/Mac/Windows kernel with the proper audio drivers; under Linux and Windows I have successfully used JACK. BTW under Linux a kernel with PREEMPT_RT is probably adequate IME.

The codec you’re using also matters a lot. An MP3 file, for example, is encoded as a set of “frames”, each frame being some number of 44 KHz samples. The encoder can’t even start outputting encoded data until it hears a complete frame. This in itself can introduce over 100 ms of latency, independent of any other factors such as hardware or OS latency. There are codecs specifically designed to minimize latency, although their compression is typically worse than more traditional codecs. There’s a list of audio codecs here with latencies listed.

I don’t record my own music but do dabble a little with video editing as a hobby. I’ve not run into that problem before.

Can you record the two audio tracks separately? Maybe record your second track while you listen to the first through headphones?

You could then easily combine them together with inexpensive software like Adobe Premiere Essentials or your open source software of choice. If you can manually align the two audio tracks latency becomes a non-issue.

Here is one tutorial.

I’ve had this tab open and waiting to respond but the myriad of events has lead to me not being able to dig into messing with recording at all.

But I did have a thought that I wanted to clarify: Are laptops inherently worse at real-time audio vs a Desktop? It occurs to me that all my old beater PCs were the ones I used to record. I started having problems once I started trying to use laptops stead of desktops. Got me to wondering if the sound cards or something are just beefier…?

What do you mean by this? How much latency is too much? You will always have a few miliseconds latency. Speakers or fellow instrumentalists on the other side of the room introduces a few milliseconds of live “latency”.

Hi Eonwe.

What I mean is…THB I don’t know the exact amount of time of delay, but for example I record in Adobe Audition (used to be called Cool Edit)…here’s how I’ve always done it for years until the latency killed my system…

I ran my guitar in to a multi-pedal processor (Boss ME-50 or ME-80) and then (and I get this is controversial and/or wrong but it worked really well for me for years) I ran the aux line directly out from the Processor Pedal line-in to my mic jack on my computer. I could then just record the in-line guitar audio via Audition. I could then, for example, play that track and record a second track over that, or a bass line or arpeggio or whatever and start layering the music.

What has happened on all my new, mighty laptops is that there is now a delay from when I strike the guitar string until it plays back in my monitor headphones–enough of a delay that it’s just not possible to play over another track.

There’s advice that I should monitor out of my guitar rig and not monitor out of the computer–that resolves the latency issue, but I wouldn’t be able to hear the play-back first track to add my second track in real time over the top…because the delay.

As someone else mentioned it may be the difference in using a USB device vs the mic jack.

If you record the two tracks separately it doesn’t matter how much latency there is (because the latency will be consistent throughout the recording). You can then align the tracks to offset the delay using free or cheap software and make it sound perfect.

Gotcha. So, I think (and I apologize if I’m off base here) that many interfaces offer ‘zero-latency’ monitoring, such that the interface sends your guitar signal back to your headphones without sending it into and out of the computer.

I have to wonder if the line-in of your old system maybe did this kind of ‘zero-latency’ monitoring automatically; in other words, maybe the hardware/software is designed to just send the signal from the mic in back to your speakers/headphones. So, the latency into and out of Audition (which I use extensively for work, btw; great program) was always there, but due to a happy accident you never heard the latency because of default monitoring configurations?

You should get an external interface. I just got the PreSonus Studio 24c (someone else mentioned PreSonus above). It will come with its own ASIO drivers. I don’t get any discernible latency.

Before I got the external interface, I had problems with latency and with audio drivers just crashing. This has solved all of those problems. I think Focusrite also makes good ones.