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Monday, November 29, 2010

How To Fix Latency When Recording in Vista

What is Latency?

When you record directly from a microphone or instrument, the audio signal is sent to your computer, converted into a digital signal and then back into analog and sent to your speakers. This is the process responsible for causing the frustrating "lag" or latency effect, where your tracks are recorded "late". When you play back your tracks, your latest recorded track will be out of sync with the first one. If you have experienced this problem, you will be familiar with this effect and you are probably tearing your hair out daily.

Thankfully there are a number of ways to fix latency in Windows Vista.  You can try all of these or just a few to try to fix your latency problem:

1.  Upgrade your RAM

The faster your computer, the less likelihood of latency being a problem.  As the saying goes, "you can never be too rich or too thin".  Or have too much RAM.  Get a memory upgrade to at least 4GB if you can and ideally see if you can upgrade to the maximum your slots can take.  If you are unsure, speak to your nearest tech head or check forums and manufacturers pages.

2.  Download ASIO4ALL

ASIO4ALL is the universal ASIO driver for Win 98SE/ME/2k/XP/MCE/2003/XP64 and Vista/Windows 7 x86/x64.  For some, a quick download of this free program is all you will need to fix latency issues.  You may need to tweak the buffer and latency sliders until you reach an acceptable level of latency. 

4.  Upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7.

Unfortunately for many users, Windows Vista is S-L-O-W, notorious for maximizing latency and is known as a problematic operating system for multitrack recording.  I'm going to come right out and say it, it is definitely worth the investment upgrading now rather than tweaking away with Vista until you are blue in the face.  Windows 7 can help your machine work quicker and easier.  The minute I upgraded my laptop from Windows Vista to Windows 7, I instantly noticed the difference in speed.

5.  Get an Audio Interface

How does an audio interface improve latency?  An audio interface will replace your sound card for the time it is on and plugged into your machine.  With direct monitoring, your interface will bypass the latency loop so you hear your sounds in real time.

When I bought my M-Audio Fast Track, I found that it simplified recording into a "plug and play" experience, removed latency and on top of all that, made the recording software fun to use.  You can plug a microphone straight in to the XLR jack and guitar leads (or mic leads) plug straight in to the 1/4 in jacks.  Once you are plugged in, you just start recording.

The M-Audio Fast Track uses a "Direct Monitoring" (zero latency) button, allowing the user to hear the recorded tracks while hearing the track as you record.  For this stage you need to make sure that you have done these two things (important):

* Plug in speakers for monitoring your recordings
* Use headphones to monitor your sound while you are recording

If you have followed these steps, your direct monitoring should work fine.

Minimum System Requirements (PC)

Windows XP (SP3)* or Windows Vista 32/64 or WIN 7

Pentium 4 2.0GHz


one native USB port

* Home and Professional Edition only. Windows Media Center Edition is not supported.

Minimum System Requirements (Mac)

OS X 10.4.11 Or better

G4 processor**


one native USB port

** G4 accelerator cards not supported.


- Includes Pro Tools M-Powered Essential software

- Works with most popular recording software--including Pro Tools M-Powered 8*

- 1/4 in. instrument input: Record guitar, bass and keyboards

- Phantom powered XLR mic input: Use dynamic and studio-grade condenser microphones

Stereo RCA outputs: Easily connects to your stereo system or powered monitors

You will need the updated drivers to install the Fast Track on Windows 7.  M-Audio has now released compatible drivers for Windows 7 in 32 bit and 64 bit:


*  Download M-Audio driver (if you don't know if your system is 32 bit or 64 bit, click the "Start" button (bottom left corner), right click on "computer" and select "properties", "system".  Windows 7 will tell you what version you are running.

*  Install the driver exe file by double clicking, wait until Windows 7 notifies you that installation has been and the M-Audio icon shows up in your taskbar:

*  Plug in your M-Audio Fast Track.

*  Plug in your microphone or instrument jack and start recording!

There are more expensive audio interfaces on the market, it just depends on your needs as to which one to buy.  In my case, I needed something simple and this interface fitted the bill perfectly.  By all means, if you have the funds and the inclination, go for a more expensive model.

Other audio devices worth considering:


Important note: what works for some people may not work for you.  Do your research and get independent advice.  All systems are different and results may vary from one setup to another.  There will always be a possibility that an audio interface will not work so understand the risks when taking any advice.


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