Live recording with a USB mic?
February 26, 2007 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I have a great sounding USB MXL.006 Microphone, but I can't figure out how to make it playback through my sound card without latency.

I have a santa cruz sound card and both devices work properly. If I use software playback (in Audacity) there is always a short delay between what I say and what I hear. It seems like there must be a way around this, but I can't find a thing about it on the net, other than the many complaints. I'm using windows xp and have the USB audio codec set as the recording device.
posted by elkelk to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by ludwig_van at 3:58 PM on February 26, 2007

Response by poster: I'm not having sync issues, I am having live playback issues. My recordings are fine, my live playback from the mike is delayed. Maybe latency was the wrong word.
posted by elkelk at 4:41 PM on February 26, 2007

It might not be possible. Such is the nature of digital A/V. The data must be converted from analog to digital and that will take some time.
posted by chairface at 4:45 PM on February 26, 2007

Response by poster: It might not be possible.

That's the unfortunate conclusion I'm coming to as well.
posted by elkelk at 4:48 PM on February 26, 2007

Best answer: Are you saying that you're trying to monitor what's coming through the mic and it sounds delayed? That's latency and it's the same issue described in the thread I linked you to. I solved it by switching to Kristal Audio Engine and installing the ASIO4all driver.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:05 PM on February 26, 2007

Best answer: You might try installing the ASIO4ALL drivers. They're freeware, and a little flaky, but if you use them with an ASIO-compatible audio application, you can get your latency way down to where the delay is almost inaudible.

Unfortunately, Audacity is not such an application. I've used ASIO4ALL successfully with the Lite version of Ableton Live, which came for free with some MIDI hardware I bought. I was able to get the total latency between microphone and speakers down to about 80 msec from more than 300 with Windows drivers.

Background: ASIO is a more "professional" digital audio protocol with less overhead than Windows' built-in drivers. Higher end audio hardware comes with its own ASIO drivers - you might check to see if your microphone and sound card have such drivers. But if they don't, ASIO4ALL does a respectable job of faking it.
posted by moonmilk at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2007

Response by poster: Ludwig,
I am trying to monitor what is coming through the mike and it sounds delayed, but I am using two devices. A seperate device for recording (mxl.006 usb microphone) and my sound card for playback. The latency occurs in using software to rectify the two devices and I can't seem to find a work around. I will look into the Krystal Audio Engine, but would it be able to remove the latency between two seperate devices?

Thanks, Moonmilk, but isn't it still annoying to record live with 80ms delay?
posted by elkelk at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2007

Kristal Audio Engine is just a free audio application that supports ASIO drivers, which Audacity does not. ASIO drivers are designed to be low-latency. If the latency is coming from your sound card and not the USB mic (I've never used one, but I'd imagine this would be the case), it should help.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:55 PM on February 26, 2007

My mistake, elkelk -- I just checked, and the actual latency claimed by Live with ASIO4ALL is 13ms. For me, at least, it's not really noticeable.

Another nifty feature of A4A is that it combines all your audio devices into one virtual device -- well, one for input and one for output. So you can record from your computer's built in microphone input and your USB microphone at the same time, something that's not otherwise possible, as far as I know, since most audio software will only open one device at a time. (I think I read somewhere that this isn't a good idea for high quality work, since the multiple audio devices slowly drift out of sync with each other, which leads to occasional clicks in the sound or something like that. But that's getting way out of my expertise.)
posted by moonmilk at 6:45 PM on February 26, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input. I guess I need to go pick up an ASIO sound card. I treid the Krystal Audio Engine and it states that you can't monitor your mike if you don't have an ASIO sound card. Buying one seems like my best solution. Thanks again, Ludwig, and moonmilk.
posted by elkelk at 7:12 PM on February 26, 2007

When recording on a computer, I almost always try to have some kind of direct monitoring, for this very reason. It depends on what you're doing but it can be extremely distracting, expecially if you're overdubbing.

I've never used the mic in question but let me just offer one observation... MXL makes some decent entry level mics that are cheap, combined with a cheap preamp, and you have a sub-$100 recording solution. In order to get direct monitoring you'll either need a sound card that supports it (most do, and most decent recording software allows you to choose either). If your sound card does not allow direct monitoring then I guess you'd want to run the preamp through a headphone box or something. My point is, you'll have a more flexible solution. I don't really know what you're trying to do with it though, so maybe all you want to be able to do is get spoken word onto the computer or something.

I'd recommend these:
MXL 990
Art Tube MP preamp
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:34 PM on February 26, 2007

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