am just getting started with Minilab and making better progress than I expected.
Following basic instructions with Ableton Live and it recognises Minilab 3 but even after working through the adjustments it recommends on audio latency I still have slow response when playing the keyboard through.
I have a Lenovo L13 Yoga Thinkpad with 16GB Ram although I am a bit of a luddite so not sure what I am looking at in terms of soundcard etc?
If anyone can explain in simple terms how to look at this I’d be grateful
HI @sinj and welcome to The Sound Explorers Forum.
It sounds like your onboard ‘sound card’ might not be up to the job, hence the latency you’re experiencing.
SOME people have had better results with a bit of software called ASIO4ALL. it might be worth you trying it to see if you can get lower latency.
If this doesn’t help, then you’re going to need an external ‘audio interface’, there are MYRIAD models to chose from, from nearly as many manufacturers out there.
As you’re on a lap top USB is likely your only option.
Arturia have a fairly wide range of Audio Interfacesto suit many different pockets and needs, so you might want to have a look at those to start with?
I did have a quick look at your link, i cannot speak for any of those interfaces i’m afraid as i have no experience of any of them.
Personally, i would go with a well known, well reviewed interface as they’re likely to have decent drivers, hardware and support for them. I use RME myself, but they’re not cheap and possibly a bit excessive for what you’re wanting at the moment.
Being on a laptop limits your options to USB in effect, my own interface is PCIe, which plugs directly into the mother board on my PC, this gives me VERY low latency.
The figure you’re interested in is ‘Round Trip Latency’, that is the time it takes an audio signal to be sent into the interface, converted to digital and back again, then returned to the audio outputs of the interface. This also affects things like virtual instruments and how little latency you can expect.
Arturia make a decent range for most needs and pockets, something like a MiniFuse 1 would be a good place to start looking.
I know quite a few people new to this go for something like a Focusrite 2i2.
These are at the cheaper end of the market, if you want to spend a bit more then there are things like the RME Babyface Pro, Universal Audio Volt or Apollo Twin.
I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your needs!
“The figure you’re interested in is ‘Round Trip Latency’, that is the time it takes an audio signal to be sent into the interface, converted to digital and back again, then returned to the audio outputs of the interface. This also affects things like virtual instruments and how little latency you can expect.”
before I invest can I just check something. I am assuming that if I purchase an interface, then the latency will reduce to a level where I can comfortably play and hear my minilab3 into my laptop and hear it “real time”? Or are you implying that the laptop might in some way inhibit the “round trip” and even with the interface it is common for there to be latency?
I’m hoping the former, but just checking?
Also - does the Minilab then connect via its USB to the interface and then the interface connects via USB to the laptop? or is it Midi to Interface, and then USB?
I do hope you enjoy answering dumb questions !
thanks in advance (again) - just trying to avoid throwing good money after bad if my laptop is a big barrier to (newbie) success (I don’t think it will be)…
We’re ALL new once, so nothing to apologise for or feel odd about here.
It’s generally the people that DON’T ask questions that never get very far with this.
With ANY virtual instrument, you won’t get truly ‘Real time’ performance, not until someone invents time travel anyway. There’s always going to be some kind of round trip latency.
Personally I would spend a bit of time maybe emailing various manufacturers and visiting different forums to see what’s out there that suits your needs and budget.
Decide if you want something that will do purely for what you want to do currently, or maybe something that you can ‘Grow into’ over time.
As you’re using a laptop and therefore, USB to connect your interface and controller, if you have enough free USB ports I would connect both to their own dedicated usb port. There is less chance of problems then.
Hope that helps to point you in the right direction!
Just wondering: Could share a screenshot of your Preferences - > Audio in Ableton Live ?
In my experience this latency is mainly caused for the buffer size configuration which could be limited depending on the soundcard as @matjones mentioned, however, you should still be able to get good results with the one you currently have with ASIO4ALL as MIDI is not as demanding as actual Audio in CPU terms. (If possible, select 128 samples in your setup)
Also, you could try to activate/deactivate the ‘Delay Compensation’ option found in the Option menu at the top. Here’s a picture for reference:
With all due respect to @matjones, I think it’s the “Output Latency” that is relevant for software instruments, rather than the round trip latency (Ableton calls this “Overall Latency”), which includes input latency that is only relevant when recording audio. What are you seeing as the output latency reported in Ableton?
That’s not quite the right way to think about it. It’s more that it takes the output from Ableton and converts it to an analog signal for your headphones or speakers. Essentially, it does the same job as your laptop’s build in sound card. I agree with Mat that you night not see any improvement if you go for a very low budget option. Also, some of the results of that Amazon search are devices that only handle input and not output, so you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the right thing.
As Mat says, there will always be some latency with digital audio. This depends on a number of factors, but the size of your audio buffer and the quality of your audio interface and its drivers are the main ones. Without changing hardware, you can reduce latency by using a smaller buffer size as @Angeville says, but this generally results in more CPU overhead, so there’s a tradeoff.
When playing live or recording, it’s best to use the smallest buffer size your system can handle before you start to notice, pops, clicks, stutters, and similar obvious audio degradation. You can also improve the ability to work at smaller buffer sizes by reducing the load on your CPU in other ways. You could try recording with effects disabled. Alternatively, use a lighter weight software instrument with a small buffer while you record MIDI (something using Ableton’s built-in Simpler, for example). You can then swap it with a higher quality instrument later in the production process, when you don’t need low latency and can increase the buffer size.
Whether the resulting latency is a comfortable level is subjective and depends on your perception, playing speed and style, the sounds you’re using, etc. of course. With many interfaces, you can get it less than 10 milliseconds, and with very high quality ones you can get down to one or two milliseconds.
Please let us know how you get on once you get back into it and it’s always a pleasure to see new people coming into making music.
Re RTL, yes of course you’re right here, just strikes me that sinj is the type of person to ask questions and engage with the community, this is often a sign of someone who will stick with it and go on to become as obsessed with it as many of us are, and we all know how that ends up lol
I have got ASIO4ALL and the preferences won’t let me go below 265 Sample Size.
As you can see the “output latency” is 6.53ms which from what I read should be fine, but I am still definitely getting more like a 1/4s lag when I play the minilab - so from your explanations it’s taking time to get converted from there to into a signal for my speakers - which is the soundcard’s job. An interface would bypass that and do the job instead.
I think from all your helpful comments in this thread that if I purchase a simple interface then that should deal with the work of “translating” the signal at that later stage into the right sound from Ableton (in way that my crappy soundcard can’t?) hence removing the lion’s share of the delay - is that the right way of interpreting it?
I am happy to spend £100 on a box if it is going to resolve the problem, but not if I am barking up the wrong tree
“That’s not quite the right way to think about it. It’s more that it takes the output from Ableton and converts it to an analog signal for your headphones or speakers. Essentially, it does the same job as your laptop’s build in sound card. I agree with Mat that you night not see any improvement if you go for a very low budget option. Also, some of the results of that Amazon search are devices that only handle input and not output, so you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the right thing.” which is super helpful so now I understand!
OK so an interface with I/O that takes that low latency performance that is shown above and transfers that quickly to my headphones/speakers.
Both the Minilab and the Interface just hook into the laptop with USB and then you change your settings to point ableton at the interface before channelling the sound out to speakers etc?
Yep, you’re getting it now mate, you’re doing well!
You could try raising the sample rate up on your current system, a higher sample rate will give you more samples per second, so a buffer of 256 samples is slightly longer time wise at 44.1Khz than 256 samples at 48Khz, 256 samples at 96Khz is half the latency of 48Khz.
I’d be inclined to look at a more specialist retailer than ebay or amazon too, they’re more likely to be able to offer advice and help to point you in the right direction.
thanks - am pretty certain now that the problem lies beyond those adjustments - I can change the sample rate and I do get a shift in the output latency but it doesn’t affect the actual delay that I get through the speakers, etc
what has just occurred to me is whether bluetooth introduces a delay also? Am reverting to crappy wired audio to try that. Will visit a place in Denmark Street when I’m next in town and make their life a misery with my questions
edit - blimey, how annoying - that’s sorted it - I’ve just switched to the monitor audio and it’s FINE - it was the bluetooth speakers. I think - will get a cable to connect from laptop to the speakers and hope that sorts it proper. What a dunce.
Don’t feel bad! This stuff can be complicated and it’s hard to find good beginner overviews (or to make them) because every setup is different. I apologise that I hadn’t even thought about Bluetooth as a possible factor. That’s definitely the problem.
I’ll explain a bit more about audio interfaces to help guide any future buying decisions.
Most audio interfaces don’t offload audio processing from Ableton and the CPU. The exception is that certain higher end audio interfaces also include DSP functionality, such as the Universal Audio Apollo series. Even in those cases, they only work with plugins that are developed specifically for them—so not Arturia plugins—and I believe only handle audio effects, not virtual instruments.
The output latency you see in Ableton should be what you get when you have headphones or speakers connected with a cable. The interface converts digital to analog in real time.
Where you might be able to get latency improvements is with hardware that will let you work at a lower buffer size—but as mentioned before, that will increase the load on your CPU, so that’s only helpful if your CPU can handle the additional load.
Beyond that, some higher end audio interfaces have custom drivers that squeeze the last few drops of latency out of the transfer of data from the computer to the audio interface, but at that point you are talking single digit amounts of milliseconds. These would be well beyond the £100 range. Many people consider the RME BabyFace Pro FS the best and lowest-latency small interface, and that’s £733 new from Thomann.
This is all assuming a wired connection from the audio interface to the speakers. When you use Bluetooth, it bypasses both any connected audio interface and the built in audio converters, so those don’t come into play. There will always be high latency with Bluetooth—it doesn’t really work for music production use. I guess it doesn’t report that latency back in a way that Ableton can see.
If you’re happy with the way things feel and sound when you connect speakers or headphones directly to your laptop, there’s no strong need to rush out and buy an audio interface in my opinion. There’s a huge range in prices and functionality, so you might be better off waiting until you have a better idea of what you need.
AH!!! yep bluetooth WILL cause latency, it’s not really up to the job of handling tasks like this.
It’s handy for controlling things from a distance, i have an Austrian Audio OC-818 that i can change the polar pattern/HPF from my phone, saves my poor old legs!!
Sometimes ‘crappy wired audio’ just can’t be beaten though, good old copper still has its uses.
That’s some sage advice from @tmoore there too, for where you are currently in your musical journey, i’d take what they say seriously.