Audio and MIDI latency

Member for

6 years 7 months
Submitted by xylo on Tue, 09/23/2014 - 10:15

greetings Experts,

I am trying to fix latency issues I am having when playing VST synths.

I just did a test, recording midi with percussion controller, and simultaneously recording audio of the same performance with a mic placed next to the controller.

The results: the recorded MIDI note is always about 20 ms later than the recorded audio hit.

I did the test 2X, with 2 different controllers, and the results are the same.

Question: does this seem weird to you? I know midi is not usually the cause for latency, but in this case, I think it is.

I am in Win7, tweaked to death for efficient DAW use.

Thanks, I appreciate your input!



MIDI being a serial system runs at a much slower speed than audio - so delay is inherent. Always worth double checking you have the latest drivers, but while manufacturers always seem to work hard on audio latency, they don't spend the same effort on MIDI, mainly, I suspect, because it's easily fixed on replay by moving the timeline back or forth, or using an adjustment in the software, like in Cubase's inspector box. Older synths had pretty awful MIDI response, but it got better over the years. That said, until my latest computer, I tended to play the keyboard I use as a master keyboard using it's internal sound, because the delay using a VST was too much - so I'd change the sound to a VST once it was in the machine, and I could add a shift. Most DAWs seem to have no adjustment at all for how they process MIDI. Going into my system via an 8X8 MIDI interface, the delay going in, then back out to another device can even be seen on the LED display - the MIDI going in lights before the MIDI going out, visibly!

When recording midi and audio at the same time, I try to use an external midi modul for monitoring. (which gives me direct monitoring without latency)
Exemple : I play on an electronic drum and listen on that drum module, not the vsti. Then I insert the vsti and send the midi track to it.
If I have no choice, I'd take a smaller vsti sample bank even if the sound will be different.
You have to consider that a vsti is a bank of recordings called by midi. Those recordings take time to acces and play. If you use a 4gig piano sound, your computer may not be able to do it without hearable delay.

If you use an audio interface with midi included, ajusting the buffer settings could help.
I'm pretty sure, your problem does not come from the controler but more from how your computer and interfaces can handle what you ask them to do.

The audio buffers don't have any direct impact on the MIDI data stream - more likely to be the manufacturers spending time and effort on the audio performance, then adding the rather ancient MIDI facility as an afterthought - BUT the audio buffers do on some sequencers impact where the MIDI quantising decisions get placed. This article is worth a read - fairly old now, but still important.

Oh ! Sorry Paulears, I read the question again and I guess I read it wrong the first time.
I thought the audio was coming late, but it's the midi..
Silly me !! ;)

seeking clarification....are you saying that the midi note itself is off by 20ms, or the vsti sound that is being triggered by the midi note is off by 20ms... there's a difference.

What type pf midi I/O are you using? Is it a standalone midi to USB like an M-Audio MidiSport, a PCI card, or is it integrated into your audio I/O?

What midi driver(s) are you using?

What DAW Platform are you using?

What is the buffer setting in the audio menu of your DAW program?

thanks DonnyThompson,

It is the midi note itself in the midi file, not the Audi from the vst.

Audio midi interface is tascam us-144mk, stick drivers which are faster than asio4all, buffer is 49 samples, ableton live 8.4.2. ASUS i5 460m, 8gb, 7200 rpm win7 tweaked to death for digital audio. Using an output to input audio latency testing program, I get a total audio latency of 661 ms.

Yesterday I fired up an old IBM t-42 thinkpad, pentium m, 2 GB, 4200 rpm,ableton live 8.4.1 os is windows XP. I have not yet done the same tests on the IBM but I can easily play music on it with this percussion controller whereas with the ASUS, forget it.

ASUS audio panel reported latency is (in plus out) = 15 ms. IBM audio panel reports 12 ms. I know what 15 ms feels like, if I was actually getting 15 ms on the ASUS, I would be able to play music with it. Overall the old IBM beats the pants of the ASUS in every way, number of VST voices, etc.

Thanks donnybi appreciate your time


I want to make sure I have the reported Midi Latency correct in ms, it is very close to the equivalent of 1/64 note at 120 bpm, which I calculate as approx 30 ms.

One more to the already spot on list:

The ultimate is a PCIe midi interface.
Then, all the above!
I use as many external keys/synths as I can, plus, I never leave home without an 8x8 Mark of the Unicorn midi router. USB keyboards are pretty good on their own and as a controller but I always prefer connecting my midi gear to the router and then the router to my PCIe interface.
As an example of my workflow, I am able to loop 1 bar at 144bpm for 30 mins and never fall out of sync or miss a beat. Punching /in/out is very tolerable, seamless.

As pcrecord suggested, I too, use external monitoring.
Tracking audio is a breeze compared to audio and midi so the more you can do to reduce CPU , the better.

thanks everyone, I agree. Unfortunately there is no good hardware choices available for
real-feeling vibraphone, so for live performance, VST and particularly Ableton's "Collision" synth are the only options. There must be something in this ASUS laptop that is prohibiting that kind of use. DPC Latency Test checks out wonderful and have few problems with actual audio. MIDI Is an absolute problem however, weird. Maybe it is time to go back to MacBook.

I use VSTs all the time. If I only run one or two instruments I never had this midi latency. It makes me wonder what could be happening.
Usually the problem is inverse. You play and the sound comes after but the midi would be recorded ok.

Maybe your tweak to death technic killed your midi performance ;)
Just saying !

pcrecord, post: 419726, member: 46460 wrote: I use VSTs all the time. If I only run one or two instruments I never had this midi latency. It makes me wonder what could be happening.
Usually the problem is inverse. You play and the sound comes after but the midi would be recorded ok.

Maybe you tweak to death technic killed your midi performance ;)
Just saying !

Plus 1!

And I don't need Apple either. A good pc is all you need. After all, all the midi software used in the 80's, that blew away today's midi was all PC.

The day I switched to Apple was when audio and midi died. It is expensive overrated bloat. The day I dumped Apple was the day audio and midi reunited.

I the tweaks I have done are the normal things like disabling blost ware. Deleting the ASUS power4gear option helped a lot. I was happy to flee the apple world a few years ago, but now I see that the benefit is knowing what is under the hood.

Why would an underpowered 2006 stock IBM Thinkpad way out-perform a 2011 ASUS entertainment/light gaming machine, using the same app and interface? It makes no sense.

Thanks I do appreciate the input


GAMING !!! That's your problem !!

Listen, I've made tons of vst tracking and recording with a amd dual core 10yrs ago. And now, I have a I7 with 16gigs of ram, it works fine as well.
Recording is a special activity for a computer. In my experience, the most you go for games, the less it'll work for recording.
One of the unexpected problems comes from the video optimisation imbedded in the drivers and hardware. I work as a computer technician. When I built my last PC, at first, I had a lot of latency problems. I tried 5 gaming video cards and an old quadro was the winner. (with all optimisation turned off) it went fine with midi and 16tracks of audio at once. It was on win7 x64

Thing is I recently changed my main audio interface. My new Saffire 56 had more latency then the one before. I did everything I could but finally, changing to windows 8 did the trick.

I know I'm not getting to the point on this point because, I can't know what your problem is before trying everything.
All I'm saying is, there is a reason ! You just need to take the time to find it.

First, try latency monitor, it will help you pinpoint where the latency comes from. it's free and clean.

You don't have an antivirus working don't you ?
what version of windows 7, media center is crap for audio...

Why would an underpowered [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]2006[/]="…"]2006[/] stock IBM Thinkpad way out-perform a 2011 ASUS entertainment/light gaming machine, using the same app and interface? It makes no sense.

I'm beginning to wonder if this might be a midi driver issue... and I don't mean an audio driver... I'm referring to the midi driver, which was placed in your OS when you installed the driver/installation package for the Tascam I/O/Midi device.

A few things to consider:

Have you visited Tascam's site to make sure you have the latest drivers and firmware installed?

Is the Tascam USB device connected directly to a USB port on your computer - you're not connecting it to a USB hub, right?

There may be several different midi routing schemes inside your OS. Most of the time, these are installed automatically when you install the device drivers, but there may be a conflict happening somewhere with another midi device driver resident on your system from a previous install.

Have you ever had any other midi - audio I/O devices connected/installed to this computer before the Tascam?

Is there a built in soundcard on the computer, like a Realtek or Soundblaster that came with the computer? If so, you should disable it.

You should make sure that you aren't using the Windows/Microsoft Midi Mapper. You should designate all midi to the device you are using.

I'm not familiar with Ableton. In this program's setup/menu section, or wherever the midi set up menu is located, have you checked to make sure that the only midi device selected for use is the Tascam?

Thinking out loud...


Thanks Donny...yes, have done all that stuff long ago, firmware, drivers, DPC , disabling, etc. Gaming is not a problem it only means the machine has dedicated VRAM. I figured out the problem this morning, it is ableton live, which by design adds roughly 30 ms of MIDI latency by in order to avoid jitter. I downloaded REAPER and recorded some MIdI problems at all now, and finally sounds like me playing not someone with no sense of time. LIVE is not made for realtime VST synth playing, and while they do not tell you that, if you dig into their tech specs, they do tell you that they add midi latency on purpose. Which means that LIVE is not intended for anything live except triggering audio clips. The Ableton user exchange is flooded with people wondering why their new MacBook pro running LIvE 9 is far worse than running it on old, obsolete technology, which is what I experienced too. What a nightmare. THANK YOU everyone I do appreciate your time and suggestions! All the best

And thanks DonnyThompson I do appreciate all your insights, I will take note of everything you mention for future reference. I don't play an video games, the ASUS is just marketed as a media/moderate gaming machine. I have disabled all services and processes related that kind of activity.

Thanks PC - right now it is time to dig in an learn a whole new DAW very quickly for gigs this week, plus gather a new raft of virtual synths as I was foolishy using only Ableton's virtual synths, plus transfer 3 years projects out of LIVE and into REAPER...and if I can get that done, then dear god I hope to be able to play music once again someday. When they said "LIVE" I took them literally, I did not realize the term was used in an abstract sense.