DAW latency/monitoring question

Discussion in 'Monitoring' started by Terrapin, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. Terrapin

    Terrapin Guest

    Hi All,

    I've got a question regarding latency in monitoring while tracking.
    I am using a Mackie Onyx 1640 with firewire going into a PC running ableton. When tracking I have several different options of signal to send to the musicians headphones during tracking. First option would be to simply send the analog signal straight from the mackie into the headphone amp. This option seems fine until you want to record to a click, do over dubs, or track using effects through the DAW. Ok, so the Mackie in that case has an option to send the firewire signal returning from the computer to the main mix which I can then send to the head phone amps. This signal would obvisouly have latency accrued while being processed in the cpu.

    The project at hand is to record a 4 piece band performing together to a click track and then do overdubs later. I obviously need to use the firewire signal to get the click but should I use it also for monitoring the instuments or should I mute those in Ableton and use the analog signal direct from the board? I imagine that this is maybe not acceptable as the click would be later than the click by the latency of the cpuc, 5ms-10ms or so?

    I have the ability to run each musician their own mix from the aux bus on the mackie using the analog signal but can then route the firwire signal from the main mix and send it to the auxes as well - perhaps have a blend of both. I'm guessing this should not be done due to latency and phasing issues? Should I just have all the muscians listen to the fire wire mix while tracking?

    In terms of latency it seems as though my machine runs pretty well with ableton set to 64 samples which I think is about 5 ms delay, would this acceptable for tracking, or can it be higher? I also noticeed that ableton has a latency setting for plug-in buffer, should that be set to the same delay as the hardware?

    Thank you!
  2. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    Feb 13, 2009
    I also have the Onyx 1640, which I got specifically for the zero latency monitoring and multiple headphone mixes. 5ms of latency isn't much, but it's going to depend on your musicians. My band couldn't stand any latency whatsoever, so we do all our tracking with the Onyx's aux outs going directly to the headphone amp for individual mixes in the phones.

    To solve the click issues, I got a cheap 20$ metronome with a line out on it. Just assign it to another input on the Onyx and record it as well as the bed tracks during the first pass. The line out option disables the internal speaker, so it doesn't get picked up by microphones in the room. This may not work if you are using MIDI instruments and you need the click in the DAW to line things up properly.

    Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that modern DAWs would compensate for the latency when you're overdubbing - i.e. if there's 5ms of delay to what you're hearing coming from the DAW, anything you record over top those tracks will be adjusted by the appropriate amount. ? I haven't had any problems that way myself, anyway. 5ms is not a lot at the end of the day, and blending the live sound with the DAW mix may be just fine, but if it's bothering people, you may be able to set it even lower by disabling any processor intensive plugins, etc., and just get them to play overtop the most basic, unprocessed mix that you can.

    Where the latency bothered me and my band was when we were doing the original bed tracks, often all together to preserve the energy of a complete band playing t - if you play a note and hear it coming back to you with delay, it can be a little disconcerting and throw off your timing. Or my timing anyway!

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