Questions & Answers

What is best for latency reduction: CPU, memory, both, or neither?

+1 vote
asked Oct 27, 2020 in Computer Based Recording & Production by alexandretersano (390 points)
reshown Dec 10, 2020 by AlexTinsley
Hello. I am trying to setup my band (4 vox, 2 guitars, bass, eletronic drums, acoustic guitar) through a Signature 12 MTK mixer and Studio One 5 Professional - the flow is: instruments into the mixer (direct mics for vocals, mics on the guitar amps, bass and drums direct in the mixer, acoustic guitar direct when needed); mixer multi-track into Studio One through USB; output from Studio One back to the mixer (not sure if only the main stereo output from Studio One or each channel separately); and mixer to the PA using regular XLRs to 1/4 cables.

My problem here is latency - the input latency into Studio One is ok (9ms) but the output latency is 20ms. I presume this is the latency before plug-ins, which is 6ms itself, so if I am correct the output latency is 26ms and this is noticeable to us during performance as we hear ourselves on the PA. So I wonder what to do here, as I don't want to reduce the plugins, and unfortunately the driver for the mixer interface does not give you a lot of options to reduce buffer size - in the Signature driver, is either 256, which is what we are using to give us these latencies, or 128, which is unworkable because the computer crackles like crazy (there are higher and lower options of course but they won't work).

So, unless I am doing something wrong on the flow above, what would be best solution to reduce the output latency? Add CPU? Add memory? Both? Or neither? Is latency purely a function of buffer size, meaning I would only be able to reduce it if I can juice up the machine so I can use 128 as buffer size? Or is the output latency related to Studio One feeding 4 channels back to the mixer when I only need 2?

I am running Studio One on an MSI notebook with Windows 10 64-bit, Core i5-10300H, with 8GB of RAM and SSD drives.

2 Answers

+1 vote
answered Oct 27, 2020 by wesleypeterson (20,880 points)
It's both but there are a lot of other things involved too. With a beefed up machine you shouldn't have a problem with hitting 128, I run at 64 but it's a desktop. It's pretty hard without seeing how things are on you machine to know what to upgrade and what to tweak. While 8GB of RAM could be fine or a bit low depending on your plugins(I would suggest upgrading to 16GB even though it might not help you with latency.)  I don't have any experience with your cpu and I have no idea how many and what plugins you're using (you might want to include that info next time) so I will just recommend windows tweaks to try and help things out.

On the tweaking side, make sure you don't have a bunch of apps running in the background. Right click on windows button>Taskmanager>Start up> uncheck everything you don't need while recording. There are quit a few services you can safely disable. I don't remember which ones off the top of my head so just google it. Click on start and type "services.msc' and hit enter. That's where you can disable or set them to manual. Reboot and load your project up with everything going. Check Taskmanager for ram usage and cpu usage(you want plenty of overhead to avoid clicks 80% usage is usually not great I rarely go above 60. You might want to set it to send only two channels to your mixer, it really shouldn't make much difference but it's worth trying. I had a laptop a long time ago that when I used multiple USB ports at once I had a similar issue so only plug in what you need. You might also want to disable stuff like bluetooth in device manager that you aren't using.

It very well could just be your laptop is throttling the cpu due to heat. Which there are ways to try to mitigate like airflow and power management settings (sometimes setting cpu usage to 99% helps. It's in the advanced power management settings and prevents turbo boost. Or you usually can just disable it in BIOS)

If multiple tracks are using the same plugins. Send those tracks to a mix bus and add the plugin to that bus so you only need to run it once. Record the tracks dry so you can put the plugins on them individually when mixing and max out the latency then since it won't matter. You might want to just check to see what plugins and how much they are effecting things. I've had a couple that were insanely cpu intensive so I would use a less intensive substitute for real time monitoring and the preferred plugin when mixing.

I hope that helps.
0 votes
answered Oct 28, 2020 by aka_busker (32,890 points)
If the plugins causing the latency are being run on the mixer and not on your system then upgrading the computer won't add much to your latency issues.  I only raise this as the mixer seems to be able to run VST'S on the mixer, which relieves the overhead on the computer a touch.  You don't if the plugs are on the mixer or the computer, but researching the mixer spec sheet suggested the mixer is capable of running VST'S "on the board".   Being as you as using a laptop, the only real upgrade you may be able to add is RAM.  I would suggest 16GB if you can fit it.  The laptop spec sheet suggests you can max out at 64GB.  That's probably the only upgrade that will help on the laptop.  I would suggest adding a cooling mat to the laptop to help stop thermal throttling too.