Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Plattfeste
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Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 1:50 pm

Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Plattfeste » Wed Oct 06, 2010 8:41 pm

Hey guys, there's something that is driving me crazy at the moment... I simply can't find a small audio interface that features a REALLY fast driver.
In the studio I've been working with software monitoring on my old Motu 828 Mk1 forever, now I started playing gigs and need to drastically reduce my luggage. Turns out, all those fancy interfaces on the market today don't even come close to the 828, which is about 10 years old!!!

A quick overview of my live setup: I am playing A) Ableton's software sampler and B) a hardware synth I am monitoring through Ableton. Hardware monitoring (aka "zero latency monitoring") is not an option because I want to process the synth together with the other tracks (looping, sidechain compression, filtering, FX, ...). Computer is a Macbook Pro, first generation.

I tried an NI Audio Kontrol 1, a Presonus Firestudio Mobile and now a Motu Microbook - all MUCH slower than the 828. Unfortunately I didn't measure the latencies on the former two interfaces before returning them, but I just did a comparison between 828 and Microbook:
- On my standard buffer setting of 77 Samples, the 828 had an in+out latency of 6ms (Ableton says 4.65ms global).
- With a buffer size of 32 samples, the Microbook had an in+out latency of 14ms (Ableton says 5.90ms global).

So, 1) Ableton's numbers are rubbish and 2) damn, why can't today's interfaces at least be on par with gear that is a decade old? I'm aware that I am sounding like a maniac, but I try to play funk music on stage, and the latency really hurts. Plus, in my current setup I work with the synth set to 'local off', which adds another 7ms of latency from the midi interface... for a total of 21ms, that's pretty bad.


If you know any brand I haven't tried yet that is really fast, I'd love to hear about it. Guess RME is in that league, but the Fireface400 is totally overkill (I need 2in, 2out) and too big. Maybe the Babyface will do the job.
Thanks a lot, again!

fx23
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by fx23 » Wed Oct 06, 2010 8:54 pm

same here, i guess the babyface is the challenger, but pricey for simple 2/in out

im also totally stunned and never understood why 2010 computer can't output
audio as fast as hw, wich in most case is also numeric/digital.
no latency when you press a cheap electibe, why is there some on a computer,
how are handled buffers on HW.?..

leedsquietman
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by leedsquietman » Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:01 pm

The Babyface and the Fireface UC are often claimed to be the lowest possible latencies available.

The only other contenders would be Apogee Ensemble/Symphony or Metric Halo with DSP.

The 828MkI was such a simple interface, no bells and whistles, the only MOTU interface that can touch it for low latency is the PCI bases 424 etc. The mkII and III 828s have more features but also cannot run as low latency as the MkI.
http://soundcloud.com/umbriel-rising http://www.myspace.com/leedsquietmandemos Live 7.0.18 SUITE, Cubase 5.5.2], Soundforge 9, Dell XPS M1530, 2.2 Ghz C2D, 4GB, Vista Ult SP2, legit plugins a plenty, Alesis IO14.

Plattfeste
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Plattfeste » Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:06 pm

fx23 wrote:same here, i guess the babyface is the challenger, but pricey for simple 2/in out
True, it's too much. I don't like the form factor either, and the breakout cables.
fx23 wrote:im also totally stunned and never understood why 2010 computer can't output
audio as fast as hw, wich in most case is also numeric/digital.
no latency when you press a cheap electibe, why is there some on a computer,
how are handled buffers on HW.?..
Well, on a computer there's multiple layers of abstraction between hardware and OS / application, so I understand that software monitoring will always be slower.
But I never realized that the original Motu 828 was, as it seems, extraordinarily fast. If they could do it in 2000, why can't they replicate it today? I say most companies are lazy, pointing to 'zero latency monitoring' and not putting too much effort into fine tuning their driver. Second thing is that, again, USB2 just doesn't seem to cut it. It's a shame to see firewire slowly disappear from the computers.

Plattfeste
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Plattfeste » Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:34 pm

leedsquietman wrote:The Babyface and the Fireface UC are often claimed to be the lowest possible latencies available.
Yeah, I'll give the babyface a try. Had an RME Hammerfall PCI ten years ago that was rock solid, too.
leedsquietman wrote:The only other contenders would be Apogee Ensemble/Symphony or Metric Halo with DSP.
... which are hardly portable, but Metric Halo seem to be very interesting anyway - good to hear that their drivers are good too, cause I was planning to get a MH interface in the future for studio.
leedsquietman wrote:The 828MkI was such a simple interface, no bells and whistles, the only MOTU interface that can touch it for low latency is the PCI bases 424 etc. The mkII and III 828s have more features but also cannot run as low latency as the MkI.
I even wrote a mail to Motu support about that issue, and their reply was that the only real difference between Mk1 and Mk3 was the DSP part (which shouldn't really affect latency, I thought). At that time I was interested in getting an Ultralite. The support guy told me that I could expect to get an in+out latency of 9ms from an Mk3 Ultralite. Which would be ok-ish, but not great, and certainly slower than the 828 Mk1.

Tone Deft
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Tone Deft » Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:40 pm

"So, 1) Ableton's numbers are rubbish and 2) damn, why can't today's interfaces at least be on par with gear that is a decade old?"
I just updated from a dual core 2GHz to a 6 core 2.6GHz with the same USB interface. the new box has MUCH lower latency than the old box. it's the first computer I've owned that I can monitor guitar 100% through Live at 48kHz and it's playable. whoohooo!!!

so while you can dump more then $500 on an RME sound card, maybe you can get a new PC.

there are apps out there to measure REAL latency through a system. I believe "DPC Checker" is one but IIRC that one might measure the wrong aspect of the system. I need to look into that again, or not, I'm pretty happy with the new PC. as mentioned, any DAW would have a hard time knowing exactly what your latency is. or just connect an output to an input and record the output latency. input latency I guess would be about the same, more or less.
In my life
Why do I smile
At people who I'd much rather kick in the eye?
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Plattfeste
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Plattfeste » Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:05 pm

Tone Deft wrote:"So, 1) Ableton's numbers are rubbish and 2) damn, why can't today's interfaces at least be on par with gear that is a decade old?"
I just updated from a dual core 2GHz to a 6 core 2.6GHz with the same USB interface. the new box has MUCH lower latency than the old box. it's the first computer I've owned that I can monitor guitar 100% through Live at 48kHz and it's playable. whoohooo!!!

so while you can dump more then $500 on an RME sound card, maybe you can get a new PC.
Hmm. You're probably right in that a faster laptop might shorten latencies a bit. But still, why can't new hardware simply be as efficient as old gear? What's more, the 828 did the same great job on my previous laptop already, an 867MHz G4 Powerbook (gotta admit that I didn't measure latency back then, but I remember using 64 Samples buffer size, and response was very snappy).
Tone Deft wrote:there are apps out there to measure REAL latency through a system. I believe "DPC Checker" is one but IIRC that one might measure the wrong aspect of the system. I need to look into that again, or not, I'm pretty happy with the new PC. as mentioned, any DAW would have a hard time knowing exactly what your latency is. or just connect an output to an input and record the output latency. input latency I guess would be about the same, more or less.
Yes, I'm not really upset with Ableton, because I was aware that their numbers were probably just guessings. Just saying.
Connecting Out->In is what I did to get the values. The result is the total latency, you've got a DA and an AD conversion.

slirak
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by slirak » Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:11 pm

Plattfeste wrote:Yes, I'm not really upset with Ableton, because I was aware that their numbers were probably just guessings.
Why do you recon that? Live gives me the exact same numbers as Logic and Presonus Studio One (in Presonus' low latency mode or whatever it's called), the only other DAW's I've checked recently. On OS X 10.6.4.

Plattfeste
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Plattfeste » Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:17 pm

slirak wrote:
Plattfeste wrote:Yes, I'm not really upset with Ableton, because I was aware that their numbers were probably just guessings.
Why do you recon that? Live gives me the exact same numbers as Logic and Presonus Studio One (in Presonus' low latency mode or whatever it's called), the only other DAW's I've checked recently. On OS X 10.6.4.
Interesting. As I wrote, I measured the latency (output to input) and it was completely different from the value Live reported. 14ms vs 6ms. Maybe both applications are getting the same information from the driver or calculating their numbers based on buffer size, but from my recent experiences I'd recommend you measure it for yourself (if you're curious, that is). I don't really believe those numbers anymore.

NF
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by NF » Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:18 pm

Why nobody mention the Echo stuff?? The have driver very close in stability and latency to the RME stuff. At least on MAC they have their home base I think!?! So they use not the audiocore drivers but the own ones.
Also the converters are the same as RME has.
for you I would recommend audiofire 4. Just try it out. heard only good things from my friends.
when you want better mic ins then check a apogee duet.

greetz
The cool thing about techno still, comparing it to most jazz is the improvisation coupled with raw energy.

Plattfeste
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Plattfeste » Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:33 pm

NF wrote:Why nobody mention the Echo stuff?? The have driver very close in stability and latency to the RME stuff. At least on MAC they have their home base I think!?! So they use not the audiocore drivers but the own ones.
Also the converters are the same as RME has.
for you I would recommend audiofire 4. Just try it out. heard only good things from my friends.
when you want better mic ins then check a apogee duet.

greetz
Thanks man, that looks great! Echo was one of the companies I had completely forgotten about. I remember they've been around for a long time. Maybe someone has got one of these and can tell a bit about the performance?

slirak
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by slirak » Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:18 pm

Plattfeste wrote:
slirak wrote:
Plattfeste wrote:Yes, I'm not really upset with Ableton, because I was aware that their numbers were probably just guessings.
Why do you recon that? Live gives me the exact same numbers as Logic and Presonus Studio One (in Presonus' low latency mode or whatever it's called), the only other DAW's I've checked recently. On OS X 10.6.4.
Interesting. As I wrote, I measured the latency (output to input) and it was completely different from the value Live reported. 14ms vs 6ms. Maybe both applications are getting the same information from the driver or calculating their numbers based on buffer size, but from my recent experiences I'd recommend you measure it for yourself (if you're curious, that is). I don't really believe those numbers anymore.
As I understand it, a DAW will report the latency the driver tells it to. If the DAW in itself adds latency, that latency might (certainly could) be added too. That's probably why Presonus reports a higher value if it's not in low latency mode. It's been years since I used Cubase, but as I recall it, that's how it reported latency too (there at least used to be a low latency mode in Cubase as well). And if I connect my Apogge One (a USB interface) via a USB hub, all three DAW's report a higher number (again, the same number). Apparently, the latency added by a hub is deterministic.

But what a DAW surely cannot know (without a loopback test) is a) if the driver reports a faulty number and b) if latency gets added by devices that don't have a standardized mechanism to report their latency, like MIDI interfaces and MIDI keyboards. I really can't see how any DAW could report anything else, unless it makes you create a loopback connection to do actual measurements.

BTW, I've done Live's driver error compensation test (which is a kind of loopback test) with at least five different audio interfaces (three with Win XP, two with OS X) and none of them needed any error compensation.

I've got several serious gripes with Live, but this isn't one of them.

rikhyray
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by rikhyray » Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:08 am

Plattfeste wrote: Thanks man, that looks great! Echo was one of the companies I had completely forgotten about. I remember they've been around for a long time. Maybe someone has got one of these and can tell a bit about the performance?
I actually asked friend of mine to bring me Echo Audiofire this Saturday, for some testing. I am also disappointed with Presonus Mobile`s latency ( and not only). Will let you know the results.

Plattfeste
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by Plattfeste » Thu Oct 07, 2010 7:09 am

rikhyray wrote:
Plattfeste wrote: Thanks man, that looks great! Echo was one of the companies I had completely forgotten about. I remember they've been around for a long time. Maybe someone has got one of these and can tell a bit about the performance?
I actually asked friend of mine to bring me Echo Audiofire this Saturday, for some testing. I am also disappointed with Presonus Mobile`s latency ( and not only). Will let you know the results.
Very cool, thanks for that! I emailed Echo for an educated guess on Core Audio performance of the Audiofire 2 too, hope they'll reply. A shame I didn't think of Echo earlier. It looks like the perfect interface for my needs: tiny, leightweight, sturdy, bus powered, dual firewire, MIDI, no nonsense. Now if the drivers are great, I'm sold and happy at last.

IP
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Re: Audio Interface with REALLY short latency?

Post by IP » Thu Oct 07, 2010 7:47 am

I also need a good interface to replace my profire 610 and RME seems to be the only proper solution :| but damn, i cant afford it :(

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