Can't turn playthrough off when recording

I’m having an extremely frustrating problem. I am recording multi-track (adding on one track after the other) songs using guitar and bass.

First frustration: My previous computer, a Dell Inspiron 530 running Vista, with Realtek sound card, was able to record with playthrough (hearing both the recorded tracks and the new track simultaneously through the speakers) with no latency. We recorded well over 100 demos this way with no problem. I recently got a new Inspiron 620 running Windows 7 and now we cannot record without the latency.(I’m referring to the delay in hearing oneself while recording, not syncing the tracks which I can do just fine.) In trying to fix this, everything I’m reading on this forum, the wiki etc is that the latency is inevitible. So I’m confused. Was I just incredibly lucky with the first computer? Would upgrading the sound card in the 620 help? (Can it even be done? Maybe a question outside the scope of this forum but I’m throwing it out there.)

So in the meantime, we are recording new tracks listening just to the old tracks and building that way. Currently using a Zoom H4 as a usb input device. Since I’m working with an extremely gifted guitarist they can record listening to themselves un-amplified.
BUT… second frustration: now, we can’t get the software playthrough to turn off. Even with the box unchecked, we are still getting the new guitar track with delay through the speakers. This seems to be a sporadic problem and I cant figure out what causes it or makes it stop.

I know these delay issues are discussed a lot here but this particular problem I can’t find anything about. PLEASE HELP!!!

This works with the H2 and will probably work with the H4 also.

First, you shouldn’t be using speakers when recording as the microphone will pick it up and produce a hollow echoey sound or feedback. Use headphones.
Plug the headphones into the Zoom.
Audacity Transport menu > Software Playthrough off (not selected)
Audacity Transport menu > Overdub on (selected)
Set both the Recording Input and the Playback Output in the Device Toolbar to the Zoom USB option.

Thanks for the quick response Steve.

  1. I’ve figured out to turn off (uncheck) “listen to this device” in the computer’s audio device control panel for whatever recording input I’m using. So at least we’re back to being able to record like that. (ie software playthrough unchecked works.)
  2. I’m using the Zoom as a direct line input, not the microphone, so the feedback isn’t an issue. I can try the headphone method, but it’s problematic since I’m playing “engineer” and need to be able to hear the track the same as the person playing it. Any suggestions for that?

So, I’m still baffled at how I was able to do this before with the old computer. :confused: Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead! :unamused:

Plug your speakers into the headphone socket of the Zoom, but be careful - The H2 has an option to monitor the live input (I guess the H4 has also) - if you have that enabled ensure that the zoom microphones are disabled before you plug in the speakers otherwise you will get howling feedback.

OK, I tried this… with the Zoom headphones selected in Audacity as the output. I still get the delay. That doesn’t make sense to me. Hmmm.

Let’s see if I understand the symptoms correctly:

When you press record and play the guitar, you hear your playing echoing back through your headphones, but a bit delayed (1/2 a second? more? less?)

Does that describe the fault?

Yes, that’s the symptom.

As you have said that you have checked that “Software Playthrough” is off (not selected) in Audacity (Transport menu), then the feedback must be coming from somewhere else.

I’m not an expert on the Windows sound system (I rarely use Windows these days), but I believe that Windows sometimes has a similar option to “software playthrough” built into the sound system. Have a thorough look in the Windows Sound Control Panel and see if there is an option to “listen to this device” for the USB device. If there is, check that it is off (not selected).

Just to check, you don’t have other audio programs running do you? In particular, and that run audio services in the background such as Skype or Virtual Audio Cable?
If you are unsure, reboot your computer, then use the Task Manager to check what is running.

And to address the computer latency, not being able to hear yourself in real time is normal with newer computers.

You are listening to your voice going through the sound card and possibly the driver processing and then turning around and going through it all again so you can hear it. You are listening to “one computer late” in your headphones. Some of the earlier sound cards provided a pathway that didn’t have to go through the computer. The sound card handled everything.

The two conventional ways to get around that are to use the USB device mixer or recorder to provide the headphone mix

… or use special ASIO software in Audacity to make the trip through the computer shorter. You can make your own Audacity with ASIO built-in, but it’s not for casual users. You have to recompile-rebuild the Audacity program.


That should not be a problem with his Zoom H4 as long as he is monitoring from the H4 audio output socket.

Thanks for the suggestions. I am going to try a couple of other input devices (a Behringer UCA222 and an old Tascam mixer/tape recorder that I used as an input a lot) and see if I can get the headphone “system” to work with various combinations of software playthrough and “listen to this device” in the control panel. I will let you know the progress.
Sounds like the “improved” soundcards are a step backward. In this regard anyway. At least I know I’m not crazy!

OK, I am still frustrated. I have set up a Behringer UCA222. Guitar going into mixer. Mixer out going to Behringer input. Phones and/or speaker jack plugged into Behringer headphone socket. Behringer USB plugged into computer. In Audacity I have “usb codec” selected for “speakers” and “usb codec” selected for “microphone.” And I am STILL getting a delay/latency when I (try to) play the guitar.
Have I overlooked something?

Check that “Transport menu > Software Playthrough” is off (not selected) and “Transport menu > Overdub” is on (selected).

Yes, those are selected properly.

Close Audacity.
Can you hear your guitar through your headphones?
Is the sound delayed?


“Yes” to which question?
Can you hear your guitar through your headphones?
Is the sound delayed?

Sorry, both… :blush:

OK, so we know that it’s not Audacity causing the problem.
Go into the Windows Sound Control Panel and turn off “Listen to this device”.

Yes I’ve tried this. Can’t get to my computer at the moment but I’ll update again after I’ve tried and confirmed these settings.