Latency when recording Guitar etc

Hi folks,

Looking for a bit of advice please.

Has anyone got new computer / new sound card and have no latency issues? If so, what do you have? Mainly sound card.

I’m currently using Windows 7 with a Soundblaster Audology Fx sound card and the latency is horrendous even without using Audacity. I’ve tried multiple combinations even older drivers. Realtek drivers etc. I can’t use the on-board port as it’s a mix used mix line in and has the same problem.

I’m using Audacity 2.3.0 on Windows. I’ve tried Windows 7 and 10 but both have the same problem. Also tried another computer.

I’m trying to do two things.

  1. Record from the computer I.e. song playing which I believe I need stereo mix for? I use stereo mix in the recording drop down.
  2. Record my guitar using line-in port. I use the line in in the recording drop down.

Thanks in advance.

Once you’ve measured the inherent (unavoidable) latency in your setup,
you can correct for it : latency compensation.

If you have the audio-file of the song there’s a good chance you can play it in Audacity, rather than have to record it playing via stereo-mix. Try dragging the audio-file into Audacity …

Drag'n'drop audio-file into Audacity.gif
To play some audio formats, (& audio in video files), you need to install FFmpeg into Audacity.

Has anyone got new computer / new sound card and have no latency issues? If so, what do you have? Mainly sound card.

There is always some latency through the computer. A faster computer might help, and/or reducing background operations and running only one application at a time may help.

There are interfaces with zero-latency hardware monitoring (where the monitoring doesn’t go through the computer). Or, you can use a splitter to connect your guitar amp and the computer at the same time so you don’t have to monitor through the computer. IMO the best solution is to avoid monitoring through the computer. (It’s OK if the computer plays a backing-track.)

There are also “low latency” interfaces such as the [u]Focusrite Scarlett series[/u]. But, the low-latency may only apply with the ASIO drivers and Audacity doesn’t support ASIO, it works with the regular Windows drivers.

There is a [u]free online book[/u] about optimizing your computer for audio… It’s a complicated subject.

BTW - Your regular soundcard doesn’t have a proper guitar/instrument input. I’m sure it “works” but guitar inputs are normally high impedance (around 1meghom) and the lower impedance of the soundcard will affect the tone. Regular soundcards also don’t work properly with stage/studio microphones.

Also, the most common way of recording guitar in professional studios seems to be with a microphone in front of the guitar cabinet (an SM57 is popular for this). And, they may also record a direct track. That may not be practical “at home” and you may not have the amp/cabinet of your dreams or a good-quiet studio space, etc., and it’s easier/cheaper to use an “amp sim”, so that’s just FIY.


…Since your operating system is always multitasking the digital audio stream flows-into a buffer (like a storage tank) at a smooth-constant rate. When the operating system gets around to it, it reads the buffer in a quick burst and writes to the hard drive. The buffer is a delay by the nature of how it works. If the buffer doesn’t get read in time, you get buffer overflow and a glitch (a dropout). A larger buffer helps to eliminate dropouts but it also increases the latency. A smaller buffer can reduce latency at the risk of dropouts.

On the playback/monitoring side there is another buffer… The playback buffer works the opposite way - It gets written-to in a quick burst and the audio data flows-out to the DAC at a smooth-constant rate. Here the danger is buffer underflow.

Note that you can get glitches even at low CPU utilization. The multitasking/background operations don’t have to be using a lot of processor time, they just have to “hog” the system for a few milliseconds too long and you get a glitch.

Most (but not all) USB audio devices provide a headphone socket that allow the input to be monitored directly (no latency). This is usually called either “direct monitoring” or “zero latency monitoring”. An inexpensive example that falls in this category is the Behringer UM-2

Has anyone got new computer / new sound card and have no latency issues? If so, what do you have? Mainly sound card.

I don’t have any latency issues.

I can do Perfect Overdubbing where I can hear myself in real time and the backing track together. The new performance produces a separate track for me and overlays the backing track perfectly.

I do it with a Behringer UM2 external USB soundcard (and several others).

That’s the little black thing on the left there. This is the setup for voice, but it has provision to plug in a guitar.

The important idea here is the UM2 has Zero Latency Monitoring by plugging your headphones into the UM2. That avoids all the timing and delays that an internal soundcard has. I don’t know of any other simple, practical way to do it.

The Overdubbing tutorial in the manual gives you three more sound devices—all external.

You did leave out one important idea. This whole thing only works reliably if the backing track is in Audacity. It can’t be a live, real-time download. So no, you can’t use Stereo Mix or any of the other odd tricks. Make a local (not network) backing track, disconnect the network (and WiFi) and then set up for overdubbing. Disconnecting the network will help with stuttering and skipping.


There is a way to do a remote duet, but it’s not overdubbing. I did it with two computers and a small mixer.

The one on the right is the “Skype” computer and handles all the connections both directions. The far end isn’t going to hear a very good lead track and should probably turn it off. The mixer combines your guitar (Left) and the Skype track (Right) into a stereo show to be recorded in Audacity (machine on the left). Split them up and add effects, etc, later. The one on the left doesn’t have to be a computer. Anything that can record stereo (two tracks) will work.

These four part vocal performances are done by shipping individual performances to Josh (lower left) who mixes them into a final piece for presentation. They’re way, way not real time.


Hi Folks,

Thank you all for the replies, it’s been very helpful. Sounds like the USB audio interface is the way to go for me.

Kind Regards,