usb guitar cable vs basic unrecommended cable - latency

Hi everyone,

i feel i have read it all, regarding latency when recording a guitar to your laptop using audacity, and well, it doesn’t help, so here i am, i’m gonna try and keep this as short and simple as possible:

Before buying a usb guitar link:
well, it’s been about 3 months that i have been plugin my guitar directly to my conexant ac-audio using only a basic ‘not-the-recommended-type’ guitar cable. Along with this, i have been using Audacity 2.0, installed from the .exe, and all under Windows XP pro SP3. I have attached the latest Lame driver, all the possible plugins that are available, and guess what, such set up did allow me to record tracks that i certainly aren’t unhappy with and this despite so many tutorials on the web telling how not to use a basic guitar cable for recording, how you should invest in this or that and so forth…

Now, i really wasn’t unhappy, because the huge noise my guitar amp makes and despite the sound card socket making noise too, a few moments spent with audacity removing noise and applying things here and there, well, the result is audible, and audible to friends, family and myself.
Also, part of the reason why i wasn’t too unhappy was that i knew my new usb guitar link was about to arrive from HongKong, slow boat, and that it would really improve my recording experience… In fact things don’t quite turned the way i had intended. I justify :

After buying a usb guitar link:
The cable has arrived, and, well, after being plugged and recognized by windows and all, i first notice that i can’t hear myself playing, just like plugin your guitar does when plug directly to the mic socket. I then decide to check windows xp sound panel, and no matter what i put in default, what’s muted or not and whater the pressure of the ambient air is, i can never hear myself UNLESS, i push record in audacity, combined with the play-through option, or else let’s say, if i record a video on windows movie maker, the sound is great during playback, but playthrough just isn’t available. So what’s wrong with usb guitar links?
But then, back to the core problem : first time playing thru in audacity with that new usb cable, there was a huge latency problem, like 1-2 sec latency. Then, since i had no latency problem recording on windows movie maker(after the playback made me figure so), i figured i should used windows direct sound as the audio host in audacity, and it worked. But, instead of having a 1 sec or over latency problem, i have some 100-200 ms latency problem that’s remained unsolved. And i don’t know what to do. Not to mention that i find it odd that having spent the day trying to play thru the os can’t work without pushing record on audacity.
The guitar link i have is made by 3M i believe, or is it Alessis, it’s difficult to know honestly when you purchase an item like this one on ebay. At least i’ve got it as a certainty that this cable doesn’t need no drivers, at least other than what’s built in windows for it.

So, i am coming to the conclusion that my usb guitar link is giving more latency that my basic unrecommended cable does… this is a pity if that’s so. Although i can’t hide that on the overall, the sound quality for the usb link seems higher, less ground noise or something.

Well, please, if i am making the wrong assumptions here please let me know, i’d really love to hear that the problem is elsewhere and how to possibly solve it. Thanks for you help

Is it one of these:

or this:

If so, plug your headphones into the headphone socket of the Guitar Link. You should then get virtually zero latency.

hi Steve, well, in fact, it’s one of these

OK, I understand your problem.
Unfortunately I doubt that you’ll be able to solve the problem using Audacity.
Audacity uses the standard Windows drivers for sound. When using that type of USB cable there is no direct, wired route from the recording device (the USB guitar cable) to the output device (the computer sound card), so the audio signal needs to be routed via software (Software Playthrough). Software Playthrough when using standard Windows drivers is slow (as you have experienced).

One way to reduce the delay is to use ASIO drivers. ASIO is a highly optimised sound system for working with sound and music on Windows. Software Playthrough using ASIO can be very much faster than the standard Windows sound system, but Audacity can not be shipped with ASIO support due to licensing restrictions.

You could try using a recording program that supports ASIO (such as Reaper, Cubase, Wavosaur, Sonar…) and use ASIO4ALL.
I can’t guarantee that ASIO4ALL will work with that guitar cable, but there is a reasonably good chance that it will.

Alternatively, if you want to stick with Audacity you will probably need to get an interface that supports direct monitoring (a headphone socket on the actual USB recording device.

(It is possible to build Audacity from the source code with ASIO support, but unless you are a programmer it is not an easy task )

Thank you very much for your reply, indeed i had already read about Asio not being bundled with Audacity for legal reasons, but well, your post really helps me orientate and really focus on what the challenges are. And, luckily enough, i am a programmer, so that’s wiki article on how to compile Audacity with Asio is gonna be my next step, i understand that if i can manage to build it that way it will probably solve my latency problem. Otherwise i don’t mind trying a different program, although i would really miss Audacity, it really is a great port for Windows…

I’ll keep you posted when i have come up with any improvement, thanks again for your help.