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#2636954 - Today at 02:28 PM USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency?
TheodorN Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1851
Loc: Sweden
Dropped by in a local music store, asking for Focusrite USB audio interfaces. The guys at the store told me to forget all about them, and get a Zoom audio interface with USB 3.0, because it gives lower latency.

Is it true? I know USB 3.0 is faster than USB 2.0, I've noticed when copying from USB 3.0 memory sticks, it is considerably faster, compared to those supporting only USB 2.0. Does it translate to lower latency, and enable me to stack more plugins in a DAW, like Reaper, Pro Tools, or Ableton Live?

*Edit* If I get a USB audio interface, be it USB 3.0 or not, I will probably not play live with many instrument plugins. I might load a MIDI file, into many tracks, afterwards, to produce a multi-instrument song. In that case, there is no latency, or what?


Edited by TheodorN (Today at 02:32 PM)
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#2636957 - Today at 02:35 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
MacMacMac Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 5038
Loc: North Carolina
Latency doesn't come from the USB interface. It's nearly all in the Windows audio chain.

USB 3.0 won't make any difference to you or me.

It only matters to the salesman who either (a) doesn't know what he's talking about or (b) seeks to benefit by selling an unnecessary USB 3.0 unit to someone who owns a USB 2.0 unit.

I get about 2 msec latency from a USB 2.0 interface using a relatively new desktop PC with an i7-930 CPU.
I got about 18 msec latency from that same interface using an old laptop with a slow Core Duo CPU from 2005.
The only difference was the laptop.
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#2636961 - Today at 02:48 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
TheodorN Online   content
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Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1851
Loc: Sweden
I assumed the salesman might be trying to sell his stuff, but then again, the store also sells the old (classic, built like a tank) Focusrite 2iX interfaces, which are USB 2.0. So unless he (or the store) is making more from the Zoom USB 3.0 interfaces, I didn't know if I had any reasons to doubt his advice.

However, what you say makes sense, about the laptop being the difference. I think neither of my computers will be bottlenecks. They are both i7, and the desktop, which is dedicated to the bulk of my studio work, has 8 GB RAM, the laptop 6 GB.

The Focusrite 2i2, supposedly gives 2.75 ms latency, I read somewhere. Which is not bad, even if it would turn out to be a little bit more.


Edited by TheodorN (Today at 02:49 PM)
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#2636965 - Today at 03:00 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
Zilthy Online   content
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Registered: 02/24/17
Posts: 87
Interface won't make a difference in latency.

As mentioned, it is going to be down to the computer, and the hardware itself.

Where other interfaces come in, is if you are doing more than 2 - 4 tracks at once. Such as an 8 or even 16 channel interface, then you need the bandwidth to handle it.
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#2636969 - Today at 03:09 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
TheodorN Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1851
Loc: Sweden
So the latency is born, if I can use that word, within the computer, not on the way through the USB cable from the piano to the computer?

I'm mostly thinking of simple stuff, two or three instruments, and light ones, not those 40, 50 GB or more, like Ivory II, Garritan, and such. I think the ones I have, are only a few gigabytes.


Edited by TheodorN (Today at 05:32 PM)
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#2636980 - Today at 03:44 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
Frédéric L Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/13
Posts: 1153
Loc: France
There are 2 questions : latency and quantity of loaded instruments and effects.

The latency comes from 2 things : the buffer size, and some overhead in the process. You can divide the buffer size by the sample rate and you have a first factor of latency. If you have a 4ms worth buffer size (192/44,100): when the input send a sound you want to output, you will immediately compute the first byte of the buffer, but then, you will have to wait 4ms to get a buffer ready to send. Then you will get a 4ms latency.

But the audio interface can add some latency. In an ideal world, the computer will send the lets say 4ms worth buffer every 4ms and the audio card will just have to play them as soon as they are received. In a real world, some buffer will arrive with a little delay which would create drop out. To prevent them, the audio card can process each buffer with a little added delay, then if a buffer comes a little latter, it won't be to late and you won't hear that. But you will have an added latency.

If you have a perfectly reactive PC (and OS... the PC is by itself very responsive), you will be able to design a 1ms latency audio-card. (1ms is the clock period of USB1, USB2 and USB3 have a 0.125ms clock period). But since you havn't, you have to a design a driver and its corresponding audio card with some quite higher periods.

Note that an operating system has many things to do each time it is waked in purpose of producing a buffer (before the computing by itself). This can explain we try not to have a too small buffer sizes.

@MacMacMac : very instructive this comparison, I didn't know the main PC could have such an high impact. 18ms is huge ! 2ms is quite tiny. Where teh parameter (buffer size, sample rate) identical ?

--

The amount of effects or instruments you can have depdends mainly of the amount of CPU. If you have a virtual instrument which use, let's say 12% CPU to compute its samples, you may only load 8 of them. Then you have a 96% CPU load and start to have some trouble.
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#2636981 - Today at 03:44 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
Zilthy Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 02/24/17
Posts: 87
Check this out Theodore:

https://ask.audio/articles/how-to-achieve-true-zero-latency-monitoring-in-your-daw

Now, when you are talking Sample size, that won't have an effect on latency per se, but the VST instrument itself will (Depending on what it does for processing and how efficient it is). Although, if you do not have enough RAM to load and hold the samples in memory, that could increase latency. For example, loading a 16GB sample set when you only have 8 GB of RAM.

As far as what I was referring to for channels, was not how many virtual instruments or even tracks you are mixing, I was talking about simultaneously recording multiple live sources at once (Like a guitar, keyboard, bass, 3 vocals, 4 drum mics for a total of 10 sources at once. That is when you need more bandwidth (USB3, Firewire, Thunderbolt, PCIe)

But that is amount of information, the latency is relatively the same.
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#2636991 - Today at 04:17 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
Frédéric L Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/13
Posts: 1153
Loc: France
Originally Posted By TheodorN
I'm mostly thinking of single stuff, two or three instruments, and light ones, not those 40, 50 GB or more, like Ivory II, Garritan, and such. I think the ones I have, are only a few gigabytes.


Ivory II and Garritan need roughly 1GB of memory for each of them. On a 8GB system, I am able to load 4 instances of Ivory.

However, on the Windows system, other application may need some time some memory, and if all is taken by Ivory instance and the OS, then they will steal some sample cache memory pages and your virtual piano will run quite badly. You may be safe to not use all the memory you have.
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#2637017 - Today at 05:43 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
TheodorN Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1851
Loc: Sweden
Thanks for those last comments. Latency is not noticeable when playing Pianoteq, NI Giant, Galaxy II Blüthner Baby Grand, and the smaller libraries, I've tried. I've been using the internal sound card. Reported latency has been between 4 and 6 ms, if I'm recalling it correctly.
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#2637021 - Today at 05:53 PM Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
newer player Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 01/22/16
Posts: 222
The truth is that there are virtually zero interfaces on the market using USB3 or Thunderbolt 3. Also, the USB3 and TB3 ports on many new computers are still wonky as the makers are still sorting them out. So don't be fooled by today's latest buzzwords.

By the way, the old PCIe is superior to any USB3 or Thunderbolt standard. But that level of performance is generally needed only by professional studios.

True round-trip latency is tricky to measure so take the latency numbers you see in marketing materials, internet tests, or showing up somewhere on your software with a grain of salt.

- For example, when PianoTeq says 2ms, that "latency" is not the "intuitive time period" between keystroke and sound hitting your ear; PianoTeq is saying it takes 2ms to do some part of that "intuitive time period" PLUS some additional unmeasured time to complete the task.

- Also, when someone measures the latency of an interface, those may be in ideal conditions that you can not repeat without a top-tier, optimized computer. For example, one guy measured Zoom interface latency at 1.23ms (with 32samples/192KHz); don't expect a normal computer will get near 32 samples without crackling (or the claimed 1.23ms). You never know until you try.

I have seen 10ms bantered around as a typical audio latency threshold for humans but I'm not too comfortable with that estimate. I have more experience with visual latency testing. Also everyone is different so you may or may not notice a true round-trip audio latency of 10ms.

- As Mac noted above, a relatively modern and relatively powerful desktop can have much lower latency than an old laptop can.

- I would add that optimizing your computer may provide an even bigger performance advantage. There are plenty of professionals running desktops that are 5+ years old. If you want optimal latency performance from Windows, you really need to optimize your computer; it takes some times and I included some links in this thread:

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2569051/1.html

My best recommendations:

A. If you enjoy computer tweaking:
- buy a $10 MIDI-to-USB cable interface and try to get that optimized with ASIO4ALL. If that works, you have saved a lot of money.

Or...

B. Study the audio interfaces thread and database below. They help identify which products are smoke and mirrors, difficult to install, sound lousy, poor quality, etc. They also identify a few problem-free models:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-co...ml#post12061836

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#2637032 - 45 minutes 57 seconds ago Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
Buckster Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/16
Posts: 78
I'm sorry but there is some very bad info on this thread - especially early on - in particular MacMacMac and Theodorn - don't know where you got that info from but I'm near certain it is incorrect and misleading

latency most definitely IS influenced by the hardware USB interface between the end device and your PC

yes your PC has some bearing on it all - but so does the USB interface

from a PC perspective - its more can it keep up with the pipleline ie the usb interface and it's low latency more than producing any real latency itself

and USB3 can and does make a difference vs USB2

I've been looking for a decent USB audio interface myself - with low latency, to use my keyboard with software VSTs and my guitar with "soft-amps" on the PC - and the 2 that seem to come out best latency wise are the RME Baby Face Pro and the Zoom UAC-2 - the former seems to measure better audio quality wise but is over 3 times the price

the info and link newerplayer gave is what you want for real info on audio interface latency



Edited by Buckster (41 minutes 2 seconds ago)

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#2637037 - 29 minutes 21 seconds ago Re: USB 3.0 audio interfaces - less latency? [Re: TheodorN]
SimplyLuo Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 12/27/15
Posts: 2
There is no inherent latency decrease going from USB 2.0 to 3.0.
The Zoom interfaces are known for their extremely low latency; they definitely have lower latency than the Focusrite line. Not really because of its use of USB 3.0, but rather its custom controller and optimized ASIO driver. Here's an interview with the developers of the controller/driver (in Japanese) http://av.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/series/dal/20150727_713546.html
They explain that USB 3.0 doesn't have any advantage for latency, but it has greater bandwidth and can handle more instruments and such.

IIRC the only faster interface is the RME Babyface which actually uses USB 2.0. RME designs with latency in mind and uses custom FGPA-based processing, famously optimized driver, etc to achieve its class-leading performance.


Edited by SimplyLuo (25 minutes 56 seconds ago)

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