Audio interfaces, latency and how they affect workflow


I’m wondering if someone can shed light on how latency will affect using Cubase in various scenarios and how different interfaces will perform.

In the attachment I put two scenarios. Assume the computer processing takes no latency for simplicity and the audio interface takes 5ms each direction.

Scenario #1: You are just working in Cubase, using Soft Synths, etc. and not recording anything. Will the latency of the audio interface matter on playback?

My guess: In this scenario latency will not matter, because you are hearing all of the sound at the same time. I don’t think <10ms delay is noticeable as far as when you click play and when you hear the sound.

Side note: if you play guitar and your amp is 10ft away, you don’t notice any delay from when you play and when you hear the sound. Since sound travels at roughly 1ft per 1ms that is at least 10ms delay right there that is unnoticeable.

Scenario #2: You are recording and want to hear yourself playing guitar through the Amp and the mix as you record (assume direct monitoring is off)

My guess: The mix will get to you in 5ms, the recorded guitar will take a minimum of 10ms to get back to the headphones. Will it sound strange? What if you add processing in Cubase on the recorded guitar?

Final question about interfaces. It seems like interfaces are separated in general by mic pre quality, S/N ratio, latency, etc. Which ones of these are most important to consider?

Thanks in advance.


I don’t have issues with latency at all. I use direct monitoring in my soundcard.

Vital Few, you should explain what ‘direct monitoring’ is since the OP might not know it.

I don’t record but my understanding is that ‘direct monitoring’ basically takes the mic signal and sends it straight back out to the headphones which then bypasses the ‘roundtrip’ through the computer, and thus bypasses latency.

I guess I was hoping for a more detailed answer… I realize that using direct monitoring will route the input directly to the headphones/speakers. But I kind of wanted to see in what scenarios is latency important and where that should be a deciding factor in picking a hardware interface. If it doesn’t matter then I would just pick the interface with the highest quality mic pres with enough inputs.

Also, you guys both have really expensive sound cards. :slight_smile:

This might be of help… I’d read the first post and then start reading backwards from the end, since the thread is long:

thank you so much, that’s exactly what I was looking for!