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Laptop MIDI Latency Myths

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  • Laptop MIDI Latency Myths

    Don't give up hope if you don't have expensive custom MIDI firewire hardware. I just have:
    • New TD-3KW (yay!)
    • Dell Inspiron 9600 laptop (about 2 years old)
    • Laptop's inbuilt on-board sound
    • Cheapest MIDI to USB adapter I could find on ebay (unbranded hong kong import)

    First off, I had about 1.5 seconds latency between hitting a pad on the TD-3 and a sound coming out of the laptop speaker. After a couple of hours messing around with settings, latency is so low it's imperceivable. I can have the TD-3 and the laptop outputing sound at the same time and I can't hear any delay between them. Perfect.

    So for people with laptops don't be too quick to write off your hardware as useless, it may just work fine.

  • #2
    Could you provide those settings? Future frustrated on-board sound card users are thanking you now. And perhaps the adapter you use? I'd guess that the unbranded ebay thingie you purchased is a standing item for sale there so a link would work.

    TD-12, DTX502, SD1000, EZDrummer, Diamond Drum 12" snare, S1000 toms/cymbals/kick, PCY10/100/135/155, CY-5/14, Hart Ride, Hart Acupad 8" kick, Epedal Pro II, Concept 1 pads/cymbals, SD1000 & Roland V Sessions racks, PD-7, Kit Toy 10" splash, DMPad ride, SamplePad, PerformancePad Pro


    • #3
      Yes, please share as I am looking to start some MIDI experimentation.
      TD-6V, TD-3, KD-8, PD-85BK (snare), PD-8 (T1, T2, T3), CY-8 (Crash 1-2, Ride), FD-8/CY-5 (Hi-Hat).


      • #4
        Sorry, but this is nonsense. Of course he's not getting any latency - his soundcard is only processing audio straight from his module. It's when you use your kit to trigger VST's that OEM soundcards fail. Silly people.

        No more V-drums; all acoustics now.


        • #5
          Are you saying he's not using the USB to MIDI cable? He claims he is. In your instance, he would just be using the audio out from his module to the audio in on his laptop. He mentions nothing of this connection. True, he doesn't mention a VST program in his list of "I just have..." I'm curious as well....
          My Kit's Evolution Pics...


          • #6
            It is normally not the MIDI to USB that is the problem with latency. It is almost always the sound hardware. Does he have it hooked up right, I don't know but, I think too many people worry about the MIDI to USB thing and that isn't the problem with latency. That's because USB is faster than MIDI and always will be. Even if you are using USB 1.0!

            (It's the sound hardware that causes latency)


            • #7
              Originally posted by gray View Post
              I can have the TD-3 and the laptop outputing sound at the same time and I can't hear any delay between them.
              For this to happen without a VST, he has to have his module hooked up to his soundcard in some fashion. The USB/MIDI cable sure doesn't transmit audio. Unless he's using a VST and not saying so, the whole post is BS.

              However, Hellfire's comments are correct on all accounts.

              No more V-drums; all acoustics now.


              • #8
                I'm using my PC's onboard audio and I don't have any latency either.
                It's not a laptop, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible...

                Asus M3A motherboard with Realtek ALC883 high definition audio
                M-AUDIO - MIDISPORT 1x1 - 1-In/1-Out USB Bus-Powered MIDI Interface
                M-AUDIO - MA_CMIDI_V32_4.3.00 USB MIDI Devices driver Version: 4.3.00
                ASIO4ALL - Universal ASIO Driver For WDM Audio
                TD-3 module triggering ezdrummer, addictive drums, S2.0

                Sabre's Album


                • #9
                  ASIO4ALL will enable an OEM soundcard to function well, but that's not what the guy is saying, at least not the way I'm reading it.

                  No more V-drums; all acoustics now.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Relayer View Post
                    For this to happen without a VST, he has to have his module hooked up to his soundcard in some fashion. The USB/MIDI cable sure doesn't transmit audio. Unless he's using a VST and not saying so, the whole post is BS.
                    What gray is trying to say is that he can play td3's on board sound and use td3 to trigger a VST at the same time by hitting a pad, which is possible with "local control" set to "on". This can be done by connecting the audio output of td3 and audio output of the computer to a mixer. Of course he is using the USB/MIDI cable.

                    Generally the build-in soundcards in laptop suck in doing MIDI. But gray says that his laptop's soundcard's doing fine. Actually I'm using my 4-year-old IBM x40 to run S2.0 with TD-6, and I have no latency as well (at least not that I can notice).

                    Steve, I found your wordings really impolite, I have to say.
                    Last edited by CKae; 12-28-08, 01:42 PM.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CKae View Post
                      Steve, I found your wordings really impolite, I have to say.
                      You're entirely correct - my apologies. Born perhaps at my frustration at having no idea what point he was trying to make. Still unacceptable. My bad.

                      No more V-drums; all acoustics now.


                      • #12
                        To clear up any confusion, I'm using the TD-3 to trigger sounds generated by the PC. I'm triggering various software synths, including VSTi's. Sorry, I'm not trying to start a flame war. The purpose of my post is simply to demonstrate to people with the same hardware as me that it may be possible to get everything working fine, with no noticeable delays.

                        As requested, here's the details of my settings, etc. Hopefully I can be clear enough not to upset anyone...

                        A few more specifics on the PC hardware:
                        • Dell Inspiron 9600
                        • Intel Core Duo T2400 CPU (1.83 GHz)
                        • 2GB RAM

                        The cheap and nasty MIDI to USB adapter I have is detected by Windows XP (SP3) as a "USB Audio Device" and Windows just uses it's built in generic driver. Here's a picture of it

                        Windows Device Manager reports my onboard audio hardware as "Sigmatel High Definition Audio". (I have the proper Dell driver installed).

                        So, to clear up my initial huge latency I found it useful to split the problem into two separate problems.

                        1. TD-3 to PC Latency
                        2. PC to my ears Latency

                        TD-3 to PC Latency Problem
                        What I mean here is this: When I strike a pad on the TD-3 the "MIDI In" LED on the MIDI to USB adapter flashes instantly but the MIDI In on the software doesn't respond for a long time. By "MIDI In on the software" I mean, for example, the "MIDI input activity" in FL Studio, or the "MIDI In indicator" in Ableton Live, etc.

                        So, to be clear, this is latency prior to any synthesis using VSTi's or anything else involving audio. Just a delay in the MIDI signal getting noticed by the PC.

                        I wasn't expecting to get latency here, I thought it was pretty weird, in fact I thought the MIDI to USB adapter was a load of junk and was somehow broken.

                        PC to my ears Latency Problem
                        What I mean by this is the delay between, for example, when I click the "Test Tone" button in Ableton Live and the time I hear it. Or the delay between changing a filter slider in a software synth and me hearing the effect.

                        Specifically, the delay between the PC wanting to make a noise and it actually making the noise or more technically the latency introduced by a combination of my software, drivers and audio hardware.

                        I expected latency here, I wasn't sure how I was going to fix it or indeed if it could be overcome at all on my laptop.

                        Solution for PC to my ears Latency
                        I installed ASIO4all version 2.9. And, to cut a long story short, setup it up with the following settings:

                        Incase that image vanishes one day:
                        • Latency Compensation In: 0 samples
                        • Latency Compensation Out: 0 samples
                        • Options: Hardware buffer = OFF
                        • Options: Kernel Buffers = 4
                        • Options: Always Resample 44.1kHz to 48kHz = ON
                        • Options: Force WDM Driver to 16bit = OFF
                        • ASIO Buffer Size = 224 samples

                        Solution for TD-3 to PC Latency
                        To cut a very long story short here's what I found. The order I plugged things in and turned things on mattered! Here's what worked for me:
                        1. Turn off PC and TD-3
                        2. Connect MIDI to USB adapter to PC and TD-3
                        3. Turn on PC and wait for it to boot
                        4. Turn on TD-3.

                        So now I just make sure I turn on my PC first and wait for it to boot before I turn on my TD-3 and everything works fine. I know how this sounds, but it really does make a difference. I suppose it's because of the cheap MIDI to USB adapter.

                        Let me do an experiment to demonstrate how weird this is. Right now everything is working fine, when I strike a pad on the TD-3 FL Studio instantly plays a synth sound, great. OK, so I pull out the MIDI to USB adapter out of the back of the PC, wait 5 seconds and plug it into another USB port. Windows says "detecting new hardware", etc. I strike a pad on the TD-3 and FL Studio makes no sound at all. Ah, ok, so I quickly re-setup the MIDI Input options in FL Studio to point to "USB Audio Device" (being on a different USB port confuses it). Now, I strike a pad on the TD-3 and what happens? I get around 0.5 to 1 second of delay before FL Studio responds. Strange, but true.

                        Even stranger, and I only mention this because I wasted a lot of time with it, I found changing settings in ASIO4All could confuse the MIDI to USB Adapter. For example, if I enable "Hardware Buffer" and then disable it again, suddenly I have 0.5 to 1 second delay before FL Studio responds to MIDI in, just like when I disconnected and reconnected the MIDI to USB Adapter. To recover, I have to reboot and connect everything in the correct order and not mess with the ASIO settings. I was surprised that the ASIO settings had any effect at all on the actual incoming MIDI signal. Perhaps it's because my MIDI To USB Adapter is recognised as a generic "USB Audio Device" and is in some way effected by these audio settings. Anyway, it's irrelevant really as I've already described the settings that worked for me.

                        I hope this someday finds someone with the same hardware as me and helps them! :-)


                        • #13
                          This is all good stuff and worthy of a bump. I was way off-base in questioning the validity of your original post. When I see MIDI and latency together, I tend to go nuts because so many people are confused about this. 99% of the time, they have audio latency and assume it has something to do with MIDI, which as you've illustrated, are two different things entirely.

                          Having said that, the MIDI latency that you were getting at first was more than likely due to the generic cable and its lack of a dedicated driver. It really shouldn't matter what order you plug things in - people that buy entry-level M-Audio or Edirol MIDI-to-USB cabling are unlikely to have the same issue. In any case, good job finding a fix.

                          One question. Have you triggered any drum VST's in this manner? It's one thing to trigger a 22MB synth or drum machine in FL Studio, but quite another to efficiently handle resource-hogs like BFD2 and S2. Not saying that it won't work, just wondering.

                          Good work - and again - my apologies.

                          No more V-drums; all acoustics now.


                          • #14
                            Thanks Steve,

                            I agree with you that if I had a proper MIDI to USB interface I probably wouldn't have to worry about plugging things in in a specific order. It gets pretty frustrating when I forget and have to reboot everything, so I guess I'll upgrade to a better adapter at some point.

                            As for drum VSTi's I'm using EZ Drummer without any problems.


                            • #15
                              Hi Guys,
                              New to the forum, just thought i would update you all on my scenario with this. I Recently purchased a Roland TD6V kit and was looking for some ideas on running samples through MIDI with my Netbook as it all i currently have available at home.
                              I am running an Acer Aspire Netbook with the standard Atom Processor, 2Gb RAM and Windows 7 Pro. I am using the basic el cheapo Midi -> USB cable as mentioned earlier in the thread.
                              When initially using with BFD or EzDrummer i experienced Latency of about 1 sec between hits but after reading the posts in here it is running quite well with no latency or any sound issues (pops etc). I am assuming the big difference was the additon of ASIO4ALL with the custom settings.
                              I am still looking to get a PC with a proper sound card but this is getting me by for the meantime, thanks to everyone in here for posting, it was a great help to get things going